In the week leading up to Towson's appearance in the Football Championship Subdivision title game last Saturday, school officials, alumni and fans basked in the team's success.

They also peppered athletic director Tim Leonard with an oft-repeated question regarding head coach Rob Ambrose.

"'Are we going to be able to keep Rob?'" Leonard recalled. "I know that was the No. 1 question I got during the week of the championship game. Now, we can answer that."

The university on Wednesday erased any doubt about Ambrose's future by annoucing a new deal that will keep him at the school until 2020.


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Leonard said this deal includes a hefty buyout option that should discourage potential suitors.

"At the end of the day, if someone wants Rob bad enough, yeah, they can get him," Leonard said. "We just want to make sure that it makes it a very, very difficult thing for somebody to swoop in and get him."

Financial terms of the contract were not available, but Leonard said the school wanted to ensure Ambrose's future with the program.

"We wanted to keep him," Leonard said Wednesday evening. "To be truthful, probably back in October, we were already starting to figure out some things to do in anticipation of this, just to let Rob know that he's our guy and we appreciate him and we want to keep him here.

"Then, once the coaching hot seats started opening up a little bit, that really kind of took things to a whole other level because there was a lot of attention on Rob, based on our success. That's really when it became, 'Hey, this isn't just an extension with a minor tweak.' It became much more than that."

Ambrose, a 1993 Towson graduate who declined to comment for this article, is the architect of the football program's most successful campaign. The 2013 team won a school-record 13 games, its first FCS playoff game, and advanced to the NCAA title game where it lost to three-time, reigning national champion North Dakota State.

In five seasons under Ambrose, Towson has gone 32-29 overall and 20-20 in the Colonial Athletic Association. Since compiling a 3-19 overall record and a 1-15 mark in the league in Ambrose's first two seasons, the Tigers have gone 29-10 overall and 19-5 in the CAA.

In 2011, Ambrose was named the Eddie Robinson National Coach of the Year after guiding the team from a 1-10 record in 2010 to 9-3 and the CAA title in 2011.

Ambrose's success had led to speculation that a Football Bowl Subdivision school with deep pockets might try to poach the 43-year-old coach.

After Saturday's loss, Ambrose addressed that topic, saying: "I'm a Tiger. I love the town. I love the school. I love the kids. I told you this before: my daughter was born there. I don't think [the University of] Texas is going to offer me the job. I can't see me going anywhere else."

Leonard acknowledged that he wanted to avoid initiating a coaching search just six months after leaving Southern Methodist to become athletic director at Towson.

"I just wanted to make sure that he was going to be here for the next while so that we can continue this momentum that he has created," Leonard said. "Plus, it helps that he's one of us. He's a Towson Tiger, went to school here. His family's here. We love Rob, and we want to keep him here."

edward.lee@baltsun.com