State leaders approve deal which may save baseball
State leaders have reached a compromise with Gov. Martin O’Malley that may allow Towson’s baseball program to continue for at least two more seasons.
Towson will receive $300,000 from the University system to allow supporters of the team time to raise money for future seasons, according to a Monday media release from administration. To access the state support, bolsters of the team will need to raise an unspecified amount of money.
The General Assembly approved this deal Monday, April 8.
O’Malley originally proposed Monday, April 1 adding $300,000 to his supplemental budget that would directly benefit Towson’s operating budget. But lawmakers, including Comptroller Peter Franchot, said this would set a “dangerous precedent” by not allowing University athletics to be self-sufficient, and have subsequently developed a deal which would instead distribute those funds to the University System.
Towson administration, including Director of Athletics Mike Waddell and University President Maravene Loeschke, has said the discontinuation of baseball, and the men’s soccer program, was to maintain gender proportionality in athletics required by Title IX legislation and the fiscal future of the athletics department.
Officials in the USM will also distribute one matching $300,000 grant in 2014 to any Division I school struggling with those issues.
Even with the extra funds guaranteed, Towson will not be able to save both programs, and by reinstating baseball, Towson will no longer add a men’s tennis team.
“The discontinuation of men’s soccer will still be necessary for Towson to make progress on Title IX proportionality based on undergraduate enrollment,” Monday’s release reads “Both legislative decisions will go a long way in assisting the institution in providing an affordable, high quality education while enhancing the student experience at Towson University.”
The legislature also approved a $2 million grant to build a new softball stadium.
University counsel Mike Anselmi said in a previous interview with The Towerlight that while Towson has not received any formal complaints over Title IX, over the years administration has heard complaints of the lack of facilities for women, particularly the softball field.
In addition to gender parity, Towson must address a “laundry list” of items for female athletes, which encompasses facilities, scholarships and recruiting budgets.
“There have been complaints over the years of treatment,” Anselmi said during the interview. “Not accommodations, but treatment, specifically our facilities.”
Administration had previously complied with Title IX by adding a women’s sport to the department every few years, which Anselmi said was taxing on financial resources. But a new case recently emerged which said Universities could no longer comply with Title IX by adding women’s sports if they had cut another previously, and Towson cut women’s track in the ‘90s.
“I’m thankful to President Loeschke for her leadership and everyone in the legislature that had anything to do with this new women’s facility,” Towson softball Head Coach Lisa Costello said in the release. “With this stadium, we have the opportunity to be more competitive in the CAA and address a real gap in facilities that widened over the years.”
The decision to cut sports did not reach the ears of Annapolis until Board of Public Works meeting Wednesday, March 20, when Franchot and O’Malley spoke publicly against Loeschke’s handling of the cuts.
Franchot in particular demanded that Loeschke appear before the Board of Public works to explain her decision. Despite finalizing this deal, Loeschke is still scheduled to speak to the board April 17. O’Malley recently said in an interview with the Baltimore Sun that all his questions about the decision to cut sports were answered.
Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this story did not state that the baseball program would need to raise additional funds to access the initial $300,000 in state support. The Towerlight apologizes for this error.