On a rainy day in Maryland, the sun shone on Towson State University football yesterday.
After a lengthy debate over procedural matters, the University Senate voted, 12-6 (with one abstention), to continue a program that has been fighting for its survival for two months.
It was a victory for the task force of alumni and parents of current players seeking to raise funds to save football, threatened by a projected deficit in the athletic department budget.
All six student members of the Senate voted to retain the program with the faculty splitting its votes. A simple majority was all that was required for passage.
Football coach Phil Albert said he is "confident this is not going to come again next October. It's unfortunate football has been singled out for an athletic department deficit."
"This is probably the most positive thing that has happened to Towson State athletics in the last 10 years," said Steve Blake, executive director of the Tiger Club, the school's fund-raising arm. "When we voted to go to Division I-AA (in 1985), it only passed by one vote."
University President Hoke Smith had a previous speaking engagement and did not attend the Senate meeting, but sent a statement expressing his gratitude, particularly to the volunteers whose efforts he called "very encouraging."
"I am pleased that, with this renewed support, we will be able to continue our football program and work together to generate an effective and competitive program.
"In the past, we have had a program which has operated with integrity and within NCAA rules and regulations. I expect this tradition will continue at Towson State University," said Smith, who had the final say in the matter, regardless of the Senate vote.
In a previous memorandum to Neil Gallagher, president of the Senate, Smith said he supported the Intercollegiate Athletic Committee's reversal of a recommendation to suspend football, citing student and community support.
"I think it would be best at this time not to provide any specific statement of how long we may keep the football program," Smith said in the memo, "but rather, plan to continue it until circumstances indicate it should be re-evaluated."
A number of forces will have an impact on the future of Towson football, including the proposed National Collegiate Athletic Association re-structuring plan to be unveiled next month, the possibility of a new, regional conference with lesser scholarship requirements, and the success of the fund-raising group, which has already exceeded its goal to provide three additional football grants for next season.
The IAC withdrew its recommendation to suspend the sport at a Senate meeting Nov. 5, asking for time to review "new information."
That information arrived two weeks ago -- a detailed business plan from the alumni group which stressed vigorous marketing and promotion, maintenance of current scholarship levels by the university (40 next year), attracting more students to games and effort coordinated with university officials.
Gallagher said the task force told him "we can help the university if the university helps us."
The Senate went along with the recommendation of Dr. John Connolly, chairman of the IAC, who said the plan "ought to be given an opportunity to be successful."
One of the strongest anti-football arguments -- from professor Gary Van Osdell -- centered on the promises of financial support voiced when Towson moved up to Division I-AA, support he said "never materialized."
SATURDAY a.m. Alleghney vs. Lycoming, NCAA Division III championship, ESPN
p.m. Navy vs. Army, channels 11, 9
p.m. California Bowl: Central Michigan vs. San Jose State, HTS