In retrospect, there is little doubt that Towson State University fumbled in 1987 when it moved from Division II football to Division I-AA. Not merely because the initial support has waned, but more so because the new status has become a trap: In Division I-AA, schools can award 70 scholarships, but TSU has the equivalent of only 45 to offer this year. In part as a result, TSU is simply not competitive. Its 2-8 record this year left the JTC stands virtually empty; some 500 students -- out of a student body of 10,000 -- showed up to cheer the Tigers on. In fact, the only thing that has increased since 1987 is the athletic department's deficit which, at the end of this school year, will hit an unthinkable $257,000. More ominous, pending changes in NCAA regulations could make it more expensive for TSU's other sports teams to keep Division I status.
Now that President Hoke Smith has wisely rejected increasing annual student athletic fees from $270 to $370, there is only one feasible option: beef up fund raising. But past experience here doesn't offer much hope. The Tiger Club raised only $65,000 last year: Support among alumni was anemic (only 17 football alums contributed), and area businesses have not been forthcoming either. More than that, the fact remains that if a school is not among the 60-70 big-time, profit-making football schools in the country, Division I-AA football is simply not going to be cost-effective in the '90s -- fund raising aside.