At Coppin State College, athletic director Ron DeSouza oversees seven men's teams and six women's. The budget is just over $500,000, and DeSouza said, "That's for everything: scholarships, salaries, travel."

At Ohio State University, there are 18 men's teams and 12 women's. The Buckeyes' operating budget for 1990-91 is $23,970,800.

Some administrators and coaches wonder what those colleges are doing in the same division of the NCAA. Division I has grown from 238 schools in 1973 to 296 today, and the larger, more-established programs plan to say enough's enough at the 85th annual NCAA convention in Nashville, Tenn., next January.

The issue comes down to money. In economically uncertain times, many of the bigger athletic programs are operating in the red, despite their share of the $1 billion that CBS is paying to televise the NCAA basketball tournament for seven years. By making it harder for the Coppin States to stay in Division I, the big-time schools can keep more of that money for themselves.

"It's a classic struggle," said Maryland athletic director Andy Geiger. "Somebody has to tell me how this part of the reform package is going to pass, because I think there are more little guys out there than there are big guys. This could turn into a bitter fight at the NCAA convention.

"I tend to be more liberal than some of my conservative brothers, but there's so much money from basketball coming in that throwing the Davids out adds to the perception we're as greedy as anyone out there," Geiger said.

Four pieces of legislation the NCAA will consider in January could put the squeeze on Coppin State and several other Maryland schools.

* Proposal 91 would require a school to spend as much as $250,000 in scholarships apiece on men's and women's programs other than football and basketball.

* Proposal 92 would require a school to field at least seven sports for men and seven for women, and would count indoor track and outdoor track as one sport. Many local schools, including Coppin State, Morgan State and UMES, probably couldn't afford the added costs if Proposals 91 and 92 pass.

* Proposal 86 would prohibit members of Division I from playing football in Division II or III. Towson State could solve a two-year deficit of more than $257,000 if it moved its Division I-AA football team to a lower division, but Proposal 86 would eliminate that option. The Towson State administration is considering suspending football.

* Another part of the reform package, Proposal 88, would require Division III Johns Hopkins to get a special exemption to stay in Division I in lacrosse. It would need approval from at least half of the 51 other colleges that play Division I lacrosse.

In the most extreme cases, if the reform package is approved it would force some colleges to leave Division I if they aren't in compliance by 1993-94. If the reform package is not approved, the schools with big-time athletic programs might revolt.

"If those proposals don't pass, there is always the danger of a certain number of schools forming another division, and taking with them the basic financial support of the NCAA," said Fred Jacoby, chairman of the NCAA Special Committee to Review the Membership Structure. "I don't think that's going to happen."

It happened six years ago, when 64 big-time football schools broke away from the NCAA and negotiated their own television deal as members of the College Football Association. The CFA wanted its own TV contract because the NCAA had limited the number of appearances for schools, thereby limiting television income.

The big schools wanted a bigger piece of the pie then, just as they do now. Jacoby is a major player in the current debate. He is commissioner of the Southwest Conference, which includes Texas, Houston and the like.

The membership structure committee he chairs was the source of Proposals 86, 88, 91 and 92 that will be presented at the January convention.

Jacoby stressed three points his committee considered:

* The NCAA has become heavy at the top and the bottom, with 296 of its 828 members in Division I and 323 in Division III. There are 209 schools in Division II.

* Many of the schools in Division I do not offer the broad-based athletic programs that traditionally come with being a member of that group.

* Many of those same schools upgraded to Division I status solely for the prospect of a payday in the NCAA basketball tournament, with little regard to the rest of their programs.

The 17-person committee that Jacoby chaired began work in November 1988. It surveyed the NCAA membership at the 1989 convention, and had hearings to gather different views on intercollegiate athletics, primarily Division I.

During the last 17 years nearly 60 schools have upgraded to Division I, and of those who made the move, seven -- more than 10 percent -- are in Maryland.

Within Division I, there are three distinctions. Division I-A, which includes Maryland and Navy, has 106 schools that play fully funded football, with as many as 95 scholarships. Division I-AA, which includes Towson State and Morgan State, has 87 schools playing 70-scholarship football.

Division I-AAA, which includes Coppin State, Loyola, Mount St. Mary's, UMBC and UMES, has 103 schools that do not field scholarship football teams. I-AAA also includes Georgetown and three other schools from the Big East Conference. If the reforms pass, Georgetown would have to move its Division III football team to Division I or drop the sport completely.

"We found Division I budgets that ranged from $600,000 to over $23 million," Jacoby said. "The disparity was eye-opening. We found that some athletic programs weren't strong, they were operating a token [Division I] program."

Dwindling competition in Division II and the prestige of Division I are reasons given for upgrading an athletic program, but reaching the NCAA basketball tournament was also a lure.

"The one thing that has exacerbated it [Division I growth] is the NCAA basketball tournament," Jacoby said. "Everyone wants to be a part of that."

Old Dominion athletic director James Jarrett, who sat on Jacoby's committee, said, "It's mind-boggling how little

commitment schools have in the bottom of Division I. There are schools that have 15 scholarships for men's basketball, but at the same time they're playing Division III schedules in cross country, tennis and golf."

Coppin State's DeSouza disagrees.

"Why should we not be able to compete in Division I if we want to?" DeSouza asked. "You may say we don't have a broad-based athletic program, but we meet the existing requirements of the NCAA. We field the required number of teams. Why do they want to change the rules now?"

DeSouza and other area athletic directors feel that in a time of economic strain, the larger schools want them out because the larger schools' budgets are in danger. With CBS paying $1 billion for the basketball tournament, the stakes might have gotten too high to let the Coppin States stay in the game.

Last March, Coppin State and Towson State were the first Baltimore colleges to reach the NCAA Division I basketball tournament.

The Cinderella stories -- like Towson State trailing No. 1 Oklahoma by four points in the final minutes -- are part of the appeal that CBS bought into, but a CBS official didn't sound concerned at the prospect of some being written out of the story line.

"Whether or not the NCAA decides to limit who's in Division I, there is always going to be a Cinderella story somewhere," said Susan Kerr, CBS Sports director of communications.

Coppin State earned more than $151,000 under the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference's profit-sharing plan. The schools that went to the Final Four made more than $1.4 million. That system has been scrapped in favor of what appears to be a more equitable system of profit-sharing, but the major conferences still will receive a lion's share of the basketball profits.

"Why do people want to keep us from getting a piece of the pie?" DeSouza said. "It's a small piece."

TOMORROW: Coppin State, Morgan State, Maryland-Eastern Shore and six other members of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference would face severe budget problems if reform legislation is passed at the NCAA convention in January.

Geiger: NCAA waited too long

Andy Geiger, the athletic director at the University of Maryland, thinks it's too late for the NCAA to tighten standards for membership in Division I.

"Speaking as an individual, and not as a representative of this institution, we lost the opportunity years ago to do this restructuring," Geiger said. "We should have made the criteria for a conference being an automatic qualifier tougher 10-12 years ago. Trying to do that now might be too late."

Geiger served on the NCAA basketball committee from 1977 to '83, when Division I membership boomed. He came to Maryland last month from Stanford, where he directed a 29-sport program that ranked among the nation's most competitive.

"There's a great misconception about the so-called 'big' schools," Geiger said. "The effort isn't to make money for the university, but to get money for the rest of the athletic program. At schools like UCLA, Arkansas, Michigan, it's getting harder to find the funds to sustain the consistently strong athletic programs they've had across the board.

"In cutting up the [TV] money, this is a way for the big schools to make the divisor smaller. Their argument has been that smaller schools have come into Division I without a realistic chance of winning a national championship in basketball, but they're in the game for the one-day payoff."

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