THE EAST COAST Conference put on a game face for its media basketball luncheon yesterday, but the incredible shrinking league knows it has some serious problems that will only be solved by another game of league-hopping.
The NCAA is expected to adopt more stringent standards for Division I membership at its convention in January, and that's just one way in which the future is uncertain for Towson State and UMBC. Both are members of the ECC, which next summer will be down to five teams. The NCAA demands that a conference have six members if it wants to send its champions to various national tournaments, men's basketball included.
ECC commissioner John Carpenter has sent a resolution to the NCAA that would grant waivers regarding expansion to the conference and others in similar straits. It would allow new members to come in and not have to serve any lengthy waiting period before becoming eligible for NCAA play. The resolution will be raised at the January convention.
"Next year we'll be the only Division I conference under six schools, the NCAA minimum for automatic bids," Carpenter said. "Our expansion efforts are stymied by that fact. Under present rules, we have no automatic [basketball] qualifier after 1991, but our resolution asks for more leeway regarding conference realignment.
"I know of 13 conferences that will support the resolution, the latest being the Metro, which might lose some of its members. There are enough other people up in the air that I think there's going to be a great deal of conference changes after this convention. Everyone is already being wooed."
Carpenter said tighter Division I membership standards could cause a flurry of league changes like the ones that happened two years ago, when UMBC joined the ECC, Loyola went from the Northeast to the Metro Atlantic, and Mount St. Mary's took its place in the Northeast.
Towson State never hid its desire to join the Colonial when that conference lost Navy to the Patriot. TSU athletic director Bill Hunter has had ongoing discussions with the North Atlantic, which next year will gain Drexel and Delaware, but the cost of traveling to Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont apparently is too steep.
In another Tigers sports matter, fund-raising organizers will meet next Tuesday with the Intercollegiate Athletic Committee and outline their ideas to save Towson State football.
* UMBC is looking for a new soccer coach after yesterday's announcement that John Ellinger is resigning after 10 years with the Retrievers.
Ellinger recently was promoted within the Montgomery County school system, and last week he took a job with the Soccer Association of Columbia coordinating youth coaches there. His 10-year record with UMBC was 80-93-16. The school anticipates making Ellinger's successor a full-time employee.
* Two of the ECC's fall scholar-athletes have local ties.
Repeating in soccer was Drexel's Mike Pellegrini, a junior out of John Carroll who has a 3.83 GPA in electrical engineering. UMBC's Rob Magin, a junior from Westminster, had a 3.99 in computer science.
* Angie Dobbs, a junior guard from Perry Hall, will tie the Navy record for career three-pointers with her first success outside the stripe tomorrow night. The Navy women open at Halsey Field House against C.W. Post in their own Tip-Off Tournament.
There will be some new faces on the bench when Goucher visits Notre Dame Saturday (7 p.m.). Katy Grenewalt is the new coach at Goucher, and former Loyola standout Lorrie Schenning is a rookie assistant at Notre Dame.
* Karla Simmons, a junior forward out of Centennial, had three goals for the Virginia women's soccer team that was beaten in the NCAA quarterfinals . . . The fall season finished with La Salle holding a minimal lead over Loyola in the MAAC Commissioner's Cup race for all-sports supremacy . . . Radford's Dante Washington, a sophomore from Oakland Mills, led the nation's soccer players with 23 goals and 18 assists.