Locally, road to riches leads out of town

November 19, 1990|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,Evening Sun Staff

Because of an editing error, a story in yesterday's editions of The Evening Sun incorrectly stated that the Towson State athletic department faces a projected deficit of $2.5 million. In fact, the deficit is projected to be $257,000.

* Also, another story reported that the Loyola men's basketball team opens its season Nov. 28 at La Salle. In fact, the Greyhounds open at home Saturday (2 p.m.) against George Washington.

The Evening Sun regrets the errors.

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When the state's Division I basketball teams open this coming weekend, Morgan State draws the honor of being Providence's first patsy Friday night. On Saturday, UMBC goes to Clemson, Towson State visits Dayton and Coppin State ventures to Tulsa, one of the best in the Missouri Valley Conference.


Loyola begins with a conference game Nov. 28: at La Salle, the recent power in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference.

That opening salvo is the first in a series of scheduling obstacles for Baltimore's five Division I basketball teams, which often perform in a vacuum at home and can't afford to pass up lucrative cash guarantees from more-established programs with bigger followings:

* Morgan State plays its first 12 games on the road, opening at home in Hurt Gymnasium on Jan. 12. After Providence, there are trips to Georgia Tech, Florida State, Southwest Missouri and New Mexico State. First-year coach Michael Holmes, who is working with a depleted roster, is quick to point out the schedule was in place when he came on board.

* Of Coppin State's first 12 games, two are at the Coppin Center: UMBC on Dec. 8 and Charleston the following Saturday. In addition to the trip to Tulsa, the defending Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference champs travel to New Mexico State, Texas-El Paso, Oklahoma, Miami -- where the Eagles draw Clemson in a tournament -- Toledo and New Orleans.

* Towson State has three of its first nine games at the Towson Center, but the ratio is that high only because it is the Tigers' turn to host the Beltway Classic. Terry Truax was able to line up another "home" game against Syracuse, but that's Billy Owens appreciation night in Hershey, Pa.

* UMBC's road slate is as tough as anyone's. After Clemson, the Retrievers' itinerary includes stops at Iowa, Loyola of Chicago, Maryland and Kansas. Earl Hawkins was able to line up four home games before his team debuts in the East Coast Conference, but the Dec. 4 game against Boston University is at the Baltimore Arena in hopes of attracting a bigger audience.

* Prior to Jan. 7, Loyola plays one home game, a Dec. 11 date with American, but it has only two killer trips, to Xavier and Texas.

In the Division I world of haves and have-nots, Baltimore's five teams definitely fall in the latter category. They are caught up in a scheduling dilemma fraught with vicious circles and Catch 22s. They don't have the huge arenas and TV deals that allow them to bring in name opponents, and they rarely draw more than 2,000 when a foe of equal stature comes in.

When students go on semester break, attendance is even worse.

The locals schools are also caught in a power ratings squeeze that forces them and other members of their conferences to seek out stronger opponents. In the convoluted logic and computer programming used by the NCAA basketball committee, a loss to a school with a big-time reputation is better than a win over a peer.

There is also the very big matter of money. All of Baltimore's Division I schools are struggling to make do with small budgets, and the biggest source of revenue for their athletic departments is often the cash guarantees earned by the basketball teams.

"When I set up the schedule, the bottom line on deciding some dates is what will be the bigger portion for us," Coppin State coach Fang Mitchell said. "Derek Brown [his chief assistant] handles the airline travel, and finds the best deals. I think we're going to clear over $100,000 this year."

Schools like Coppin State and Towson State, which are building a reputation in Division I, command anywhere from $12,000 to $20,000 for providing the opposition to a team from a major conference. Expenses might range from a bus to play at Maryland, to airfare, two nights lodging, meals and ground transportation at Dayton. After that, the rest is profit.

"We should make $8,000 off our trip to Dayton," said Truax, who is never able to schedule a home game during Thanksgiving because of an antique show at the Towson Center. "We don't get that money either, that goes to the athletic department. Going into my fourth year here, the record wasn't very good [25-60], and I asked them if they could list $250,000 worth of guarantees instead of wins and losses in the media guide.

"There is a plus side," Truax said. "When you play a nationally ranked team, that helps your recruiting."

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