The NCAA will convene next week to consider a controversial proposal for a new low-, low-, low-cost version of Division I football. The chances of its passing are considered 50-50. But no matter how the vote turns out, Towson State says it will be playing that brand of football in 1993.
"I think the proposal will pass," Towson State athletic director Bill Hunter said yesterday. "But if it should not, our plans are to be part of a group of 20 East Coast Athletic Conference schools that will use the same guidelines."
Those guidelines include no scholarships, no spring practice, 10 games and only two or three full-time coaches. They are contained in legislation for a new Division I-AAA football classification to be considered at the NCAA's annual convention that begins Tuesday in Anaheim, Calif.
It is not so much a football proposal as it is a basketball plan, since it allows such Division I basketball powers as Georgetown, St. John'sand Providence to meet the new NCAA requirement that all their sports play at the Division I level -- without requiring them to invest millions to upgrade their football programs to the Division I-A or I-AA level.
The proposal's fate on the convention floor is uncertain, but ECAC commissioner and Marist athletic director Gene Doris said his conference has adopted those principles for its football members, to be enforced by 1993. And Towson says it wants in.
"Our concern is to be as successful as we can be," said Hunter. "The dollars we would not have to put out for football scholarships [40, at $350,000] and personnel [five full-time coaches] would allow us to address the other areas where we are in need.
"It would also allow us to have football. We need to have football. This is a way to have it and not have to spend $1 million or more to do so."
Towson State football coach Phil Albert, whose program struggled back from the brink of abolition 14 months ago because of budget and scholarship problems, is cautious.
"This is very difficult, considering all that has gone into developing a football program here," said Albert, whose team was in the top 10 in Division II four times but has struggled mightily (14-38, including 1-10 this season) since moving up to Division I-AA in 1987.
"I've invested 23 years of my life. Every competitive fiber in me wants to compete at the highest level.
"If I-AAA doesn't pass, it would be very difficult to compete at the I-AA level under I-AAA guidelines. But there would be other schools interested in playing under those guidelines and the thought would be to merge."
The ECAC's Doris said Towson has not applied formally to join the 19 schools that have said they will play I-AAA-style football no matter what. "But that would be no problem," he said.
He also did not rule out the possibility that the conference could expand considerably because of the appeal of its low-cost football.
"Whether I-AAA passes or fails, we will be able to schedule a like playing field and still satisfy the requirements of Triple-A or Double-A," Doris said. "Towson would have to phase out its scholarships and come into limitations as far as staffing."
If the I-AAA proposal passes, the University of Maryland Baltimore County may start a football program.
"It will be a several-year process. We want the proper coaching, the proper facilities and the proper support," said UMBC athletic director Charlie Brown. "We don't have any illusions that we would be a national power. But we feel it would add to student life and there is a strong interest on campus for it."