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News Opinion

Towson's 'big picture' ignores world's biggest sport

It was very nice of Bob Leffler to paint his big picture of what many of us call the mistake in progress at Towson University regarding eliminating the 91-year soccer program ("The big picture for TU," April 16). As an alumnus who has a consecutive giving record since graduation in 1957, as a player on the soccer team for four years, as a member and former officer of the Towson University Hall of Fame, and as an activist on behalf of the institution through the years, I still very much care about my school.

Mr. Leffler claims he no longer has to apologize for the college he graduated from since the new dawn of big time athletics has arrived at Towson University. Since Towson University is one of his clients, I assume he may be boasting since he is, after all, clearly a "big picture guy." He goes on to say, "it appears that university leaders ran afoul of a group of alumni, boosters and political leaders who don't grasp what it means for Towson to finally act like a real Division I school." I infer that Mr. Leffler feels that university leaders desperately needed his advice to get rid of all men's sports that don't make money. He ignores the consequences of the 91 scholarships that the new "big time" football program has absorbed from soccer and baseball.

The fact of the matter is that those of us who have expressed our concern do see his "big picture" and we are wondering at what price are we paying when we give up legacy activities. President Maravene Loeschke is very proud of her international flag walkway. The flags represent a student from that country is a part of our university. When the students tell their parents that soccer is being eliminated, does she not realize that soccer is the national sport of those countries and it is embedded in their culture? I love flags and the walkway is a touch of kindness, but let's absorb we also are trying to learn about their culture.

When I was Baltimore County Director of Recreation and Parks, one or our biggest challenges was to find space for soccer fields for the thousands of residents who want to enjoy soccer. As our country changes and our culture becomes more diverse, do we want to depart from not just our own 91-year proud soccer heritage, but ignore the new reality in America? There is an international saying that "the sun never sets on soccer." Towson University has a responsibility to serve the community. To ignore the changes in our own community is not the model of leadership we expect.

Our new $36 million basketball arena, a few hundred seats larger than the current one with a capacity of 6,000, will never pay for itself. Mr. Leffler ignores that because that's a capital expenditure. Aren't taxpayers a part of that huge number? Plug in the interest Mr. Leffler, and show me how you pay operating expenses. The mid majors who are making runs in the NCAA basketball tournament have something in common, they don't have football teams. Mr. Leffler also ignores that. He clearly did not take one of Donald Minnegan's recreation courses when he was a student.

Finally, Mr. Leffler makes his stinging stage whisper quote, that "in fairness, as a former teachers' college, its stock of wealthy alumni is thin." That insensitive comment should get him fired as a paid advisor to the Towson University athletic program. He concludes that his view is from 30,000 feet, but mine is from 30 feet. For once, he is right. He should come down out of the sky and look closely at what's happening at Towson University, but please do it for free.

Wayne R. Harman, Towson

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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