The movement to save Towson State University football gathered momentum yesterday when the four student members the Intercollegiate Athletic Committee adopted new ideas to present to the University Senate on Monday and when former players and parents of current Tigers vowed to take their fight to the local business community in search of necessary funding.
Amid impassioned and often-angry speeches, an open forum held by the IAC drew an estimated 700 people to the University Union four days before the Senate is to vote on that group's recommendation to suspend the football program after this season.
A planned two-hour session required twice as much time because 46 people decided to air their views before the committee, which is chaired by English professor John Connolly.
The IAC, which comprises five faculty members and four students, voted, 8-1, to drop football, at least temporarily, a week ago, but, after hearing the emotional show of support yesterday, the student members hastily composed some new business for the Senate.
"They said they were being used [when the vote was taken]," defensive back Joseph Collins said. "They said they were pressured by the administration."
IAC student members Duane Townsend, Mike Katz, Laura Hulse and Tracy Sikora told the gathering that they will take the salient points of yesterday's forum with them to the Senate. "That includes the raising of funding, contact with the business community, contact with parents and students and the need to market the team," Townsend said.
Meanwhile, Steve Blake, executive director of the Tiger Club, the school's athletic fund-raising arm, met with various speakers "to try to see where they're coming from and what we can do to secure funds."
Jack Patterson, father of freshman tight end Sean Patterson, said the parents of current players will meet with university president Hoke Smith, who has the final say in the matter, after tomorrow's homecoming game against New Haven.
"What we have to ask is that we need some time," said Patterson. "We're asking the Senate to give us that. Right now, that is the only logical thing."
The Senate, also composed of a cross-section of the university population, could decide to delay the matter by two weeks because it has another regularly scheduled meeting Nov. 19. Football coach Phil Albert wants the matter settled by Dec. 1, the opening day for in-house recruiting.
Former Towson stars Dave Meggett and Sean Landeta, now with the New York Giants of the National Football League, sent a letter expressing surprise and support through their agent, Tony Agnone.
"They said they were willing to donate their time and efforts to help," said former Tigers center Jim Peterson. "But they were surprised that they were not made aware of what was going on."
Speakers blamed Smith, vice president Sally Souris and/or athletic director Bill Hunter for the dilemma, which projects a $257,018 operating deficit in the athletic department's budget over a two-year period.
Many complained that football is being singled out as the cause of a larger problem. And many students and former players said football no longer is fun because tailgating has been eliminated by the administration due to problems with alcohol.
Others spoke of the national identity that athletics give the school, through such prominent players as Meggett, Landeta, Kurk Lee (who made the National Basketball Association's New Jersey Nets roster) and Chris Nabholz (Montreal Expos pitcher).
People who had been involved in suspensions of athletic programs at other schools warned that bringing back football would be difficult if the program were discontinued.
There was talk of getting Gov. William Donald Schaefer involved after Tuesday's election.
Several speakers, many of whom said they never were contacted for financial assistance, expressed disappointment that a problem that has existed for a number of months has become public only recently.
"I refuse to accept that budget deficits just pop up out of nowhere," said former player Rich Martingnetti. "This was created through administrative negligence. There was more open debate over a parking garage."
Senior linebacker Doug Vereen presented a petition containing 2,960 signatures that were collected by the team in support of the program.
Said freshman defensive back Jason Taylor: "We know we are able to come up with a solution. The question is, are you willing to go a step further?"