The possibility of non-scholarship football at Towson State exists even if the NCAA doesn't create that option for Division I members at its next convention.
The 1990 NCAA convention included legislation that prohibited Division I and II schools from playing Division III football after 1992. A proposal at next January's convention in Anaheim would create a Division I-AAA, a level that would mandate need-based financial aid only, no spring practice and limited coaching staffs.
Towson State is one of the 266 schools in the Eastern College Athletic Conference, and some of its members aren't waiting for the NCAA to create I-AAA. Even if the proposal is defeated and they are classified I-AA, they would operate under the I-AAA philosophy.
In September, 20 members of the ECAC, all Division I and II schools affected by last year's legislation, formed the Intercollegiate Football Conference. Towson State president Hoke L. Smith said he would be interested in the football-only group, which includes Duquesne, St. John's and Wagner, the 1987 NCAA Division III champion.
"If the I-AAA proposal is turned down, our group will make sure that the members meet the NCAA's scheduling requirements," said Marist athletic director Gene Doris, president of the IFC, which will begin play in 1993. "We've also talked to institutions struggling at the I-AA level who might decide to come with us.
"We're not looking to be a part of I-AA, and I'm not sure the schools there want us anyway. Do they want 20 more votes in favor of lower scales for scholarships?"
That is the dilemma facing the I-AA powers at the January NCAA convention. If I-AAA passes, the I-AA elite fear their membership will shrink and they possibly will lose the NCAA championship game that began in 1978.
"I-AA has to be able to stand on its own," said Bucky Wagner, the athletic director at Georgia Southern, winner of four of the last six I-AA titles. "When we're voting on scholarship limits, some leagues are already voting to scale back."
There are 10 Division I-AA football conferences, and already the
Ivy and Patriot leagues do not offer scholarships and do not allow their members to advance to the NCAA tournament. Two historically black conferences, the Mid-Eastern Athletic and Southwestern, will eschew the NCAA tournament and send their champions to the Alamo Heritage Bowl Dec. 21.
Of 90 members in I-AA, that leaves only 61 whose priority is the 16-team NCAA tournament. The I-AAA legislation would secure the size of the I-AA field through 1997, and would call for no championshiptournament at the new level.
Towson State coach Phil Albert, who said "Dr. Smith and [athletic director] Bill Hunter have decided they're committed to I-AAA if it becomes a reality," has reservations about playing in I-AAA or adopting its philosophy.
There are 19 separate amendments to the I-AAA proposal. One would restrict I-AAA programs to one head coach and two full-time assistants. The ECAC group has gone so far as to limit its members to one full-time assistant. Albert has four
"If the bill passes, I would hope those limits would be amended or guys already on staff would be grandfathered," Albert said. "There are a lot of coaches out of work already."
Although scholarships would be banned in I-AAA, financial aid wouldn't, and that is another concern of Albert's. Towson State's policy limits financial aid packages to 50 percent of a student's costs, and some of the competition will be funding 100 percent.