Leonard says Towson is a ‘perfect fit’
“Towson baseball staves off different kind of elimination.”
“Towson president decides to cut baseball, men’s soccer.”
“Title IX law scrutinized as universities cut teams.”
These were just a few of the headlines that were printed and posted online in the past 10 months regarding Towson Athletics, one from USA Today and two from The Baltimore Sun.
When asked if headlines like these made Tim Leonard hesitant to apply for the position of Director of Athletics he answered with a resounding “No.”
Leonard, who was named the new athletic director at the beginning of August after Mike Waddell left the position in May for the University of Arkansas, inherits Towson’s current Title IX and budget issues.
Leonard believes that the issues Towson faces are the same that most universities in the U.S. are trying to address.
“To operate an athletics department in this day and age is very difficult. That’s the No. 1 challenge, how do you make all the numbers work?” Leonard said in an interview conducted on Aug. 23. “You ask any department on campus, and they’ll say they don’t have enough resources, it’s just the way it is.”
At the time, Leonard had only been at the University for a week, and said he still hadn’t learned everything there is to know about the department in order to speak about finding a permanent solution to keeping the baseball team on campus while complying with Title IX.
“I’m learning that in fact we did not run a deficit, we had dollars in reserve, and we had planned to spend those dollars in reserve, and I just learned that fact in a meeting earlier this week,” Leonard said.
Because the financial stability of the University has been an issue, Leonard’s background was a main factor in his hiring, according to University President Maravene Loeschke.
“We are most fortunate to have Tim Leonard join our Towson family,” Loeschke said in an email. “He comes to us with a wealth of athletics and fundraising experience…”
Besides his fundraising experience, Loeschke said other reasons for the hiring of Leonard included “his ethical base,” “his passion for excellence,” and “his understanding that academics always come first.”
As Leonard put it, it was a perfect fit.
Prior to coming to Towson, Leonard was the senior associate athletic director for External Affairs at Southern Methodist University. While at SMU, Leonard was named the National Association of Athletic Development Directors “Fundraiser of the Year” in 2012.
Prior to his position at SMU, Leonard served in a similar capacity at the University of Central Florida. In his nine years at UCF, Leonard said fundraising was tougher than SMU, and may employ similar tactics at Towson.
“We just tried to get people in the community, who weren’t UCF alums, to get them engaged in the games, maybe they would get hooked and become season ticket holders and next thing you know they may be in a position to give a big gift,” he said. “It’s harder to do it that way, but we were able to have some success.”
Aside from the budget issues, Title IX compliance was also problematic during Waddell’s time as AD. At the time of the interview, Leonard said he had not been briefed on the Title IX situation, but just sees it as another problem that any university could have.
“Everyone thinks Title IX is an athletics law, it’s not,” he said. “It’s the one that’s in the paper but it’s for everything. We have some work to do there, and that is also a numbers game in a lot of ways. But we don’t want it to just be a mandate, we want it to be a philosophy in our program, we want to be committed to it.”
When asked if it would be possible for men’s soccer to return to campus, Leonard said it was too early to comment on that situation, although he was “committed to moving forward with the 19 sports that [Towson] has.”
Even looking at all the hurdles he has to overcome in a short time, Leonard said there are plenty of things that he is coming into in his position that make his job easier.
“We have all the pieces in place with the new arena opening up and [Johnny] Unitas Stadium, we have all the pieces,” he said. “Financially, yeah it’s tough, and no one wants to drop sports. But the challenge is, financially how do you survive?”