After scrambling to raise enough money to support the baseball team’s 2013 season, Towson has gathered the necessary funding to ensure the program’s 2014 campaign, athletic director Tim Leonard said Wednesday afternoon.
“We’re happy to say that at this point, we’ve achieved our fundraising goal to qualify for the state funding matches,” he said, referring to the $200,000 needed. “We have some donors out there who are true champions of baseball and have really stepped up to make a difference, to ensure that we keep baseball around for a while. So right now, we have funds coming in from the General Assembly that have to go toward Title IX enhancements. So we’re already having design meetings on our softball stadium, to renovate our softball stadium.”
On March 8, the university announced that it intended to drop baseball and men’s soccer to deal with budgetary deficits and Title IX issues. After a very public outcry over the decision, the baseball program earned a reprieve when Gov. Martin O'Malley amended his budget to include $300,000 to keep the program operating at least two more years and $2 million to help build a softball field to resolve Title IX inequalities.
The future of the baseball team beyond 2014 is still cloudy, and Leonard conceded that the school is still trying to find a permanent source of funding.
“I would say we’re still working on that with the solutions committee,” he said. “The first thing we needed to do was solidify some of the funding for the immediate future, which we’ve been able to do through fundraising and the state match. … What we’re looking at is, how do we build our revenue to support the programs that we have? We’re still developing that plan. It’s not difficult to understand. Like any business, we’ve got to look at some things and increase revenue and decrease expenses to make this happen.”
The men’s soccer program, however, remains mothballed, and Leonard said there is no timetable for the team’s return.
“We’re committed to the 19 sports that we’re offering now,” he said. “In order for us to get to the point where we feel like we can be compliant with Title IX as well as be fiscally responsible, we need to do that with 19 sports right now. That’s where we’re at right now.”
In another athletic matter, Leonard said the university has reached out to the agent of Rob Ambrose to retain the football coach and persuade him to stay with the Tigers rather than interview at Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) programs with head coaching vacancies.
“I think Rob and his family know that we are very favorable with Rob,” Leonard said. “We think the world of Rob, the job he has done here, and we want to do everything we can to keep him here and most importantly, to continue the work that he has done. Unfortunately, we’re not in a position to go out and compete financially with some of the FBS schools and even for that matter, a handful of some of the [Football Championship Subdivision] schools. They have a lot more resources than we do. Obviously, we’re trying to figure out a way to make all this work with the different sports that we have and yet become more nationally competitive. So it’s a balancing act of how do we pull this off? How do we make an investment in Rob and his program and yet balance all of the other challenges that we have? But I do think that in talks with Rob, we can get to a place where both of us feel comfortable.”
Ambrose has consistently said that his only focus this season is on preparing the team for Saturday’s NCAA tournament semifinal at Eastern Washington, and he referenced that mindset again Tuesday when asked if he talks to standout junior running back Terrance West about his NFL future.
“Two of the most commonly asked questions this season is ‘Is Terrance going to the NFL?’ and ‘Am I going to be here after the season?’ and I answer the question for the both of us – and every time, I’ve been saying the same thing from the very beginning – neither one of those questions have anything to do with us winning a ballgame,” Ambrose said. “Terrance agrees with me completely. That’s a conversation we will have when the season is over. But right now, we are focused on team goals and that is it.”