When the early-signing period for college football teams begins Feb. 5, Towson State coach Phil Albert will be without a vital recruiting tool -- scholarships.
Earlier this month, Tigers athletic director Bill Hunter, who is on vacation and unavailable for comment, said the team, which has offered football scholarships for 13 years, would stop doing so after the 1992 season.
He and Albert will meet Tuesday to discuss specifics for a program that moved to the I-AA level in 1987 and has recently operated with more than 40 scholarships.
"I told our players on Monday that the decision has been made to play at the non-scholarship level," Albert said. "Right now, we're not offering any new scholarships, but beyond that, the transition and how it is going to be implemented hasn't been laid out.
"I do know we're going to honor the aid we're giving to everyone now. The bulk of our scholarship money is going to the junior and senior classes. It's our feeling that we'll eventually be associated with a group committed to the non-scholarship philosophy, but that group hasn't formulated plans that would affect our underclassmen."
A proposal to create a AAA level for Division I members who want to play non-scholarship football was defeated at the NCAA convention this month. Despite that setback, 20 members of the Eastern College Athletic Conference are going ahead with plans to begin an Intercollegiate Football Conference in 1993.
Hunter has said Towson State plans to join the new group. Marist athletic director Gene Doris, who heads the 11 Division I and nine Division II colleges affected by a 1991 NCAA vote that barred them from playing football at a lower NCAA level, said decisions affecting Towson State and other prospective members still have to be made.
After the NCAA vote against I-AAA, Doris said the IFC is considering modifying many of its guidelines, which include no spring practice and only two full-time coaches. There could also be some flexibility in the policy of financial aid being administered on an as-needed basis, he said.
Currently, Albert must follow the Towson State policy, in which financial aid is limited to 50 percent of a student's costs. Albert has four full-time assistants, and under the original ECAC guidelines he could have only one.
"There are several areas that need some fine-tuning," Doris said. "We don't want coaches fired. The fact that some of our members are being reclassified as I-AA, and that in the NCAA's eyes they'll be operating under rules that allow seven assistant coaches [and more than 60 scholarships] gives us some flexibility.
"We also don't want to hurt kids that are currently enrolled someplace and receiving a scholarship. There is always the possibility of grandfathering the rules on some of these matters."
Towson State went 1-10 in 1991, when the schedule included NCAA Division I-AA champion Youngstown State and playoff participant James Madison. Delaware and William & Mary were added to the 1992 schedule, but Albert said revisions have begun.
"We're scheduled to play Delaware in 1993, but that probably won't happen," Albert said.
Hunter, who in October 1990 proposed dropping football as a way ofdealing with a deficit in the athletic department, has said that he would like to take the $350,000 in Tigers scholarship money and "address the other areas where we are in need."
Towson State played without scholarships in Division III from 1969 through 1978. It then upgraded to Division II, and reached the NCAA tournament three times in its last four years there. In 1987, the Tigers stepped up to I-AA, where their five-year record is 14-38. Last season's 1-10 record was the worst in the program's 23-year history.