HE CAME TO Towson State to help lay the foundation for a solid Division I-AA football program. His contribution has been four school passing records, but Chris Goetz knows they are just a speck in the overall picture.
"What do the records mean?" the fifth-year senior quarterback said, repeating a question. "They're nice to have . . . but they
really don't mean anything.
"My biggest regret is that we didn't win a few more games," said Goetz, who has passed for 7,639 yards going into his career finale tomorrow afternoon against Northeastern.
After going 4-6 and 5-5 in the first two years of Division I-AA, when Dave Meggett was running and catching the football, the undermanned Towson team was 2-8 a year ago and has suffered through an injury-marred 1-9 record this year.
Goetz has been the starting quarterback for all but five games in the last four years. Towson State has tried to compete with far fewer scholarships than the division allows and is now facing critical decisions about its program.
After being redshirted the last year Towson played Division II football, Goetz unexpectedly was thrown into the starting job the following year. "I had an eardrum burst during spring practice my freshman year, so I only had 11 days of practice," said Goetz. "I worked hard that summer, and I was throwing the ball good, but I didn't expect to be No. 1 right away."
Neither did coach Phil Albert. But when Chris Reiprish decided ++ late in the summer not to return to school, the door was opened for Goetz.
"It set us back a little," said Albert. "It didn't give Chris the luxury of being a backup for a year or two. He had to grow up fast."
When he recruited Goetz out of Gateway High School in Wenonah, N.J., Albert wasn't even certain he'd play quarterback. "I had only seen him on film, but I did go watch him play basketball a few times," said Albert. "He's a good athlete and we figured if he didn't play quarterback, there were other things he could do. He had the size [6 feet 4, 220 pounds] to play tight end, and he'd also played defense and punted."
Once he got on the Towson campus, however, there wasn't much doubt about where Goetz would play, especially under the emergency conditions. "We're a program that has thrown the ball for 20 years," said Albert, "and Chris has a real strong arm. He also has a very competitive nature and a strong will to succeed."
That the Tigers haven't had the success he'd like has been a disappointment for Goetz, but he doesn't regret his decision to come to Towson. "For somebody who likes to throw the ball, this is definitely a good place to play," he said. "A lot of what we do you see in the NFL."
An education major, Goetz plans on a teaching and coaching career -- but only after all of his playing options have expired. "I'm not going to say my ability is definitely good enough," he said, "but I'll see if I get invited to any [NFL] camps, or what happens with this new league.
"If I get the chance, I'll take it," he said. "When I'm 30 years old I want to be able to say at least I gave it my best shot, instead of sitting around wondering what might have happened."
He doesn't rule out the possibility that his size might interest some teams in looking at him as a tight end. "I think my hands are good enough," he said, "but I'd definitely have to hit the
weights a little more."
In the meantime, Goetz is preparing for a career as a teacher and coach. "I want to stay in athletics," he said. "I've already asked Coach Albert about helping out with the young quarterbacks during spring practice."
That is assuming there will be football at Towson State next year, which still hasn't been decided. Fund-raising organizers will meet Tuesday with the Intercollegiate Athletic Committee to outline their ideas to save the sport, which is in danger of being suspended because of a budget deficit.
"If they keep the program," said Goetz, "they have to look into ways of upgrading it so we can be competitive at this [Division I-AA] level."
He thinks the general apathy toward football at Towson is merely the reflection of the area itself. "In South Jersey, high school football is a big thing -- the stands are packed for every game," said Goetz. "But I don't even think there's a school in Baltimore County that has stands."
Building, or rejuvenating, interest at Towson State, where the 5,000-seat Minnegan Stadium is seldom more than half-filled, is a major concern that is not limited to football. "I love basketball, but you go to the games and nobody is there, either.
"Towson State is a big suitcase college," said Goetz. "Most of the students live no more than 45 miles away and they like to go home for the weekends. I understand the administration is looking to attract more out-of-state students, and if that happens I think you'll see interest pick up."
For Goetz, the last five years have been both rewarding and disappointing. "I've had some good times and some difficult times," he said. "I think I've matured a lot and learned a lot about life from football.
"It's made me realize," he said with a wistful smile, "that life is not always fair."
Tomorrow afternoon when he closes his college career Goetz will have the chance to add to the school records he already has set. But he'll also have one last opportunity to do something else more important -- walk off the field a winner.