Towson State University president Hoke Smith said yesterday that he believes the suspension of the school's football program to help solve an athletic department budget deficit "makes a great deal of sense," but he will consider other alternatives if he is presented with them.
An open forum will be held on campus this afternoon by the Intercollegiate Athletic Committee, which has recommended the suspension of football, to allow all interested parties to air their tTC views.
"I have said we've got a problem that we have to solve," said Smith, who will make the final decision. "I think that I will probably endorse and support the committee unless I think what they propose is destructive to the university.
"But if there are other alternatives, I will consider them, also."
The football team, meanwhile, is practicing for Saturday's homecoming game against New Haven in the hope that a last-ditch show of support will reverse the momentum of the situation.
"It's distracting," sophomore tackle Joe Kreisher said after practice yesterday. "It seems all this negative stuff is coming out
toward the end of the week when we're getting into our final preparations. So, the team is kind of rallying around each other."
Coach Phil Albert has switched his practice schedule to permit his players to attend the forum if they desire. Today normally would be the final heavy practice before Saturday, but meetings and film sessions will be conducted instead.
The more physical practice has been postponed until tomorrow.
"I've never done anything like that before," said Albert, "but it's been a tough week for our players. They're out getting signatures on a petition like this is a done deal. Our kids are
The Tigers will wear the letters "STF" [Save Towson Football] on their helmets again.
"What we really need is for someone to stand up and take charge, someone from the Tiger Club or business community to be responsible for a developmental plan," said Albert. "The persons who will make the greatest impact are those with nothing at stake."
The IAC, composed of five faculty members and four students, voted, 8-1, to drop football with the proviso that "there be an annual review of that decision," said committee chairman John Connolly.
In the chain of command, the next step is the University Senate, which has a regular meeting Monday with the recommendation on its agenda.
The Senate will vote on the matter, which will then go to Smith, who said: "I have no idea what they will do. It's far from guaranteed either way.
"I've got a right to veto, but I have never chosen to exercise that. The Senate shows great concern on its own and I will probably go along with them. But I'm trying to avoid language which says the decision is already made because all the players haven't played their role yet."
The crisis arose suddenly, said Albert. "I never thought seriou consideration was being given to this until two weeks ago," he said. "No one ever sat down with me and discussed the seriousness of the situation, and I was here all summer except for 11 days."
Albert said he wants a decision made by Dec. 1 for several reasons.
That is the opening day for in-house recruiting of prospective freshmen, and "this situation has already been in newspapers from New York to Virginia," he said. "The last couple of Fridays, we've had coaches tell us they wouldn't recommend kids to a school that is considering dropping the program.
"And I want a decision to relieve the psychological pressure on our current players and current parents and because of our coaches."
A decision before the semester break also would give players a opportunity to transfer and coaches an opportunity to see new employment.
Connolly said he had favored waiting until the National Collegiate Athletic Association's restructuring plans, which will be on the floor at its convention Jan. 7-11, are clear.
One proposal to be considered at the convention would prohibit schools from playing in Division I in one sport and Division II or III in another. Another proposal would require Division I schools to spend $250,000 each for men's and women's scholarships in sports other than football and basketball -- or require 25 scholarships for both men and women in those sports.
"Coach Albert said we can't wait, and we felt we had a moral responsibility with the lives and futures of athletes in the balance to make the decision before Dec. 1," Connolly said. "We didn't have the luxury of time."