Terry Truax knows the old line about there being two sports in the Southwest Conference, football and spring football.
He would like to make basketball a third. The sport has had its problems in the SWC, but Truax would like to trade the ones he has at Towson State for any he would find at the conference's offices in Dallas.
Truax, whose eight-season record as head coach at Towson State is 109-126, may find out as early as today if the new job of Southwest Conference director of basketball operations is his. He and John Erickson, a Big Eight official, are the two finalists for the position.
"This type of position is something that has appealed to me for several years," Truax said. "I eventually would like to run a conference, and if you don't get experience like this, it's hard to get your foot in the door.
"It's a new position, and you would dictate the responsibilities of the job. The primary job is simply promoting the sport. That would include negotiating a television package. That's not my expertise, but I have other things in my favor. As I pointed out to [SWC commissioner] Fred Jacoby, I know every coach in the Southwest Conference, but none of them too well that it would affect my performance."
While conferences with lesser power ratings get regular play on ESPN, SWC games are carried on a cable network based in Dallas, and rarely get more than regional play. The SWC enters the 1991-92 season minus its most visible program in recent years, as Arkansas jumped to the Southeastern Conference.
Other than his salary, Truax, 46, had no complaints with his situation at Towson State yesterday. He was paid less than $50,000 last year, and when asked if the SWC position was double that, Truax said "close to it."
In the past, Truax did voice his displeasure with the Tigers' situation in the East Coast Conference. Towson State has won the conference the last two years and the NCAA tournament bid that went with it, but changing membership caused the ECC to lose its automatic bid in the 1992 field.
"That's a factor, but not a pressing one," Truax said. "If I knew the NCAA were still there for the conference, I would still be pursuing this job."
Towson State returns five starters and all but one substitute from a team that went 19-11 last season, and when practice begins Oct. 15, the lone scholarship freshman will be Dunbar's Terrance Alexander, The Evening Sun Player of the Year. Despite the returning talent, Truax expressed interest in several other coaching positions since March, and was a finalist for the Old Dominion job.
Truax's resume includes stops at North Carolina, Virginia, Florida, Colorado and Mississippi State. He has contacts throughout the nation, and in his eight years at Towson State the Tigers have played opponents from just about every major conference.
It was a loss, but one of Truax's brightest moments at Towson State came deep in the heart of SWC country. In their first NCAA Division I tournament game, in March 1990, the Tigers had the full support of the crowd in Austin, Texas, when they threw a major scare into then-No. 1 Oklahoma.