The future of Towson State University football is in the hands of the alumni, and one of their leaders said yesterday they must quickly come up with a "realistic" plan for raising enough money to save the program.
"The first thing we have to do is identify the target amount of money," said Jim Holdridge, a leader of the alumni group, which is working in cooperation with the parents of current players. "We have to have a realistic plan that is point by point. If we don't, the IAC [Intercollegiate Athletic Committee] is going to kill us."
On Monday, the IAC was granted a delay of a University Senate vote on the recommendation to suspend football. The alumni and parents have several weeks before they must report their progress to the IAC, which will present the Senate with another recommendation Dec. 3.
"First, we have to stop finding negatives and ease off on the attacks on the administration," said assistant football coach Jay Robinson, the staff's representative on the alumni group. "We have to work within the university, the Tiger Club restraints."
Robinson suggested a threefold approach:
* locate and solicit all alumni;
* solicit the support of the corporate community;
* develop, with the athletic department, sound marketing techniques.
"Ten years ago we weren't in a position to target corporations," Robinson said. "Now we have a lot of alumni in high places. We have to do a lot of legwork."
The first step was taken at Saturday's homecoming football game, when alumni and parents collected pledges of $25,000. They want to double that amount in time for the meeting with the IAC.
Athletic director Bill Hunter indicated $150,000 is about what is needed in scholarship money next year.
Given time, the alumni and parents believe they can exceed that.
"Everybody has to agree what the goal is," said Steve Blake, executive director of the Tiger Club. "This fund raising is not to offset the deficit; it is to make football competitive."
That means enough scholarships to compete at the National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I-AA level, which allows 70. Towson has 44, many of them divided among more than one player.
Blake hopes the plan will operate under the Tiger Club, as do those of other sports, including men's lacrosse and soccer.
"I've been living out of state the last couple years and was never contacted," said Holdridge. "We need to do a better job of getting to people like me.
"We have to talk with the folks at the Tiger Club. Maybe we have some ideas they haven't used."
Holdridge said the university as a whole "has not been an effective fund-raiser. In one day, we raised almost half of what the Tiger Club did all last year."
University president Hoke Smith said he has no objection to such a fund-raising group "as long as it doesn't try to dictate policy" during the Senate meeting.
It is too early to know how powerful such a group will be. At the moment, the alumni group is simply conducting meetings to determine how to confront the problem. Jack Patterson, leader of the parents group, said he is "calling all the parents who weren't at Saturday's game to get more contributions."
"I've got 270 addresses of former players that is 90 to 95 percent sound," said Robinson. "If 200 of them just gave $100, it would be a big help. It's up to us to round up as many phone numbers as we can.
"We've got to take the ball and go with it."