It is an important week for Towson State sports, but all of the events occurring around the Tigers are not positive.
Athletic director Bill Hunter points out that the Tigers are the only school in the nation with a lacrosse team in the Final Four and a baseball team in the NCAA regionals. But that good news is tempered by the fact that Towson State must begin shopping for another conference following Rider's announcement that it will move from the East Coast Conference to the Northeast in 1992.
Towson State and UMBC, a first-year ECC member, will be affected by the latest chapter of the conference's struggles, and Hunter and Retrievers AD Charlie Brown have decisions to make.
Under the NCAA's continuity of membership standards, a conference must have at least three members who have been on board for five years to qualify for automatic berths to postseason tournaments.
Rider, the sixth school to leave the ECC in the last two years, and Hofstra were charter members of the ECC in 1974, and Towson State joined in 1982. Under current NCAA rules, if any of those three left the conference, the ECC would not be eligible for an automatic bid to the men's basketball tournament until 1995 at the earliest.
"We're scrambling," ECC commissioner John Carpenter said. "I'm not going to give up. We have to get in a situation where we can get an automatic bid."
Brooklyn College and Buffalo are scheduled to join the ECC in the fall. UMBC and Central Connecticut were new members for 1990-91. Those four, Hofstra and Towson State could still be together in 1992-93, but Hunter doubts it.
"I know that Towson State is not interested in maintaining a conference without an [NCAA] automatic qualifier," Hunter said. "We have a window of one year to find ourselves in another conference situation. Our options are dwindling."
The North Atlantic still remains Towson State's first choice, but that conference won't expand until 1993.
"I'm not sure if it's an omen or not, but our baseball team is going to Maine for the NCAA tournament, and that [Orono] is where the North Atlantic offices are," Hunter said. "If expansion is on hold because of dollars and cents, it behooves us to show the North Atlantic a southern division with Towson State, Drexel, Delaware and maybe Hofstra makes sense."
In recent days Hunter has contacted other conferences.
"I put in a call to the Atlantic 10 [which lost Penn State to the Big Ten], but I understand they're happy with nine members," Hunter said. "I talked with Tom Yeager of the Colonial Athletic Association yesterday [Monday], but they're very happy with their present structure."
The latest development had Brown, the UMBC athletic director, lamenting the Retrievers joining the ECC instead of the Northeast or the Big South Conference.
"I've been contacted many times by the Big South Conference [Radford, Va., being the closest possible rival there]. We turned down the Big South and Northeast to join the ECC. When we did that, not one of the [ECC] schools said a word about the possibility that they were considering leaving. Division I athletics has become musical chairs. I don't feel our program has gotten a fair shake in this whole deal."