THE University of Baltimore announced Monday that it will establish an Athletic Hall of Fame and induct at a May 8 ceremony such luminaries as Richard Edell, who led the UB men's soccer squad to a national championship in 1975.
It seemed an odd thing to do. The university eliminated varsity sports 21 years ago, a cost-saving move that embittered many alumni. And because the present and past are forever linked in sports, UB's decision to drop intercollegiate athletics dimmed the memory of more than a half-century of competition in baseball, basketball, golf, lacrosse, soccer and wrestling.
But give Robert L. Bogomolny, UB's new president, credit. There's method in this revival of UB sports memories. It's Bogomolny's way of demonstrating that a university is much more than books and mortar, that the past matters in the present.
Bogomolny, in fact, has ordered a study of the feasibility of returning sports, both intramural and varsity, to the university. It might not be possible, so boosters are advised not to order season tickets just yet. "If it costs a million dollars, it's not going to happen," Bogomolny said. But the UB president knows that a university without competitive sports is like a margarita without salt on the rim: It's OK, but it doesn't render the full experience. And UB's recently issued strategic plan stresses "the paramount importance of the student experience."
One of the problems Bogomolny may encounter if he attempts a sports renaissance is that UB is one of only nine upper-level universities in the nation. It has no freshmen and only a handful of sophomores. Moreover, said Bogomolny, the average undergraduate is in his or her 30s. "A large number of our undergraduates have been out of school for a while," he noted.
The upper-division structure grew out of UB's switch from private to public in the 1970s. Community colleges didn't want another competitor for freshmen and sophomores, so then-UB President H. Mebane Turner agreed his school would be an upper-level institution accommodating community college transfers.
It has played that role well for nearly three decades, Bogomolny said, but conditions have changed. Community colleges are bursting at the seams, and UB has room for 1,000 to 1,200 students in its day program. (UB's busiest hour is Tuesday at 5:30 p.m., Bogomolny said.)
The university's strategic plan doesn't call for a four-year undergraduate program, but Bogomolny said he's willing to discuss it. "Nothing," he said, "is off the table."
Sure, a rose is a rose, but a 'college' is passe
Former Baltimore state Sen. Julian L. Lapides never voted for a bill changing a state college to a state university. It was all hubris, he used to say. "A rose is a rose."
And he suggested in jest that the state might as well designate every institution of higher education a university. "We'd have a Catonsville University and an Anne Arundel University. Might as well do it now. They'll all be in here eventually."
Lapides was close to the truth. With the signing yesterday of a bill creating Coppin State University, only one public four-year "college" remains in Maryland: St. Mary's College in Southern Maryland. St. Mary's is in high-end liberal arts country where the air is rarefied. (Many elite schools are colleges or colleges within universities.)
But among large or medium-size state institutions, being a college is so ... yesterday. Moreover, as Coppin President Stanley F. Battle points out, it's disadvantageous. A university at Coppin's level really does find it easier to raise money and attract better students.
In the next wave of name changes, "State" likely will disappear from every school's title except, possibly, that of Frostburg State University. Officials there are sensitive to the jeers the new initials would prompt at out-of-town sporting events.
That bronzed figure is the college president
John Toll, who will retire this summer as president of Washington College, is the only college president I know who's a bust.
For some weeks, Toll has been sitting four hours a day for a sculpture that will reside in the three-story glass atrium of the college's new science center.
A gift of the graduating Class of 2004, the bust is the work of Jay Hall Carpenter of Gaithersburg. It will be dedicated this spring.
"I've had quite a few paintings done of me," said Toll, 80. Of Carpenter's clay model that eventually will be a bronze bust, Toll said, "I told him to make it handsomer than I am, and I think he succeeded."
After his retirement, Toll plans to remain a year on the Chestertown campus as president emeritus.