Towson is headed for North Atlantic

April 14, 1994|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,Sun Staff Writer

Towson State University is expected to announce today that it has accepted an invitation to join the North Atlantic Conference.

The presidents of the NAC's eight schools met yesterday at Boston University, where they voted to add two teams to the conference next year -- Towson State and Hofstra.

Towson State, which has been a member of the Big South since 1992, officially will join the NAC on July 1, 1995. It will mark the third conference the school has been aligned with during the 1990s.

Before leaving the East Coast Conference for the Big South, Towson State applied for admission to the NAC three years ago, but the league decided not to expand.

"Our administration wants to make this move very badly," said Towson State athletic director Billy Hunter, who said that the school's desire to leave the Big South for the NAC was based on geography.

"Fifty percent of our student body is from Maryland, and 49 of the other 50 percent is from north of Maryland," Hunter said. "Outside of football, we have three or four student-athletes who live south of Maryland. This [moving to the NAC] goes hand-in-hand with what we're about."

The NAC members include Boston University, Delaware, Drexel, Hartford, Maine, New Hampshire, Northeastern and Vermont.

NAC commissioner Stu Haskell and Towson State President Hoke L. Smith could not be reached for comment.

Towson State's move makes the future of the Big South Conference more uncertain. Earlier this year, Campbell, a Big South charter member, announced it was leaving in June. The Big South has filed a lawsuit trying to force Campbell to stay, since the league stands to lose its automatic bid to the NCAA basketball tournament next year if Campbell leaves.

Towson State's departure, by itself, won't affect the automatic bid.

The NCAA requires a conference to have six members with at least five years continuous membership, and Towson State has been in the Big South only two years.

Big South bylaws require schools to give two years' notice before departing. Although Towson State would be giving the conference only one year's notice, Hunter said he doesn't expect the Big South to put up a fight.

"We've been up front from the beginning with them [the Big South]," Hunter said. "They knew we weren't looking for a marriage."

Haskell has said that he hoped the NAC would expand by two schools next year, then add two more in the following year.

UMBC, a member of the Big South, has been mentioned as a possible candidate if the NAC decides to expand again.

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