Dr. Hoke L. Smith, the president of Towson State University, said today that if he receives a proposal to suspend the school's football program, he probably will endorse it.
Smith and athletic director Bill Hunter, however, both said that the proposal leaves open the possibility of Towson State's resuming a less expensive brand of football, possibly as early as 1992.
The Intercollegiate Athletic Committee, which will hold an open forum tomorrow (University Union, Chesapeake Room, 2.35 p.m.), has already forwarded a proposal to the University Senate that would suspend football after the current season and review that decision on an annual basis. The University Senate will consider the proposal Monday, and then make a recommendation to Smith.
Smith said the proposal leaves the door open for Towson State to bring football back at a classification lower than the Tigers' current Division I-AA status. He ultimately will make the final decision regarding the program's future, and stressed that he has not yet made that decision.
"If a proposal [to suspend football for one year] is passed to me by the University Senate, odds are that I will probably endorse it," Smith said. "That does not mean I have made a decision. Unless someone comes up with something better, the proposal is a viable alternative."
Neil Gallagher, chairman of the University Senate who also sits on the IAC, one of its standing committees, said the wording of the proposal keeps alive the prospect of football resuming at a later date even if it is suspended.
"We couched the wording in the proposal," Gallagher said. "We could have put in the wording 'eliminate completely,' but the motion says 'suspend.' I know it's been said that football be suspended and come back in 1992, but it may be a little longer than that."
Towson State competes in Division I-AA football, where schools can offer as many as 70 scholarships. In its fourth year at that level, Towson State is offering the equivalent of 43 scholarships, still below the Division II maximum. That expenditure of more than $330,000 is nearly half of Towson State's $750,000 football budget.
The football budget is roughly one-fourth of the total budget of the athletic program for 1990-91, $2.9 million.
The athletic department could face a deficit of more than $250,000 by the end of the school year. It faces the prospect of having to spend more money on non-revenue sports if a reform package is passed at the upcoming NCAA convention, and its membership in the shrinking East Coast Conference already is in jeopardy. Travel costs in coming years could rise.
"We have to act this year," Smith said in regard to the budget problems. "Phil Albert has to know where the program stands going into the recruiting process. We have a financial problem, and that problem will be even greater if we don't do something now."
Dropping scholarship football could conceivably solve Towson State's budget problems, which Hunter said has the school funding "few of its programs for any kind of success."
If suspended, football could possibly then be resumed at a lower level with minimum start-up costs, since the necessary equipment would already be available. Albert said in yesterday's editions of The Evening Sun that he would not object to coaching a non-scholarship program.
"I penciled in my own addition to the IAC proposal," Hunter said. "What I added is 'This will give us the opportunity to explore other possibilities for the football program at the I-AAA or I-AA level, with less demands than are presently in place.' For my use, that's the rationale I'm reading into the IAC proposal.
"When this proposal was made, I said I could buy into a suspension, if there was a time guideline to bringing football back. That's why an ongoing review is part of the proposal."
A plan to suspend the program would presumably suspend scholarships for the 1991-92 school year. In similar instances where colleges have dropped teams, players have been free to transfer to other institutions without having to sit out a year.
"If that proposal is our only solution, we will support any players who will be recruited by other teams," Smith said. "Also, if we were to become a Division II or III program, there's a re-certification process we would have to go through."
Smith said he will attend the open forum of the IAC tomorrow.
Phil Albert, Towson State's coach, declined comment on the matter, but released a statement through the school's sports information department. He referred to a story in today's Washington Post that said Smith endorses the proposal to drop football, something the school's president said he would not do until he receives such a proposal through proper channels.
Albert's statement read: "It would be very disappointing to read that in the Washington Post and I believe that until Dr. Smith tells me directly what the future of Towson State football is that we will continue to stay at the Division I-AA level and we will have the support to do so."
Albert wants his players to focus on Saturday's Homecoming game against New Haven, but some were planning for the open forum.
Senior linebacker Doug Vereen, who started a petition to support the program last week, said that he met with a group of alumni last night to plan for the open forum.
"I met with 12 alumni at the university union last night to discuss the apathy toward Towson State football," Vereen said. "We covered what we need to bring up at the open forum. You will only get five minutes to state your case, and there are a lot of areas we need to cover."