The latest news over the weekend coming out of Towson University’s athletics program was not about baseball or soccer. Rather, this news is in regards to the football program and the fact that the 2012 CAA Football Co-Champion Tigers will not receive championship rings due to an athletics department policy.
“Our policy is that our department will provide championship rings to teams who win the ultimate conference title, or national championship for their sport” said Director of Athletics Mike Waddell. “We do not give out rings for regular season championships when there is a postseason tournament which defines the Conference Champion. The 2012 Football scenario was unique in a lot of ways, and in the end, we made the call to not award championship rings.”
Waddell shared that the reason for the 2012 football team not receiving rings is because the 2012 Tigers were one of four teams who finished the regular season in second place with 6-2 records, behind 7-1 Old Dominion, which came in first place. Due to ODU leaving the CAA, league officials voted last June to make the Monarchs ineligible for the CAA Championship and the automatic playoff bid. The tiebreaker for the automatic bid went to Villanova, and ODU got an at-large bid to the NCAA playoffs along with New Hampshire, despite the fact that Towson beat UNH 64-35 in the regular season finale.
”Following the 2011 season our Tiger Club donors stepped up and raised the money needed to cover all of the costs associated with the CAA Championship Rings. Without this support none of that recognition could have been possible.”
The CAA recognized Towson, along with Richmond, Villanova and New Hampshire as co-champions. Following the 2012 season Richmond and Villanova bought CAA rings for their teams, but New Hampshire and, now, Towson did not. Old Dominion also made up CAA Championship rings recognizing the fact that they went 7-1 and actually won the CAA title on the field. This was an unprecedented scenario in the CAA 5 of the 11 teams in the league could have purchased rings claiming to be CAA Champions.
Waddell added that “at Towson it’s our department’s policy to award rings to champions, and with that still comes the need to have our Tiger Club donors step up and answer the call to fund these projects. This is a common practice at FCS schools. There was a time at Towson when even Final Four Lacrosse teams did not get rings, so I feel that our policy is fair and that it is moving forward to a better place than we have ever been before.”
Football players who have given their all for the school, many of whom won back to back CAA championships will not get one of the things they feel they deserve. These students have won championships and brought attention to the university.
Last weekend, former player Jermon Bushrod (Chicago Bear, Super Bowl Champion with the New Orleans Saints) attended Towson’s spring football game. This is something he’s done for at least their last two Tiger Bowls. Now, recently Towson has produced several NFL prospects who have now found their way into free agent camps. These are the guys who will not be getting rings. It remains to be seen whether or not these players will be hurt enough by not receiving rings to not come back or give back to the university they gave their all for. These seniors have seen Towson at its worse with a one win season and have been an absolutely integral part in turning the program around.
One can’t forget about the players who are still there as well. How much motivation will these guys have to play for a school who has denied them something that they feel they deserve? Towson Athletics Director Mike Waddell says he has discussed this with Head Coach Rob Ambrose and they believe it will be extra motivation for 2013 as the football team has adopted the slogan “Leave No Doubt” for the upcoming campaign.
Football is not the only team which has received rings in recent years. Following the 2011 football season and the 2012 women’s lacrosse season the department provided championship rings to the student-athletes along with a formal banquet to present the awards. The same practice will be repeated this year for the Towson teams that have won championships – 2013 Women’s Swimming & Diving, 2013 Women’s Lacrosse and 2013 Men’s Lacrosse. All awards and banquet costs are covered by donor dollars.
A former football player, who asked to remain nameless, told me “all of the seniors are just honestly hurt because everybody in the athletic department can say we went back to back, but as athletes we have no rings to show for it. And if it was the money issue, where did the money from Kent State and LSU go? Not football.”
All revenues from “Guarantee Games” at Towson goes into a general revenue line in the Athletics Budget which goes back to offset costs with all sports. One can see how the players might feel this is unfair seeing as that they were the ones who played in these games. Prior to the 2012 season the Football Program did receive a new locker room. Also, the Friday night prior to Tiger Bowl III the 2012 football team also received championship watches, which were provided by the CAA to all four of the football programs which shared in the 2012 co-championship. Old Dominion did not receive watches from the CAA.
Clearly, Towson’s goal is to become a big time program. That’s understandable with the amount of money that is in college sports today. As a current student, I want them to have success as well. However, on the way to this sought after success, they cannot forget the people that are getting them there.
That same anonymous player went on to say, “I will always come back to Towson and give back like most seniors will and we all have the most respect for the football program and we want to always see the program grow and get better. Coach Ambrose and his staff turned us into great young men and we will always thank them for that.”
The sense I got from the players I talked to was that they weren’t happy with not being told why they didn’t get their rings. A different nameless former player told me, “the team, especially the captains and seniors should’ve had a say.” He continued, “I feel like it should have definitely been given in honor of our senior class because we rebuilt this program with the help of the last senior class. We are back to back CAA Champions!”
Towson football produces quality young men. Some are upset by this latest ordeal. However, they won’t hold a grudge. At least not the ones I talked to. A former player told me that despite all this he will “always come back and contribute to (his) alma mater.”