Become a digitalPLUS subscriber. $12 for 12 weeks.
Business

Franchot calls for Towson president to resign

Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot called on Towson University President Maravene Loeschke to resign, saying her actions in attempting to cut the baseball and men's soccer teams represented "a lack of leadership that has done great damage to the school's reputation."

Franchot, who originally made the statement Wednesday morning at a Board of Public Works meeting in Annapolis, reiterated his feelings in a phone interview with The Baltimore Sun.

Loeschke was scheduled to appear at the meeting but did not. Franchot said she had given a "phony excuse" for why she could not make the trip.

"She should have come and defended, in public, her administration's position on the soccer and baseball teams," he said. "She didn't, I suspect, because her defense of these actions will not stand the light of day."

Towson released a statement saying Loeschke will not resign. She missed the meeting, said Towson spokeswoman Marina Cooper, because she felt the issue had been resolved and had another commitment.

"As expressed publicly at the University System of Maryland Board of Regents meeting last Friday, Chancellor [William E.] Kirwan and the Board of Regents are fully supportive of the president and the work she is doing to move Towson forward academically and athletically," the statement read. "President Loeschke is now focusing her attention on the window of opportunity provided by the Governor and Legislature and how the university can work with supporters to sustain baseball at Towson."

Gov. Martin O'Malley said he was not at the meeting when Franchot called for Loeschke to resign, but later said he didn't think that board was the appropriate venue to address the challenges facing colleges trying to comply with Title IX.

"It's better handled by the Board of Regents than at the Board of Public Works," O'Malley said in a brief interview.

Loeschke announced plans to cut the sports in March after spending more than three months deliberating. Towson athletic director Mike Waddell originally made the recommendation to cut the sports, saying the athletic department needed to comply with Title IX, which requires gender equity in college sports, and balance its budget.

A loud group of critics — led by prominent alumni and parents of current baseball players — countered that Waddell had created a budget deficit by increasing spending on men's basketball, football and his administration, and was using Title IX as a scapegoat to cut the baseball and men's soccer teams and recoup the $900,000 spent annually on supporting them.

Franchot and O'Malley became concerned about the cuts when they read of Loeschke's delivering the news to players after being escorted by police, and called on her to appear publicly to discuss her decision. She instead met privately with them.

O'Malley originally pledged $300,000 to save the baseball team, but state lawmakers criticized the plan to directly support the program and crafted a law that would make the money available as matching funds to any University System of Maryland school struggling to comply with Title IX.

Despite the compromise, Franchot expected Loeschke to publicly answer questions about her actions and explain any misperceptions surrounding them.

"I thanked her for meeting with me privately," he said. "But I told her it in no way is a substitute for standing out in the sunlight and giving direct answers to the Towson family and the people of Maryland. This has been a needless stain on the university. The right thing for her to do is step aside."

But O'Malley put the onus on the University System of Maryland to govern Title IX compliance.

"The Board of Regents needs to craft a clearer, better and more just policy when it comes to Title IX requirements," said O'Malley, repeating his earlier comments that he doesn't believe the best way to "create opportunities for our daughters is by eliminating opportunities for our sons."

He said that because the board lacks a "sufficiently clear" policy, "every university has been left to their own devices and their own internal political machinations."

The board's bylaws leave the administration of athletics departments up to presidents of individual universities, but do require extensive reporting on the fiscal and academic workings of those programs.

Franchot called the school's claim that it must cut sports to comply with Title IX a "manufactured crisis" and "complete hoax."

David Nevins, a Towson graduate and founder of local public relations firm Nevins & Associates, chaired a task force that evaluated the proposed cuts. He joined a minority opinion in that group that thought the cuts unnecessary, largely because it deemed Towson's Title IX situation solvable without disbanding teams.

Nevins said Wednesday that it is time for the university to move forward.

"It's a time for healing," he said. "This particular issue has been largely resolved, either temporarily or permanently. … It's a shame this issue sucked so much energy out of all involved."

Nevins, a former member of the University System of Maryland Board of Regents, said he did not dispute the board's recent vote of confidence in Loeschke but acknowledged a difference in opinion with her. He has resigned from the university's board of visitors, which he chaired.

"I maintain a personal relationship with Maravene," he said. "But for public purposes, she should have the freedom to have people on the board who champion her cause in any number of ways. It was a good time for me to step into the background."

Gary Gill, another Towson alumnus who fought the cuts, has been removed from the board of visitors by the administration, said Cooper, the school's spokeswoman.

Baltimore Sun reporters Erin Cox and Childs Walker contributed to this article.

chris.korman@baltsun.com

twitter.com/chriskorman

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
Related Content
Comments
Loading