Phil Albert has re-recruited every player in his football program, and not a one has told him they're going to leave. He has talked to 36 people with ties to the corporate community, enlisting their financial support. There are a half dozen or so junior college prospects he would like to give scholarships to in another two weeks.
Now all he wants is for the University Senate to confirm that Towson State will play football in 1991 and beyond.
When the possibility that Towson State football would be suspended arose in late October, Albert told the university he would like to know by Dec. 1 where he, his coaches and players stand. He should get an answer Monday, when the University Senate will address the issue, but the chairman of that body spoke positively about football's future yesterday.
Neil Gallagher, chairman of the University Senate, is also a member of the Intercollegiate Athletic Committee. The IAC originally voted 8-1 to suspend football after the 1990 season, but it withdrew that recommendation from the University Senate after football supporters rallied.
On Nov. 20 the IAC was briefed on a fund-raising and marketing plan by Jim Holdridge, a member of the Football Alumni Association. All members of the University Senate have received a 12-page packet from Holdridge, and on Monday they will consider an IAC report that in effect says football's status should not be changed.
"There will only be debate if a senator wants to put another motion on the floor, or ask for further information," Gallagher said. "The IAC feels that if football's supporters have a plan, we should give them a chance to implement it."
Albert hasn't been waiting for a go-ahead. Since a season-ending victory over Northeastern, he has worked to repair damage done to his program. Following a Nov. 3 Homecoming loss to New Haven, a dejected Albert spoke of mass defections from Towson State football, but he was decidedly more upbeat last night.
Albert expects 85 players back next year, and during the last 10 days every one of them spoke to Albert or their position coach about the future of the program.
"We had to re-recruit every player we had," Albert said. "We had several team meetings, the first the afternoon of Nov. 19. We felt the IAC was going to make a positive statement the following day, and when they did, that made our job easier.
"We told the players, 'We're struggling, and you might want to be someplace else right now.' At this moment, not one single player has said he's going to go on and transfer."
Tomorrow begins a period when high school players can begin (( visiting campuses. Albert plans to have 10 to 12 prospects in the weekend of Dec. 14-15. On Dec. 12, junior college transfers can sign letters of intent, and Albert is eyeing that date more closely. The fact is, he doesn't have that many scholarships to offer, because the Tigers were so young this year, one reason they were 2-9.
Albert spoke at length about his own role in fund-raising, and also about poor attendance since Towson State moved in 1987 to Division I-AA, where it has yet to have a winning season. Suspending football was raised as one possible solution to alleviate an athletic department deficit that could reach $257,000 this year, and Albert said he is willing to take a bigger role in the financial end.
"In the past, I haven't been as visible in terms of asking people for money," Albert said. "Since the open forum [Nov. 1], I've talked to 36 individuals who are business- and civic-minded."
Ed Hale, owner of the Blast, told Albert some proceeds from an upcoming soccer game at the Arena would go to Towson State football.
"Nothing's etched in stone, but one night pretty soon, maybe in December, we'll give them $1 for every single person through the door," Hale said. "That could be anywhere from $6,000 to $12,000. We'll hit the alumni, other groups. I understand they need the bucks right now."
Towson State raised approximately $65,000 for its entire athletic program last year. Holdridge said that football supporters have been asked by the administration to raise $200,000 by Dec. 1, 1991. They were asked to have $27,900 in pledges by Monday, and Holdridge said that as of Wednesday, $46,000 had been pledged.
If football is maintained, many decisions would have to be made as to where that money would go, but the most likely scenario would have the athletic department taking some of the money it has been giving for football scholarships and giving it to other sports, which would need to be upgraded if a reform package is passed at the NCAA convention in January. Fund-raising targeted for football would make up for any athletic department cutbacks in that area.
Albert feels Holdridge's plan will improve the marketing of Towson State football and Tiger athletics in general. He also admitted that attendance is tied into winning.
"Unfortunately, our student body right now has experienced nothing but losing," Albert said. "We were 4-6 in 1987, then 5-5, 2-8, 2-9. Regardless of the number of wins, we represent the student body and encourage them to support us.
"It's going to take some time to be the Division I-AA playoff team we set out to be in 1987, but it's still our goal to be the first team in the nation to reach the NCAA playoffs at all three levels [Divisions III, II and I-AA]."