TOWSON, MD., NOV. 1 -- Heavy resentment was voiced today during an emotional four-hour forum called by Towson State's Intercollegiate Athletic Committee to hear feedback and suggestions from players, students and alumni about the proposal to suspend the football program for next season because of a budget crisis.
What effect today's forum has on the final decision by University President Hoke Smith is unclear. John Connolly, an English professor and chairman of the athletic committee, said he still will take to the University Senate Monday the plan to suspend football for one year and then re-evaluate the sitution.
But John Suter, a university spokesman, said, "I think it's going to change. I think the president has always listened to the students. I think what he saw and heard here today probably convinced him it might not be a good idea to eliminate football . . . I think the IAC may amend its proposal on the floor of the senate."
Connolly indicated the result of the forum would help football in the future.
"I think you saw a great deal of support for the football program; I think you saw tremendous emotion to support it," he said. "It looks as if people are going to try and do something to bring in outside revenue and I embrace that.
"I would feel badly about seeing the football program go personally, but we need to have the funds to be able to pay the bills. I hope that these people can come together and make something positive happen. I'm optimistic based on what I saw today that they will achieve something" for the future.
The athletic program, which has a $2.8 million budget funded 94 percent by student fees, is expecting a $257,000 deficit at the end of the current fiscal year. The football budget is $750,000, including $338,000 for scholarships.
Smith said earlier this week he would rather suspend football than add $100 to the current $270 student activities fee, the option that would keep football going. Smith also said he anticipates football being resumed at a lower competitive level as early as 1992.
The football program began 22 years ago in Division III and moved up to Division II. It went to I-AA five years ago and has been underfunded for success at that level, according to some close to the program, including football coach Joe Albert.
A poll conducted by the six student members of the University Senate showed fellow students endorsing the suspension of the team by a 2-to-1 margin. But students yesterday said that was the case because they originally saw only the football team reaping the benefits.
Members of the football team, which has had little fan support in recent seasons and had lost eight straight games until its 17-7 victory over Howard last week, made a campus-wide drive to to inform their peers that the money was not strictly for support of football.
Senior outside linebacker Doug Vereen led a petition drive that collected 2,960 student signatures and Vereen handed it to the athletic committee today. Signees favor the continuation of the football program, but the $100 increase in student fees was not addressed.
"It's not been just a collection of signatures, but it has been a statement of all the people who believe in the same values as the Towson State football staff," Vereen said.
While the majority of speakers released frustrations against the administration's handling of the situation, many stressed fund-raising and the need to bring back tailgating prior to home games to bring in more fans and donated funds.
"You go up to Pennsylvania -- they allow tailgating," said Joe Collins, whose son Joe Jr. is a walk-on. "They don't allow tailgating here. Tailgating is a big thing for football. It draws the fans."
Others offered more planned out suggestions. "My first suggestion is to have better organization so it won't fall apart again," said Jack Patterson, a member of the Maryland Board of Regents. "There has to be an organization of parents, alumni and the university staff. Once we put that together, I think we can accomplish something because we'll be headed in the right direction.