Towson State hoping for sweet swan song


There was a rush of nostalgia at the Towson Center today with Towson State meeting Rider in the championship game of the East Coast Conference basketball tournament.

After nine years as an ECC member -- and after hosting the conference tournament the last eight years -- Towson State has applied for membership in the North Atlantic Conference next year.

"We've had a wonderful association over the years with ECC schools such as Lehigh, Lafayette and Bucknell, but those three wanted to be kissin' kin with the Ivies so they pulled out and joined the Patriot League," said Dr. Hoke L. Smith, president of Towson State. "That meant we had to join another conference if we wanted to continue to play for the automatic NCAA tournament bid."

North Atlantic representatives will visit the Towson campus this month, and should decide soon thereafter whether to accept the Tigers. North Atlantic members are Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Northeastern, Boston U. and Hartford. Next year longtime ECC members Delaware and Drexel will enter the North Atlantic. What then of the ECC?

"I'm going to start tomorrow morning, meeting face-to-face with the schools I've been talking to about joining our conference," said ECC commissioner John Carpenter. "Several are interested. We have five schools staying with us [six are needed if the ECC is to regain its automatic NCAA tournament bid in 1993] and we hope to have six, seven or eight members next year. I expect to know something by the end of the week."

If Towson State is not accepted by the North Atlantic, is there a chance the Tigers would stay in the ECC?

"They will," Carpenter said yesterday, "but I think they expect to be admitted to the North Atlantic."

* Who was the numbskull who decreed that basketball scoreboards have to be stuck up against the ceiling where no one at floor level can see them -- and why do we numbskulls keep putting them there?

One of the dumbest sights in sports is the basketball player or coach who, at a critical point of a game, has to crane his neck and look 50 feet straight up to see how much time is left.

Sunday in the East Coast Conference semifinals at the Towson Center, UMBC's Jim Frantz, with his team losing, 78-76, took what he thought was a last-second shot that bounced off the rim. Unbeknown to Frantz, there were several seconds left.

"If I'd been able to see the clock, I could have taken one more dribble and gotten that much closer to the basket," he said after his team had lost the game and been eliminated by Towson. "Who knows what might have happened?"

It's OK to have those monstrous scoreboards up there for the fans in the upper reaches, but the players need a simpler scoreboard at floor level.

* Howard Head, who died Sunday at 76, was a wonderful yet eccentric man. One thing I learned by knowing him was that even a genius inventor (he invented metal skis and oversized tennis rackets) is not necessarily brilliant about everything.

A few years ago I had lunch with him and we decided to play tennis on the upcoming Labor Day weekend. Did Howard wish to play on Sunday or Monday? Monday, he said. OK, Monday it is. See you Monday at 10, he said.

On the sidewalk out front as we shook hands and departed, Howard asked: "Did we say Sunday or Monday?" Monday, he was told. Fine. See you Monday. I wasn't back in my office 10 minutes when the phone rang: "This is Howard Head. Did we say Sunday or Monday?"

We once rode the train to New York for the U.S. Open, where we watched Pam Shriver play with his Prince racket. I showed my own ignorance when I asked why making a racket with a head 40 percent bigger was considered an act of genius. Snapped Howard: "Any moron could have thought of that. The trick was doing that while making the sweet spot 200 percent bigger."

* Loyola College made a lot of people happy last weekend when it put Frannie Bock in its Athletic Hall of Fame. Frannie was a fine basketball player on Lefty Reitz's teams at Evergreen in the early '40s. After that, Frannie spent many years as a respected basketball official here.

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