By Barry Rascovar/ The Community Times/ May 1, 2013
If your son excels at baseball or soccer and is looking to play that sport in college, you can forget about sending him to Towson University.
In a comedy of errors, Baltimore County’s largest higher education institution disbanded the two men’s teams, despite the popularity of each sport.
President Maravene Loeschke wielded the ax. She bought the logic of her athletic director that Towson must divert sports revenue to turn its basketball and football programs into regional powers.
Unfortunately, her public explanation also involved the need to bring equity to women’s sports at Towson. She picked an odd way to make that happen.
Especially cruel was the university president’s delivery of the bad news. On short notice she summoned the two teams, showed up with security guards, made her announcement and left without answering questions from the stunned audience.
It was a heartless display of authority. The students were treated more like discarded furniture than confused, emotionally upset individuals. Loeschke shattered their college dreams yet couldn’t take time to show any empathy.
No wonder she ended up in hot water with both the governor and state comptroller. No wonder her actions precipitated vocal protests from some alumni.
Baseball won a two-year reprieve when the governor found $300,000 to rescue the program while supporters try to raise funds to make the reprieve permanent. Soccer, the world’s biggest sport, got no such relief.
Critics have pointed out that shifting resources to the football and basketball programs won’t turn Towson into the UCLA of the East.
Even if every seat in Towson’s new arena and Unitas Stadium is filled, the crowds will be puny next to the College Park teams that join the Big Ten athletic conference next year.
Towson will never be — nor should it be — a training ground for athletes who turn pro after a few years in college. Loeschke is throwing money at a vision that isn’t realistic.
At the same time, complying with federal equal opportunity regulations need not come at the expense of existing sports programs. Wallace Loh, president of the University of Maryland, College Park, roiled that suburban Washington campus when he disbanded eight men and women sports teams last year for lack of funds. But he did so with a great deal of compassion, calling his decision “heart-wrenching.”
In both cases the affected students felt betrayed. Their college lives had been ruined by administrators who couldn’t balance their budgets.
Many are transferring to other schools. But that will be traumatic and expensive.
It is a sad story, which will reverberate for years at Towson University. These student-athletes deserved a better fate.
Barry Rascovar is a Reisterstown writer and communications consultant. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.