UMBC hoping NCAA will help it kick off football

January 07, 1991|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,Evening Sun Staff

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- In a college era of cost containment that forced crosstown rival Towson State to debate dropping football recently, UMBC's Charlie Brown would like to have the added expense of that sport.

"It's something we're very interested in, and one of our long-range goals," said Brown, who became the Retrievers' athletic director in May 1989. "It would put us into a whole different category in the way people think about us, and it would make us a more attractive member of our [East Coast] conference."

Brown's superiors feel the same way. Sue Kitchen, vice president for student affairs, said, "We would like to have football because it would contribute immensely to school spirit. The issue is how to afford it. We need to find the money."

Brown said that UMBC already has a stadium suited to football, and that the greatest costs would come in personnel and equipment, the latter requiring an initial outlay of approximately $60,000 to $75,000.

Brown is vehement about football not infringing on UMBC's other sports. He has attempted to give all of his coaches a share of the scholarship pie, an expenditure that could rise if the NCAA adopts scholarship minimums for Division I this week at its convention here. Brown said that the easiest way for the Retrievers to add football would be on a non-scholarship basis.

He is most interested in a resolution that would pave the way for the establishment of a new level of NCAA football, I-AAA, for Division I members that do not want to offer scholarships in the sport. At least 40 of them now play in Division III, and the passage of another proposal on the agenda would eliminate that option and force them into another division.

"UMBC would prefer a football program in which the athletic department wouldn't have to put any scholarship money in," Brown said. "I don't want to have it if it drains the rest of our teams. I want it on my terms, preferably non-scholarship, or possibly with limited scholarships."

UMBC is in its first year in the East Coast Conference, and the league has had several meetings to discuss adding football.

Brown, Towson State's Bill Hunter and the rest of the ECC leadership also are most interested in two resolutions that would provide the conference with some breathing room regarding new members. The ECC will be down to five members in June, and under current NCAA rules, this will be the last year it sends its men's basketball champion to the NCAA tournament.

This is UMBC's fifth year in Division I, and the transition has not been easy. Brown inherited a deficit that in 1988 exceeded $300,000. It is now below $100,000, and Brown expects it to be paid in full by 1993.

UMBC's athletic budget is $1.6 million for 1990-91, and $472,000 will go to scholarships. Of that figure, $11,000 is being used to honor agreements to gymnasts, whose sport was dropped shortly before softball was added.

Student athletic fees are the major source of revenue, but Brown hopes that will change. He hired Marty Schwartz as the #i department's first full-time fund-raiser in February 1990. For 1989-90, the Retriever Club had 107 members and raised $10,000. This year it has nearly 400 members, and has raised more than $51,000.

"We are the newest college in Maryland," Brown said. "Fund-raising has been a weak area in the past, but our alumni base is growing. Athletics gets you publicity fast, if you do the job."

In an era when many of his Division I counterparts have a business background, Brown wears three hats. Besides running the athletic department, Brown also chairs the health and physical education department. Plus, he oversees recreation.

"I can balance all three because I make the schedule for the field house," Brown said. "All of our head coaches teach here, and I like that. I think more schools should be doing it this way."

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