The fight for survival of Towson State University football went into overtime yesterday.
Faced with a University Senate vote that could have virtually determined its fate, the program received a reprieve when the Intercollegiate Athletic Committee withdrew its recommendation to suspend the sport.
After John Connolly, chairman of the IAC, said his group "would appreciate a month to return to this body with a final recommendation," the senate passed the motion.
The matter will be on the senate agenda again Dec. 3 after the IAC meets with a coalition of former football players and parents of current players who are trying to raise funds to relieve the athletic department budget deficit that has threatened the continuation of football.
"We're happy they've delayed it, and now we have to move on," said former Towson center Jim Holdridge, one of the leaders of the alumni group. "We hope to present a business plan to the IAC. We have to deal with what we've got and make it work in the next two weeks."
Connolly said the committee "will have to have some kind of conclusion" about the success of the fund-raising attempts "by Nov. 26, so we can have time to consider it. This is going to be close."
Said Jack Patterson, father of freshman tight end Sean Patterson: "Two weeks ago, we were talking about where our kids were going to school next year. So, I think this is enough time to develop some initiative and show the direction we're going in.
"We face an uphill battle, but none of the problems are insurmountable. I'm confident we'll do it if we show our commitment."
The parents and alumni collected $25,000 in pledges Saturday at the school's homecoming game before meeting with school president Hoke Smith, who has the final say in the matter.
Connolly based his request for a delay on "more information the committee needs time to review," much of which was raised at an open forum on the subject last week. "Our original decision [an 8-1 vote to suspend the sport] was based on a lot of speculation and not a whole lot of information," Connolly said.
Towson athletic director Bill Hunter said he was confident the fund-raising group had enough time to formulate an acceptable plan.
"I don't think it's going to take a month to have something in effect," said Hunter. "Really, we're not looking for these people to fund our football program or underwrite a deficit. We're looking to do what is necessary to add to the scholarship dollars needed to make the program competitive.
"If these groups can raise 15 scholarships [at a cost of $8,50each next year], that should be enough. Somewhere around $150,000. But it can't be a one-year deal."
The shortfall in the athletic department was a projected $257,000 over a two-year period.
Neil Gallagher, president of the senate, said he hoped that any comprehensive plan to raise funds applied "not just for football, but for intercollegiate athletics" as a whole.
That point has not been clarified.
"Our long-term goal is to take care of the department," said Patterson. "But when the problem was identified as a deficit which was going to cut football, that's what we have to straighten out first."
For the moment, Patterson added, the parents, alumni and Tiger Club, the athletic department's fund-raising arm, have to handle their own agendas because of the urgency involved. "Eventually, it'll have to be a collective effort," he said.
A question was raised about what effect the delay will have on the Dec. 1 deadline coach Phil Albert pushed because it was opening day for in-house recruiting.
"I don't think a month will hurt the program any more than it has already been hurt," said Hunter. "The football staff will be glad to wait until Dec. 3 to go along with this."
Albert said a two-day delay will not affect his recruiting, particularly since Dec. 3 is a Monday and visitations on weekends are limited.
"We're going ahead with business as usual," he said. "This is not really a factor as far as in-house visits are concerned. In terms of the big picture, saving the program, a couple of weeks or couple of days are insignificant."