I-AA yanks out Towson's playoff rug Angry Combs says favoritism shown

November 22, 1993|By Derek Toney | Derek Toney,Contributing Writer

Towson State had its best football season since 1986. The offense rewrote the school's record book and its star running back broke the NCAA Division I-AA single-season rushing mark and four other records.

But Towson State's dream season won't have a dream ending. Yesterday, the Tigers were excluded from the 16-team I-AA playoff field announced in Kansas City, Mo.

Of particular significance to Towson coach Gordy Combs was that Delaware, which Towson State defeated, 32-30, and three Yankee Conference teams in all were selected by the committee, which was headed by Chuck Boone, the Yankee Conference commissioner.

"It goes to the situation that he's the commissioner of the Yankee Conference," Combs said. "I have a problem with Delaware getting in because we beat them and if we didn't have three fumbles early, we could have won easily. I just don't understand why the committee would not want a team with an attractive record and the nation's top rusher [Tony Vinson] in the tournament.

"How can you consider head-to-head competition, when what you do on the field doesn't mean anything more than what happens off the field," he added. "It's that ol' boy network working. I'm just really disappointed at the committee. There are four or five teams that have a good case to argue."

Five teams with three losses qualified, including defending national champion Marshall, Delaware, Eastern Kentucky, Northern Iowa and Stephen F. Austin. Boone, who was in Kansas City yesterday, couldn't be reached for comment.

The Tigers (8-2) lost to only unbeaten Howard, 44-41, and Hofstra, 40-12. Against Howard, Towson State built a 21-point advantage only to lose on the final play of the game.

Towson State finished the season with two blowout wins -- 49-21 over Bucknell and 56-12 over Morgan State -- after edging Delaware State.

"What we did in the final three games should have some merit," Combs said.

If they had gained a berth, the Tigers would have become the first school to participate in the playoffs at three different levels. In 1976, the Tigers played in the Division III tourney and also made three appearances in the Division II playoffs.

Only three years ago, the Tigers were 1-10, but with 23 returning seniors this season, they cracked the Division I-AA Top 25 for the first time and set or tied 46 school records.

Fifteen of those records belong to Vinson, who rushed for 2,016 yards, including 327 against Morgan State on Saturday. His 2,073 all-purpose yards, 24 touchdowns and 144 points makes him the first player to lead all those categories since Barry Sanders in 1988 at Oklahoma State.

The Tigers will be losing Vinson and 13 other starters to graduation. After next season, Towson State will move into a non-scholarship conference due to the school administration's decision to drop athletic scholarships, making future playoffs a long shot at best.

"The disappointment I have for not making the playoffs is for our players and coaches who worked so hard to have such an outstanding season," said Combs, who is 13-7 in two seasons.

"I can't imagine any coach at any level who is more proud of his team than I am, especially our seniors. To think that only three years ago we were 1-10 and this year we challenged for a playoff spot and cracked the Top 25 for the first time, is testimony enough to their dedication."

DIV. I-AA PLAYOFFS

First-round games to be played Saturday in the NCAA Division I-AA playoffs (all times p.m.):

E. Ky. (8-3) at Ga. Southern (9-2), 12:30

Florida (9-2) at Youngstown St. (9-2), 1

Iowa (8-3) at Boston U. (11-0), 1

Howard (11-0) at Marshall (8-3), 1

Delaware (8-3) at Montana (10-1), 2

S.F. Austin (8-3) at Troy State (10-0-1), 3

Idaho (9-2) at NE Louisiana (9-2), 7

Wm. & Mary (9-2) at McNeese St. (9-2), 8

TONY'S TRAVELS

Towson State running back Tony Vinson set five NCAA Division I-AA single-season records, including rushing yards. Here's a game-by-game breakdown.

Date .. .. .. Opponent .. .. .. Yds. .. .. TDs

Sept. 11 . .. Cent. Conn. .. .. 123 ... .. 1

Sept. 18 . .. Dela. State .. .. 149 ... .. 1

Sept. 25 . .. Ch'ston So. .. .. 161 ... .. 1

Oct. 2 ... .. Connecticut .. .. 196 ... .. 4

Oct. 16 .. .. Howard . .. .. .. 224 ... .. 2

Oct. 23 .. .. Buffalo ... .. .. 209 ... .. 0

Oct. 30 .. .. Hofstra ... .. .. 127 ... .. 1

Nov. 6 ... .. Delaware .. .. .. 136 ... .. 4

Nov. 13 .. .. Bucknell .. .. .. 364 ... .. 4

Nov. 20 .. .. Morgan St. ... .. 327 ... .. 5

Totals ... .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ... 2,016 23

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