Northeast to discuss Towson State bid UMBC optimistic about Big South

December 05, 1991|By Paul McMullen

The conference rivalry between Towson State and UMBC could be short-lived.

Both are looking to leave the shrinking East Coast Conference, and they appear headed in opposite directions. Athletic director Bill Hunter said yesterday that Towson State has applied to join the Northeast Conference, while UMBC athletic director Charlie Brown speaks more positively about a future in the Big South Conference.

The Northeast Conference presidents will be discussing expansion at a meeting Tuesday, so Towson State could know as early as next week if it will be rejoining a conference it left in 1982. UMBC's Brown said he wasn't sure whether the Retrievers' plans would be completed before the NCAA Convention in early January.

There is much urgency, because the sooner the two schools act, the better their chances of being in a conference with an automatic bid to the NCAA basketball tournament in 1992-93. "I'd like to get this out the way this afternoon, if I could," Hunter said jokingly.

In leaning toward the Northeast, Towson State would get a chance to renew its rivalry with Mount St. Mary's and join a basketball conference where Monmouth, Robert Morris, St. Francis (Pa.) and Fairleigh Dickinson have come up in the world in recent years. Cost is also a factor, as Towson State would never travel beyond Pennsylvania or New York.

UMBC, meanwhile, is wary of commitments the NEC requires of its members, who must be on board for a minimum of five years and pay a $250,000 penalty if they break that agreement. The Big South means road trips to South Carolina, but it also includes an automatic bid to the NCAA baseball tournament.

Wherever Towson State and UMBC end up, the conferences in question will be getting universities with commitments to broad-based programs that go beyond men's basketball.

The two will meet tomorrow (8 p.m.) in the semifinals of the Baltimore Beltway Classic at UMBC, and it could serve as the last season opener in the ECC, which is also losing Rider to the Northeast Conference.

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