Hunter says alternative possible for TSU Football

November 05, 1990|By Kent Baker

Athletic director Bill Hunter said he is "willing to shoulder some of the responsibility" for the threat to football's survival at Towson State.

But he said he is encouraged by the recent developments in the situation and believes "we may have enough consensus that an alternative comes out."

Hunter was one of the principal targets at last week's open forum, where alumni, community members, former players and parents of current players voiced their concerns about how the problem seemed to arise out of nowhere.

"Any time you have a forum of that nature, people are going to point fingers where they think the problem is," he said last week. "And you can be assured it's not going to be in their bailiwick.

"I wasn't surprised, but I thought there were a couple of cheap shots. I thought [former Towson trainer] Dave Baringer was out of line."

Baringer's speech included advocating stronger leadership in the athletic department, an "attack on the real problem."

The athletic director said Hoke Smith, the school president, who has the final say about football, may be looking for an alternative to suspension of the program.

Today's meeting of the University Senate, which has to vote on an 8-1 recommendation of the Intercollegiate Athletic Committee to suspend football, will have great influence on Smith's decision.

"The whole thing is not even a football issue," said Hunter. "We could drop field hockey or tennis or golf, and it still wouldn't be the answer.

"It's just that football is the big-money item in the department, and when you have a fiscal problem, people look for dollars and cents, and they say, 'Here is our solution.'

"To the students, it wouldn't make any difference what team was dropped. It would be a catastrophe. The comments of all those people who talked are real."

The department has been operating at a deficit for two years, "and we've said that all along," said Hunter. "This has just magnified it."

The uncertainty of the East Coast Conference's future and the exact requirements of the National Collegiate Athletic Association's proposed restructuring plan have complicated the problem, Hunter said.

"It's my educated opinion that [the restructuring] package will fly," he said. "It has already been rubber-stamped by the Presidents' Commission and NCAA Council."

Towson's administration wants to stay in Division I, an arena in which the school has thrived in men's basketball, women's gymnastics, lacrosse and men's soccer. The new NCAA rules are expected to require a school to be in Division I in all sports.

There is some sentiment in the ECC for the formation of a football conference.

"The bottom line is we don't have enough dollars to take care of 14 sports on a Division I level," said Hunter.

"If all of our past student-athletes contributed an average of $100 each, it would be a hell of a start toward a solution. We just can't do it with the contributions of 336 people."

Hunter said he is opposed to postponement of the decision for a year, a request made by a task force trying to raise revenues to rescue the program.

"It just means postponing the same problem. We're still going to have to answer some questions, and there needs to be a specific financial goal," he said. "This is not an easy issue."

He also told the IAC that dropping to Division II or Division III football "is not a viable answer. We have just proven we can be successful at I. We can't make a move just to find a home for football."

Four potential budgets submitted by Hunter to the IAC contained provisions for saving and suspending football. But three proposed an increase in student fees to fund the sport.

"Our president doesn't feel we can ask to do that [raise fees]," said Hunter. "A tuition raise is pending. I can understand the fiscal restraints we're under.

"But we're over 90 percent fee-driven in this department. To think we can make it 75 percent is unrealistic. It's a rock and a hard place, Catch-22, whatever you want to call it. We can talk about it all we want, but at some point a decision has to be made."

Hunter said he hopes that the task force can start a steamroller effect.

"The first step is for our pro athletes, Dave Meggett, Sean Landeta, Kurk Lee, Chris Nabholz, people like that, to set the stage with a contribution," he said.

"We have other people [Towson graduates] in the community doing quite well. We need their help."

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