Towson earns bye, home game in FCS playoffs

Tigers will face Lehigh, a former Patriot League rival

  • Towson coach Rob Ambrose, second from left, his son Riley, 8, athletic director Mike Waddell, third from left, and interim president Marcia Walsh, right, watch the FCS tournament selection show at the school's student union.
Towson coach Rob Ambrose, second from left, his son Riley, 8,… (Photo by Steve Ruark / Special…)
November 20, 2011|By Don Markus, The Baltimore Sun

Towson will get a new experience by playing for the first time in the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs.

After receiving a first-round bye when the seedings were announced Sunday, the Tigers will also get an old nemesis from their days in the Patriot League — Lehigh.

Towson (9-2), which won the Colonial Athletic Association championship Saturday for the first time in school history, will meet the 10-1 Mountain Hawks Dec. 3 at Johnny Unitas Stadium.

The time of the game is to be determined.

Some, including athletic director Mike Waddell, thought that the Tigers deserved to be one of the top four seeds — which would have assured the possibility of a second home game — because they won the CAA.

But Waddell conceded, "We're a newcomer to the playoff politic and the best thing we can do is what we've done all year: go out and earn the respect we've earned to date and continue to earn on the national stage."

Third-year coach Rob Ambrose didn't seem to care about not getting one of the top four seeds.

"We have a home game in the playoffs," he said. "Those words have never been uttered here."

Ambrose, whose team finished 2-9 and 1-10 in his first two years back at his alma mater, said that he was impressed with the way his players handled their last regular season game at Rhode Island.

"They knew pretty much that they were going to the playoffs, whether we won the league or not, but the only way to insure that we were going to get a bye was to go six hours in a bus to beat probably the best three-win team in the country," Ambrose said.

The game against Lehigh renews a relationship, though not quite a rivalry, from Towson's years in the Patriot League.

The Mountain Hawks, who have won the league six times since 1998 and will be going to the playoffs for the second straight year, won six of the seven games the teams played in the Patriot League and 10 of 11 overall.

The two teams are currently ranked first and second in the Lambert Cup voting for the top FCS team in the East.

"We obviously have a long, competitive history with Lehigh, to have a chance to bring a Lambert Trophy championship game to Baltimore really for the first time is special," Waddell said. "Not only is this the NCAA tournament, but with the Lambert trophy, there's a lot on the line."

Waddell is hoping to sell out Unitas Stadium for the first time, and said that "more than 2,000" tickets were sold as of late Sunday morning.

The winner of the Dec. 3 matchup between Towson and Lehigh will face the winner of North Dakota State and either James Madison or Eastern Kentucky. If the seeds held and the Tigers won their first game, Towson would travel to Fargo for the second round on Dec. 10.

Towson is one of five teams out of the CAA to reach the playoffs — a quarter of the 20-team field.

The semifinals will be played Dec. 17 and the championship game is scheduled for January 7 in Friscoe, Tex.

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