The task force reviewing the recommended program cuts could ask the university to re-examine the fee issue or to seek Title IX balance through creative roster juggling, by shifting spots from men's teams to women's teams.
"It's fair to say we would be delighted if, as a result of some discovery or some creative, out-of-the-box thinking, we could yield an alternative solution," said task force chairman David Nevins, a Towson graduate and former chairman of the state's Board of Regents.
In addition to hearing from concerned students and parents, the task force spent the past few weeks reviewing budget data and interviewing experts on Title IX and other aspects of college athletics.
"Many of the stories we've heard are touching and impactful," Nevins said. "Having said that, we need to reach a decision that's best for the university as a whole, which has upward of 20,000 students."
Any recommendation would have to address budget concerns and Title IX compliance, and make existing teams as competitive as possible, he said.
But complying with Title IX remains complicated, 40 years after the law went into effect. A school must satisfy one of three "prongs." It can make the proportion of female athletes equal to the proportion of female students in the student body, it can increase athletics opportunities for women or it can show that the opportunities offered women meet the demand.
A 2010 self-assessment of the Towson athletics department's gender and diversity equity notes that the school has satisfied one of the prongs since the early 1990s by adding women's teams every few years, most recently in 2006. But it suggested shifting resources and roster spots to women's teams, which would ensure continued compliance with that prong and also bring the school closer to meeting the proportionality prong. The report does not suggest cutting teams.
Towson has completed subsequent studies related to Title IX compliance, but the university's counsel, Michael A. Anselmi, said those reports were compiled in conjunction with outside counsel. The school considers them privileged and not a public record.
Waddell said he was told by the school's lawyers to comply with the proportionality prong because it would allow for stability.
"We wanted to get out of the situation where we're having to add teams every four or five years," he said. "That doesn't make sense."
Mary Jo Kane, a University of Minnesota professor who has studied Title IX, said many schools struggle to comply with the proportionality prong because of the size of football rosters.
"But the intent of the law was never to force schools to cut to reach proportionality," she said. "Curbing some of the money spent by football and using it to start a new women's team works fine, but no [athletic director] wants to do that."
While the courts have fixated on the proportionality prong because it is less vague than the other two, the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights, which enforces the law, has tried to find alternate solutions and called cutting men's sports a "disfavored practice."
But Waddell said he could find no other reasonable way to reach compliance. He was told by the school's legal department that shuffling roster spots would not sufficiently represent increased opportunities for women under recent court precedent and he feels adding another team is imprudent.
Towson already struggles to fully fund its existing sports, and with the $800,000 saved by cutting baseball and men's soccer, Waddell hopes to allow all women's sports to distribute the full allotment of scholarship money allowed by the NCAA.
According to data provided by the department, only one sport — men's basketball — is currently provided with enough money to give out a full complement of scholarships. Women's gymnastics teams can give out the equivalent of 12 scholarships — most teams disburse the money to players in varying amounts — but Towson's squad is only budgeted for 5.78 scholarships.
The athletic department's spending under Waddell has risen $2.5 million over two years, with more than 60 percent going toward increased salaries and new positions. He hired a new basketball coach, and gave football coach Rob Ambrose a new contract after last year's conference championship.
Waddell acknowledged that improving the football and men's basketball teams is a primary goal.
"It's the best way to ensure the health of the whole department," he said. "Those are the sports that get the most attention from the media and from corporate sponsors, and when they do well, it creates an environment where alumni are more likely to give, even to other teams."
He also said that increased salaries in football, men's basketball and men's lacrosse reflect coaching changes made under current market conditions.