Towson AD laments failed league merger


As hard as it might be to believe that the woes of a Virginia-based conference might resonate in Baltimore, it's certainly true.

When East Carolina, American, and Richmond all announced plans to leave the Colonial Athletic Association, based in Richmond, it meant that the now-depleted conference needed to search for new partners. One of those partners would have been America East, which included Towson, a school the CAA snubbed during the early part of the 1990s.

Despite that dismissal, as the Tigers' program was looking for a home after the East Coast Conference disbanded, school president Hoke Smith and athletic director Wayne Edwards supported expansion that would merge the America East and CAA. That expansion was rejected in a meeting of America East presidents on Tuesday.

"It was disappointing to Towson, but that's the way it is in a democracy," Edwards said. "We needed eight votes, and we didn't get the eight votes. I can't get into the votes, but it was a close vote."

Smith said he liked "the whole presentation, the possibility of divisional organization, which would cut travel costs and time."

Five of the six colleges included -- George Mason, Virginia Commonwealth, James Madison, Old Dominion and William & Mary - would have been within a three-hour drive from Baltimore. But getting to many of the northern schools that form the America East's core would require airplane trips.

America East's interest in expanding rested largely with football, a sport that five of its schools play, four in the Atlantic 10. Two of Towson's closest rivals in the America East -- Delaware and Hofstra -- are football schools that could be candidates to be plucked from the conference down the road to play in another conference with football. CAA commissioner Tom Yeager said his league would be sending invitations to schools soon.

"We're not going to stay at six," he said. "We're looking at some schools that might be willing to affiliate with us."

Meanwhile, in women's lacrosse, the CAA's reduced membership means that Loyola looks for a league to hang onto beyond this coming season.

Even if the America East expansion had come together, the Greyhounds - national semifinalists this past spring - might not have been able to join the enlarged conference with an associate membership, such as the one they now hold in the CAA.

"I don't understand what the likelihood of us being included would be," Loyola coach Diane Geppi-Aikens said in July, before the point became moot. The Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, Loyola's league for all other sports, would probably not be an option, she said. "The Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference isn't the place we want to be."

For the Greyhounds, affiliation may not be as desperate an issue. The program is one of the nation's elite and able to get in with either an at-large or automatic bid.

With sixteen bids for the NCAA tournament this fall (up from 12), there shouldn't be much of a crowd.

"I'm a little antsy, but I'm not stressed out by any means," Geppi-Aikens said.

Oldies but goodies

Innovation usually solves struggles. But for Ruben Stevenson, a nod to the past earned him his first win as Frostburg State's football coach.

The Bobcats, unable to score many points, gained 292 rushing yards after a switch to the archaic wing-T offense during a blowout win over previously undefeated Methodist.

Last season, Frostburg gave the ball to the fullback 15 times. While beating the Monarchs, the team's fullback, Chris Perkins, carried the ball 16 times for 115 yards and two touchdowns.

Meanwhile, Salisbury State tailback Tony Ellis turned in a memorable performance, 255 yards rushing and three touchdowns during a 52-28 win over Greensboro.

Brown switchover complete

Derek Brown, Fang Mitchell's top assistant in all of his years at Coppin State, will be a restricted-earnings coach on the men's basketball team this season.

Brown took over the women's basketball team at Coppin on an interim basis last December and is now the team's full-time head coach. He will be with the men's team as a consultant during the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference schedule, though not for the non-conference part of the season.

Et cetera

Candis Johnson of Coppin State was named the MEAC's Player of the Week in volleyball after registering 24 kills, 15 aces and 14 digs during three matches last week. ... Goucher's Jeff Olenick (Centennial) has won each of his first three cross-country races this season, boosting his career win total to 13. ... Johns Hopkins features two top-10 teams in Division III - men's soccer is ranked No. 8; men's water polo is ranked fourth. ... Several local crews, including those from Navy and Johns Hopkins, will compete this weekend at the Head of the Potomac Regatta.

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