Towson, Morgan revel in rivalry

Local game benefits both schools

UMBC soccer returns to home field



August 31, 2006|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,Sun Reporter

The Towson-Morgan State football rivalry appears destined for a long run.

Athletic officials from both schools believe major rewards are reaped from the game, which has been played 18 times -- continuously since 1998 -- and is under contract for three more years beyond this season's meeting Saturday night.

"It's the battle of Baltimore and the I-AA championship of Maryland," Tigers coach Gordy Combs said. "To win it is one of our goals every year. It's a natural."

Said Morgan coach Donald Hill-Eley: "A game of that magnitude benefits everybody in recruiting, advertising, bragging rights. There's a lot more to hold onto than other games. And it's a good caliber game because the teams are on a level playing field."

Three of the past four Tigers-Bears matchups have been decided by three points, one in overtime. Additionally, of the 17 Towson home crowds that have exceeded 5,000 fans, Morgan has been the opponent in eight.

Mike Hermann, who became the Towson athletic director two months ago, is already talking with his Morgan counterpart, Floyd Kerr, about a contract extension.

"There is nothing better in the city," Hermann said. "College sports have been built on rivalries and this is a big bang at the very start of the season."

Normally played on a Thursday night to circumvent the exodus on Labor Day weekend, Towson has moved the game back two days at the behest of the Student Life Committee, which is attempting to keep the students on campus for the weekend.

Kerr preferred the Thursday date as a natural lead-in to the weekend, but concedes it is Towson's call as the host.

"I think we need to play several and re-evaluate," he said. "I was hoping it would continue on Thursday because it creates a good kickoff to Labor Day. People are looking for things to do on Thursday and later you can have a lot of competition. But it was Towson's call."

From an athletic director's viewpoint, the game is also advantageous because the schools are barely five miles apart and expenses are minimal for the visiting team. No flight or long bus trip. No hotel. No meals on the road.

"A lot of the players socialize together and this sets the tone for our season," Combs said.

Not under consideration is any plan to eliminate the rivalry, although Morgan will be affected next season by the entry of Winston-Salem State into its Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference schedule. That will leave room for only two non-league games and Towson will continue to be one of them.

"We replaced Monmouth with Winston-Salem," Kerr said. "Until we get to the point we can play 12 games, that will be the way we go."

UMBC's turf

UMBC has returned to its refurbished soccer stadium after playing last season on the turf at UMBC Stadium. The new surface is drawing raves from friends and foes alike.

"Everybody is excited about the field," Retrievers coach Pete Caringi said. "Most players like to be on Bermuda grass and you know you're going to get a great bounce and roll on it. I think it will also help us get some teams to come in here and play us."

UMBC is 1-1 on the new-old pitch, losing, 3-2, to 19th-ranked Virginia Tech. The loss ended a 21-game undefeated streak (14-0-7) on the surface, which also features drainage and irrigation systems.

Et cetera

Janine Tucker, the most successful women's lacrosse coach in Johns Hopkins history, recently signed a five-year contract extension. In 13 seasons, Tucker's teams have a 157-60 record, including 89-43 in Division I play. The program made its first two Division I tournament fields the past two years. ... Morgan's M Club will induct six members into the Hall of Fame on Sept. 30. They are Paulette Clagon, Paula Clagon-Smith, Chet Davis, Charles Kelly, Dr. John Laws Nickens Jr. and Dr. Ralph Jones (posthumously).

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