Armed with a belief that they had earned the right to win games, Ambrose’s Tigers took to the field in September and posted a blowout victory over Morgan State, then a stunning upset victory over Villanova. Suddenly the Tigers didn’t just have a right to win, they were absolute winners.
Ambrose would go on to guide the Tigers to their first ever CAA Championship in football and their first ever appearance in the NCAA FCS Playoffs after an incredible season that included six wins over teams with Top 25 FCS rankings. Seven Tigers received All-CAA honors including freshman RB Terrance West, who was named CAA Rookie of the Year.
If Towson was looking to Ambrose to “Restore the Roar”, the 2011 season was unquestionable proof of success.
But Ambrose didn’t only receive our honor for his team’s success on the football field. The honor was based in part on a sweeping change in culture surrounding the football program and the place it has within the Charm City community. After failing to even register for years, Towson football became a major factor in the Baltimore sports scene in 2011.
“In three years, Rob Ambrose has changed the perception of Towson football on campus and in the community” Towson Director of Athletics Media Relations Dan O’Connell told WNST. “From the moment he arrived here, he went about cultivating the student body and getting them involved in the program. When the team started to win, the fans were ready to support the Tigers in a big way.”
In 2011, that support was particularly evident in the stands at Unitas Stadium.
“In 2008, the year before he arrived, the Tigers averaged 4,980 fans per home game” added O’Connell. “This past season, the Tigers averaged 8,949 fans per game at home and had the first sell-out in stadium history.”
O’Connell noted that the number of fans in attendance at games isn’t the only way to measure the mark Ambrose has made on the community.
“One of the things Rob always tells his players is ‘We are responsible to things greater than ourselves.’ Through that belief, he has gotten his players involved in an extraordinary amount of community service work. He wants his student-athletes to be more than just football players. He wants them to be good citizens and good students.”
Towson Athletic Director Mike Waddell told WNST every aspect of the culture change at WNST has started with Ambrose.
“As an alumnus of Towson University Rob takes to soul every aspect of our program. The success of our football team on the field is matched by their commitment to getting the off-the-field elements on a championship level as well. More than the wins on the field, his commitment to making sure that all who represent Towson are doing so with class has meant the world to our departmental goals of becoming “Baltimore’s College Football Team.”
The change at Towson has been particularly meaningful to Ambrose’s fellow alums. That list includes Spiro Morekas, the long time Play by Play voice of the Tigers.
“The thing I love about Rob, is his unabashed love for Towson. It’s not just lip service. He has gone out of his way to connect with the student body, which you can now see on game day as we have more students than ever coming to Johnny Unitas Stadium.
In my 33 years as a student and broadcaster for Towson, this past football season was THE highlight. What Rob has done over three years as head coach has been phenomenal. Not only has he taken the team from the bottom of the CAA to the top, he is building a program.”
Personally, I never attended a Towson University football game as a spectator despite living in the Baltimore area for almost every day of my life. Making matters worse, many friends and acquaintances who actually attended Towson University never attended a single football game.
That group included my own girlfriend, who attended her first Towson football game in 2011. As the season wore on, she became frustrated any week when we were unable to attend a Tigers football game. She was even particularly excited for an opportunity to meet the Tigers’ coach at his weekly radio show at Bill Bateman’s.