Towson officials ponder leaving shrinking ECC Tigers may apply to North Atlantic

A meeting that could determine Towson State's National Collegiate Athletic Association basketball tournament future, as well as that of the East Coast Conference, will be held today, as Towson State officials discuss a possible move to the North Atlantic Conference.

Towson State president Hoke L. Smith and athletic director Bill Hunter will be among the officials present for the discussion that could lead to the school's application for admission to the New England-based conference.


"The North Atlantic has been interested in our institution for a while," Hunter said. "We have yet to make a decision. Any previous word that we have is premature."

The Evening Sun reported yesterday that Towson State is considering the move to the North Atlantic.


The North Atlantic Conference's membership is Boston University, Hartford, Maine, New Hampshire, Northeastern and Vermont. The departure of two current ECC schools -- Delaware and Drexel -- to the North Atlantic will bring the ECC to five teams, one below the number necessary to gain a conference's automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.

The concentration of the schools in New England could be a financial burden for Towson. A switch to the North Atlantic would mean more flights than bus rides to games, which would increase the travel budget of a department already facing financial difficulties.

"Our concern has been the travel involved," Hunter said. "The schools are all great, but the travel could be difficult with our fiscal situation."

Towson has been making inquiries into conferences since Lafayette, Lehigh and Bucknell decided to leave the ECC for the Patriot League, which started play this season. Navy joins that league next season.

"We have expressed an interest in several other conferences the past couple of years," Hunter said. "We made a concerted effort toward the Colonial Athletic Association [turned down] and the Patriot League. We've also been called by several conferences, including the Northeast Conference [which includes Mount St. Mary's]."

Should Towson officials seek to pursue the North Atlantic Conference, executive committee members from that league will invited to tour the Towson campus. Hunter said he didn't know if the Tigers could join the league next year.