The last time Towson State and Rider College played at the Towson Center, the coalition forces were bombing Baghdad to begin the liberation of Kuwait.
It was Jan. 16 and "that was the night I got my 1,000th point," said Tigers guard Devin Boyd, the East Coast Conference Player of the Year. "We found out about the war afterward. It wasn't a factor during the game."
A cease-fire now prevails in the Persian Gulf and it is the ECC battling for survival, as top-seeded Towson and No. 6 Rider prepare to clash tonight for the conference title and an automatic berth in the National Collegiate Athletic Association tournament.
The 5 p.m. tipoff, courtesy of ESPN, is expected to attract a near-sellout crowd.
Meanwhile, in the meeting room yesterday, league commissioner John Carpenter and the league's athletic directors agreed on a plan that will allow Carpenter to recruit new members quickly.
"We have six different schools that we have prioritized and we're making some choices," said Carpenter, who noted that the plan both includes and excludes Towson, which has made a pitch to enter the North Atlantic Conference.
North Atlantic officials are scheduled to visit the Towson campus later this month.
"I think a number of our people would like to see our league go," said Carpenter. "We're certainly not happy with the things that have transpired, but I feel good that we're following through."
Delaware and Drexel have already committed to the North Atlantic and with Towson, the ECC is down to five schools, one short of the number necessary to retain an automatic qualifier.
The bid is scheduled to be revoked for next season, but the league has applied to the NCAA championship committee for an amendment that would "allow us to be in the mandatory play-in and not eliminate us," said the commissioner.
A decision was to have been made this week, but the ECC has not been informed of it.
"The only thing we can do is try to plug the dike and go forward," Carpenter said. "I'd hate to see any of our schools left out in the cold.
"Right now, we're just looking for six [members], but we're not going to stay there."
Brooklyn College is believed to be a front-runner in the ECC race because of its eight-year membership in Division I. The ECC needs such a school or will lose the automatic bid for five years.
The Tigers appear to have everything going for them in their quest for a second straight championship, the home court, Boyd's ability to play despite a painful hip pointer and a day of rest in the first round while the Broncs were forced to start their breathless and unlikely march to the final.
"I hope we have a little bit of emotion left," said Rider coach Kevin Bannon, whose team has weathered a final shot to beat Drexel, 71-68, and rallied from an eight-point deficit within two minutes to oust Delaware in overtime, 77-75.