House bill would require more in-state matchups

Walker wants regular games between UM, Morgan and Towson

February 04, 2010|By Sandra McKee | sandra.mckee@baltsun.com

State Del. Jay Walker, an ESPN college football commentator and former NFL player, has introduced House Bill 482, the Maryland Football Act, which would require the University of Maryland, a Football Bowl Subdivision school, to play at least one game every four years against Morgan State or Towson, two Football Championship Subdivision schools.

Walker said he was inspired to create the bill when he saw Maryland schedule FCS team James Madison instead of one of the state schools.

"The football commentator in me understands football," Walker said. "The legislator in me sees a way to help fund the football programs at our FCS schools properly. We've got one flagship program, Maryland, and two FCS teams, Towson and Morgan State. When you see Maryland play James Madison, you say: 'Wait - we have Towson and Morgan State. They could do so much for their programs with the proceeds from that game.'

"And Morgan and Towson should have the ability to play Maryland more than once in a lifetime. We want to see it happen on a more frequent basis."

Walker said Maryland athletic director Debbie Yow is aware of his efforts and that suggestions from the school have been incorporated into the bill. He also noted Yow had scheduled Towson and Morgan State in the next two years before he approached the school about the legislation.

An attempt to reach Yow on Wednesday through Maryland's sports information department was unsuccessful.

At Morgan State and Towson, athletic directors Floyd Kerr and Mike Hermann, respectively, said their teams are scheduled to play Maryland and there have also been conversations about making the commitment on a regular basis.

"I just heard about this legislation," said Hermann, whose Tigers will play Maryland in 2011. "While the outcome of what is proposed is favorable, I'm not sure why it should be required. Legislation is not the normal method for scheduling football games."

At Morgan State, Kerr said the Bears are scheduled to play the Terps this fall and the idea of being able to schedule Maryland on a regular basis would be a good thing for the school, the athletic programs, the fans and the state.

"I'm not sure about legislation being necessary to accomplish it," Kerr said. "But it would add to the support of our athletic program with guaranteed money." Fees paid to FCS schools by FBS teams are negotiable and generally range from $100,000 to $350,000.

"It would help us enhance our student support programs, invest in summer school programs and would be a key part in our budget planning," Kerr said.

It would also raise Towson and Morgan's visibility among high school recruits and possibly generate new rivalries.

FBS and FCS schools playing one another regularly became possible only within the past two years, when the NCAA allowed FBS teams a 12th game to schedule an FCS competitor.

Walker's bill does not yet have a hearing date. But the Prince George's County Democrat believes it will be heard late this month or in early March.

To become law it must be passed out of committees in the House and Senate and then be passed by both chambers.

"I think it has a chance," said Walker, a former quarterback at Howard University who spent two seasons with the New England Patriots and two with the Minnesota Vikings. "Everyone seems to like the concept."


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