They were a small-college football power, dominating their level and coming within one win of an NCAA championship. There were insurmountable problems in recent years, however, and 1990 might have been the low point in the program's history.
Surprise: The team in question is not Towson State. Salisbury State's only loss in 1986 came in the NCAA Division III title game, but four years later, the Sea Gulls' only victory came in the final game as they finished 1-8 last season. Looking back, coach Joe Rotellini was glad it came in November, and not in September.
"Hey, we've got a win streak going," Rotellini said.
He can joke now, but Rotellini's first season as a college head coach was a nightmare. He got the Sea Gull job in March 1990, and had little time to recruit for that season. Last year's schedule might have been the toughest in the nation. And in September, Rotellini lost his father.
Rotellini sees the Sea Gulls being stronger everywhere this fall. Ferrum and Division II Shepherd are gone from the schedule, replaced by beatable opponents. There are 18 returning starters, but some will be out of jobs because there are 50 new faces in camp.
Rookies like Mike Brogden, a defensive back from Meade, will get a look right away, but not all of the newcomers are freshmen. Rotellini recruited several transfers, including two from junior college power Montgomery-Rockville and one from as far away as Montana.
"Some of the transfers were recruited by Salisbury State previously," Rotellini said. "Some of them didn't play college football last year; some wanted to get closer to home. Some of them saw an opportunity to play here right away."
Among the freshmen who started in 1990 was Len Annetta, a quarterback from Dallas, Pa. He's receiving instruction this time from Rotellini's newest assistant, Robb Disbennett. Disbennett was the starting quarterback from 1983-85, when the Sea Gulls went 26-5-1.
* In other alumni news, Towson State grad Kurk Lee and another former Dunbar High product, Florida State junior Sam Cassell, led Baltimore's Finest to a 171-41 win over Green's Fuel in the D.C. Urban Coalition Senior Division title game. Lee dropped in 38 points, Cassell 35, and the closing minutes were a three-point exhibition by the two.
Kurt Beathard, Towson State's record-setting quarterback in 1985, is part of the new football staff at James Madison. He'll coach the tight ends. In running news, Doug Mock, who set several distance records at Salisbury State, took the Market to Market 5-miler in downtown Baltimore Sunday in 24:29.
* Morgan State isn't waiting to move toward the more demanding minimums for sports sponsorship in Division I passed at the last NCAA convention. The Bears are adding softball to their women's list next spring, and have hired Wanda Richardson as coach. She played basketball at Morgan State.
By September 1994, Division I members must field seven sports for men and seven for women. At that time, indoor and outdoor track and field will count as one sport.
* Western Maryland goes into the football season without its leading tackler of the last two years. Kurt Reisenweber, a Mount St. Joseph grad from Catonsville, led the Green Terrors in tackles as a freshman and sophomore, and he played lacrosse as a freshman in 1990. Hospitalized for the treatment of blood clots last winter, he hasn't participated in either teams' training since.