Towson State's football program is safe for now, the university's Intercollegiate Athletic Committee decided yesterday after meeting with an alumni group with a detailed proposal on fund-raising and marketing.

"It looks feasible. It has some merit. It's not short term, it's long-term," said John Connolly, an English professor and chairman of the athletic committee, which earlier had proposed to suspend the school's Division I-AA football program next season because of an expected budget deficit of $257,000.

"We really must commit ourselves to this plan," he said. "A lot of these people have worked hard over the past two weeks. We must be positive about this, give it a try. . . . I don't see how we can afford not to give this a chance."

Under the plan, the alumni group and the school's booster club would fund 20 football scholarships annually, starting in fiscal year 1994. The marketing plan would use campus resources, including students, to provide advertising and media services the program can't afford.

"I'm excited because of the use of campus talent and equipment to provide advertising," Connolly said. "If a student comes up with a good idea {and does the job}, maybe we can give him three hours credit."

Connolly said copies of the plan and "an information item" would be sent to the campus senate. "It's not in the form of a motion," Connolly said, explaining the procedure. "The committee will say that in light of the proposed business plan, the Intercollegiate Athletic Council will continue its support of Towson State University athletics in its present form, which means it includes football."

The deficit would be paid off over five years by means of modest increases in the student athletic fee, Connolly said. University president Hoke Smith had rejected a proposal to raise the fee $100 next year to $370 to pay off the debt and keep the football team. The $2.8 million athletic program is funded 94 percent by student fees.

One of the reasons for suspending the football program, and likely coming back in a lower classification in as little as one year, was because Towson State could not fund enough scholarships to compete successfully in Division I-AA.

The athletic department will continue to budget $338,000 for football scholarships. Next year that amount will cover 43 scholarships. That will drop to 37 by 1994, but the 20 scholarships to be funded by the alumni and boosters will give the university 57 -- only eight under what the NCAA limit is expected to be after January.

The key to the plan's success is continued interest by alumni, boosters and the campus, so that enthusiasm will be as keen two years from now as it is currently, Connolly said. Towson raised $100,000 when it upgraded to Division I-AA football five years ago, but fund-raising dropped to $20,000 the next year and has remained at that level.