The season opener between the Morgan State and Towson football teams is still almost two months away, scheduled for the first Saturday on Labor Day weekend. That there is a game to look forward to after the coronavirus pandemic wiped out their 2020 seasons is enough to prompt some celebration.
Tigers coach Rob Ambrose said the hair on the back of his neck is standing up again, and the “clouds of depression” are disappearing.
“This is just awesome,” Ambrose said during a Zoom news conference Monday morning promoting the extension of a home-and-home series between the two programs. “It’s awesome in about a million different ways. After the last 18 months of what these kids have had to go through and what the universities have had to go through as a whole and the people that will come to this game and what they’ve had to go through, is there a better way to celebrate the winds of change and the cloud of COVID being blown away? We’re getting back to normal.”
Bears coach Tyrone Wheatley was equally excited. He called it a privilege for the players.
“They lost the one thing they love so dearly, and now with this upon them, they’re going to be prepared,” he said.
Monday’s online conference occurred a day after both schools announced the continuation of a series that runs through 2027. Known as “The Battle for Greater Baltimore,” the rivalry opened with the Bears winning the first three meetings in 1979, 1980 and 1981.
But the series lapsed into hiatuses between 1988-92, 1995-97, 2004, 2010, 2012-16, and 2019-20. Making the rivalry more consistent between two universities separated by fewer than five miles was a logical choice, according to Towson athletic director Tim Leonard.
“The best part about it is, it’s so close,” he said. “[Morgan State athletic director Dr. Edward Scott] and I worked very hard to make sure that we could get this series going and keep it every year. We think that it’s good for the programs, we think it’s good for the greater Baltimore community, and I think it’s great for our players. To be so close and not play each other just made no sense to me. So I’m glad we have this series going, and hopefully we’ll continue for a long, long time.”
Scott pointed out that at a time when the racial divide in the country might seem at its most distant in recent memory, a football game between a Historically Black College and University and one of the longtime powerhouses in the Colonial Athletic Association might be a balm.
“The social and racial injustice that has gone on in our country at the same time, I think this is another way that Morgan State and Towson can show the rest of the country how we can work together regardless of race to do something that is so damn special, which is to put on a game that the whole community will come out and support,” he said.
When Towson and Morgan State meet Sept. 4 at 4 p.m. at Hughes Stadium in Baltimore, Scott is hoping for the 34,400-seat venue to be filled.
“We are planning on packing the stadium based on the state and city guidelines that are currently in place,” he said. “So that should make it even more fun that the greater Baltimore community will be able to come out and support in ways that they have in the past.”
Scott said he is willing to distribute as many tickets to Leonard as he needs to make that happen, and Leonard said a sell-out crowd would be mutually beneficial for both schools.
When the Bears and Tigers tangle, 652 days will have passed since their last games with both teams absorbing losses on Nov. 23, 2019. Both programs opted out of a 2021 season this past spring, which is why Ambrose expressed a greater appreciation for what awaits in less than two months.
“We’ve all been taught a lesson in gratitude and the things which we need to be grateful for,” he said. “There are times as a ball player and even as a coach where some of this is obligation. Not anymore. After spending so much time away from these guys and spending so much time away from the game, the people they love, the game that they love, and being able to do it, I’d say that every kid that went on to play the game and put a mouthpiece in, he’s got a great appreciation and a greater degree of gratitude for the opportunity to play the game, and our guys are just grateful for the opportunity. They’re chomping at the bit and salivating, but working hard and enjoying the normalcy of life.”
Morgan State will host this year’s meeting and again on Sept. 16, 2023, Sept. 6, 2025, and Sept. 4, 2027. Towson will be the host on Sept. 10, 2022, Sept. 7, 2024, and Sept. 5, 2026.