Caged Tigers If football cloud lifts, non-revenue storm awaits

November 08, 1990|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,Evening Sun Staff

Throughout the controversy surrounding the possible suspension of Towson State football, athletic director Bill Hunter has made it clear that more scholarship money for that team isn't going to make fears of NCAA restructuring go away.

If Proposal 91 is passed at the NCAA convention in January, Division I schools would have to spend $250,000 on scholarships for men and $250,000 for women in sports other than football and basketball, or fund the equivalent of 25 scholarships each for men and women.

This year Towson State will spend $82,325 on scholarship for men's non-revenue sports and $130,120 for women's.

Other reform proposals, all endorsed by various arms of the NCAA, could put additional strain on a Towson State athletic department that faces a two-year deficit of $257,018 by the end of the 1990-91 school year. Hunter said football supporters have to realize that the passage of Proposal 91 would force the school to pump additional money into non-revenue sports.

"We're probably addressing this whole issue a year before any other school in our situation will," Hunter said.

The 1990-91 budget for Towson State's 21-sport athletic program is $2,908,420. Ninety-four percent of that money comes from student athletic fees. Of the $709,305 spent on scholarships, 47.6 percent ($338,000) will be spent on football.

Hunter submitted one 1991-92 budget proposal that did not include football. That was one in a chain of events that has mobilized alumni, parents and the administration to begin plans to better organize fund-raising. Hunter said football isn't the problem, but that it represents roughly 25 percent of the Towson State athletic budget. So cutting football could be a possible solution to the deficit.

"Ever since I've been athletic director, I've felt like I keep putting my finger in the dike," Hunter said Tuesday. "Men's basketball and women's gymnastics are the only teams we're giving a real chance on an ongoing basis. Men's lacrosse and women's basketball aren't that far removed, but the rest of our program, football included, feels neglected."

Men's basketball and women's gymnastics, the two Towson State programs closest to NCAA scholarship maximums, showed last year what is possible with the proper tools. Terry Truax's basketball team joined Coppin State's as the first teams from Baltimore ever to play in the Division I tournament. The Tigers threw a scare into No. 1 Oklahoma in the first round.

Coach Dick Filbert's gymnastics squad was ranked eighth in the nation.

Those two teams aren't typical, however, and the scholarship minimums of Proposal 91 could actually be a boon to non-revenue sports at Towson State.

When Mike Gottlieb's 1988 baseball team became the first at Towson State to participate in an NCAA Division I tournament, the Tigers opened at Miami, one of the nation's powerhouses in baseball. Gottlieb's scholarship money has since increased, but he still has the equivalent of less than two scholarships to work with.

"If you're looking at things from a dollars and cents view, no, we're not getting a fair shake," Gottlieb said. "It's common knowledge in the athletic department that other than two, three sports, we're all under-funded."

Other examples:

* Carl Runk keeps knocking on the door to the NCAA lacrosse tournament, even though he receives less than half of the allowed scholarships.

* In her second year directing the volleyball program, Cathy Cain has been asked to duplicate the kind of national success she had at Catonsville Community College. She has less than two scholarships.

* Frank Olszewski's soccer team has even less scholarship aid, and the South Atlantic region in which it competes is one of the nation's strongest.

Hunter is in his sixth year as the Towson State athletic director. Early in his tenure he wanted to cut back on the school's cross country and track and field programs, but the only real expenditure there is coach Roger Erricker's salary to coach six teams -- three men's and three women's.

Towson State has gradually increased its student athletic fee from $75 in 1981-82 to $270 this school year. The school dropped golf this year, but Hunter said that cuts to other smaller teams aren't going to solve Towson State's problems.

"It comes down to this: We have never made the financial commitment necessary to be in Division I," Hunter said. "There simply aren't enough funds to do all the things we would like to do. Now we're facing the prospect that the NCAA might ask us to do even more."

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