"It's Your Call" respondents say Towson should keep football. Page E5.
An emergency fund-raising drive to save Towson State football has the backing of the school's administration, but coach Phil Albert worries that the damage already has been done to the on-the-field product.
Parents and alumni planned to address the University Senate this afternoon to outline a plan to raise funds to keep alive the football program. The senate will be shown $25,000 worth of pledges made Saturday at homecoming.
"We are going into a partnership with volunteers who have come forward," said Sally Souris, Towson State vice president for Institutional Advancement. "We will give them as much support as we can. We have a tentative plan that outlines what we can do."
More than a week ago, the Intercollegiate Athletic Committee sent a proposal to the senate, recommending that football be suspended to help solve a $257,000 deficit in the athletic department. The senate originally planned to act on the proposal today. Instead, it is expected to postpone a decision for two weeks.
At that time, the senate will present its recommendation to Towson State president Hoke L. Smith, who said last Wednesday he probably would endorse a recommendation to suspend football, if that's what the senate decides.
Parents and supporters hope the two-week delay will buy them some more time to raise money. They have asked Smith to keep the sport afloat for at least two more years.
In Albert's mind, that would be just as bad as a suspension. He needs two or three above-average recruiting classes to become competitive at the Division I-AA level. With the program's future in doubt, not only will recruiting be severely hampered, but some of those players already at Towson are looking into transferring, he said.
"I'm not interested in any kind of an extension," said Albert. "That's worse than a suspension, and it says the same thing. I'd like to encourage a positive statement."
Albert, who feels his team has been made a scapegoat for economic woes in the entire athletic department, said some of his players aren't taking a wait-and-see approach.
"What I've tried to say to them is that if the thing goes the way we don't want it to -- if it happens -- I'll work night and day to help them [transfer]. But guys are securing their transcripts and sending them to other schools.
"Players are calling other coaches. I've had coaches at other schools call me about that. Players are going back to their high school coaches to look at other options. It's like a run on the bank. They are good kids who are at risk right now, and they're fragmented psychologically."
Saturday, Towson State dropped to 1-8 with a 55-27 loss to New Haven, which is trying to get into the NCAA Division II playoffs and showed no mercy on the Tigers. It was obvious in the first two minutes that Towson wasn't ready to play. "We were not a well-prepared football team," Albert said.
Attendance at 5,000-seat Minnegan Stadium was 3,898, Towson's biggest home crowd of the year. Albert and his players were encouraged by an open forum conducted by the IAC Thursday, but at the end of the game there were less than 500 people in the stands. Even at halftime the stands were only half-full.