The popular Towson women's gymnastics team survived a round of athletic cutbacks yesterday, but four men's sports were eliminated in a move sparked by concerns of Title IX equality and financial viability for the remaining 20 varsity athletic programs.
The women gymnastics team will compete in the less formative Eastern College Athletic Conference next season, but the decision to eliminate four of the Tigers minor men's sports drew more resounding reaction.
"I'm heartbroken," said Roger Erricker, who coached three of the four sports that were purged. "Oh well, at least I can look forward to the enhancement of our women's programs."
Erricker coached the men's cross country, men's indoor track and men's outdoor track teams that fell. He will still coach the women's cross country and women's indoor and outdoor track teams. Also cut in a minor surprise was the men's tennis team, but women's golf was added.
That gives Towson 20 sports, 13 women's and seven men's under the new configuration that most likely will improve its collective competitiveness in the Colonial Athletic Association, and more importantly, the Atlantic 10 Conference in football.
The reduction makes the athletic department more in line with other CAA schools, most of whom offer in the range of 17 teams each. Another factor in the equation was gender equality. Towson's enrollment is 61 percent women.
The school's longtime gymnastics coach, Dick Filbert, told The Sun in late January that the university was considering cutting his program along with men's swimming, cross country, outdoor track and field and indoor track and field in September. University officials had said no such decision had been reached.
While members of the men's cross country and men's indoor and outdoor track teams had plenty of time to brace for these cuts, the men's tennis team and coach Peter Walten were slightly in a daze last night.
"It's crazy," said sophomore Doug Ferguson who plays No. 3 singles. "If I had known the tennis program was in jeopardy, I wouldn't have come here."
Another member of the tennis team, junior Joel Young who plays No. 6 singles, said, "I was shocked. We heard all this talk about gymnastics and thought we were safe."
As far as the women's gymnastics future is concerned, the school will no longer be in the same prestigious East Atlantic Gymnastics League with such big-name schools North Carolina State, North Carolina, Maryland, New Hampshire, West Virginia, Pittsburgh and Rutgers.
All the Towson gymnasts who are currently on scholarship or have been recruited with scholarships will maintain those scholarships, said Filbert's wife, assistant gymnastics coach Lynda Filbert, last night.
Then Lynda Filbert said the scholarships will be eventually scaled back to 60 percent.
"We're happy and gratified over the outcome of all this," Filbert said. "We'll be at a level we belong with schools that are being funded equally to us. Those EAGL schools were fully funded."