Glancing at the title would cause most of you to be up in arms over the fact that I count the Ravens preseason as the start of the NFL. Well, you are wrong. Or if you may have thought I was referring to the Dunbar Poets, winners of last year’s Maryland HS 1A Championship, and you would be wrong again. I am referring to my alma mater, Towson University. The Tigers won the CAA Conference Championship and finished the season 9-3 (7-1 in the CAA). They are, is back in action on August 30 in Ohio to take on Kent State.
I am well aware, of course, that Towson University is not in Baltimore City, but Baltimore County. That doesn’t matter to me, nor should it to you. I consider them to be a Baltimore champion. If they aren’t already from last season’s success, I foresee the Towson University football program as the area’s premier College football team. Am I getting a little ahead of myself? One might say yes. But I think this program is bound to sustain the success and build off the historic year it had last year.
As a student from 2005-2009, I saw a program that looked like it had some promise and gave enough to the fans to have an optimistic vision. Ultimately, it was not ready to compete in the toughest conference in the Football Subdivision (FCS). In ‘05 & ‘06, we were the program was a combined 13-9; not too shabby. Once 2007 came around, however, that is where the ship started to sink for the Tigers. With a preseason Top-25 ranking, Towson was unable to live up to the expectations and went ended up 3-8 on the year. Immediately following the 2007 season, Jermon Bushrod, an NFL Pro-Bowl and Super Bowl Champion tackle for the New Orleans Saints had entered the NFL Draft. 2008, which turned out to be Gordy Combs’ final season as head coach, was even worse. Towson finished 3-9 that year, with only one win coming in conference play.
Combs’ departure paved the way for the Rob Ambrose Era began at Towson in 2008. Everyone involved with or who had the slightest interest in Towson Athletics fell in love with the hire. He was an alumnus, a young guy filled with passion and energy who brought a successful resume along with him from his previous coaching destination at UConn However, the on the field results turned out to be more of the same mediocre play in his initial seasons. In 2009, Towson finished 2-9. Did it get worse? Sure did. In 2010, Towson finished a dismal 1-10, ultimately hitting rock bottom in a program that once projected optimism.
Despite the putrid results, Ambrose remained confident and preached patience to the students and alumni. He was persistent in stating that he was going to turn the program around his way, even if it did take some time. This was obviously not going to be an overnight fix. In 2011, the season following the program’s low spot, his team demonstrated how a cohesive football family should operate. As it turned out, an overnight fix was just what happened.
Ambrose was named Eddie Robinson FCS Coach of the Year for the one of the greatest turnarounds in FCS History. Running back Terrence West led the FCS with 27 touchdowns, winning the Inaugural Jerry Rice Award for Outstanding Freshman. The Tigers, starting the backup quarterback, competed with the University of Maryland Terrapin’s for three quarters. The hard work and hunger Ambrose instilled in his players couldn’t have been more transparent at this time. The success of the regular season paid off as Towson hosted a home playoff game for the first time in school history against Lehigh. The game, played in front of Johnny Unitas Stadium’s first sellout, resulted in a tragic loss, 40-38. From 1-10 to 9-3, 2011 turned out to be truly a dream season for the team, fans, and Baltimore area.
The purpose of the backstory of the Tigers football program is not to provide a history lesson. There are plenty of sources where one could go for that information. My purpose is to portray my pride as an alumnus and to, most importantly, make the surrounding community aware of the success in preparation for the 2012 season. For being a Football town (well as least as long as the O’s have been cellar dwellers), the greater Baltimore area does not have a significant College Football team to support every Saturday. Being a University with over 20,000 undergraduates, that’s hard to imagine. From first-hand experience living in Federal Hill, I know that our community consists of many Towson grads that are in the beginning stages of their post-college careers.
The ceiling is the sky for Towson University, as far as the growth that it can achieve.. Try to name a better college town than Towson? Coming from New Jersey I can tell you that New Brunswick, Rutgers University’s town, does not compare from an entertainment and aesthetic standpoint to Towson. How about Temple? Needless to say, it is surely not in the safest part of Philadelphia. You want to tell me you would prefer going to a College Park scene rather than Towson? I didn’t think so…
If you are a Towson Alum, or simply just a college football fan, make sure you out and go check out Towson Football this year. I’m even going to save you the google search for their schedule. Below is a list of the games that you want to start planning your Saturdays around come this fall:
Saturday, September 15th, William & Mary @ Towson on NBC Sports Network, 12:00 PM
If you are a downtown “Yuppie”, as our older generation likes to call us (at least my Grandparents think it’s still a funny term), this game is for you. Wake up, get some breakfast at THB (if you’re an Alum and you have not been back, it’s five times the size, a site to see) and head over to the Stadium. No better way to start to a Saturday afternoon in the fall.
Saturday, September 22nd, St. Francis (Pa.) @ Towson HOMECOMING 7:00 PM
During last year’s campaign, some of my Towson brethren had mentioned to me that at 25, they felt “too old” to attend Homecoming.…NONSENSE. If Towson wants to reach the big time level of a school like Maryland, every alumnus needs to attend this game. Spend the day grabbing lunch at the new CVPs, get nostalgic by grabbing some drinks after at the Kent, and keep going with the day by taking Jimmy’s Cab over to the Field for a tailgate. I know my Fraternity will be in full force.
Saturday, September 29th, 2012 Towson @ LSU Baton Rouge, La, 8:00 PM
Hey, times are still tough for everyone, especially if you’re a 20 something year old like me who graduated with miscellaneous college debts. If you have some vacation days and want to experience a premier “College Football Atmosphere”, you need to make this trip to Death Valley. It just takes a four day vacation to go support Towson on the biggest stage in its existence. My Fraternity brothers and I are planning two days in New Orleans and the remainder of the trip in Baton Rouge. Speaking of that, I better check the bank account as I will certainly be buying my plane ticket soon!
I do not want to take anything away from the home games against Maine, Old Dominion and Rhode Island, as well as the possibility of a road trip to UDel. But as I get older, I am slowly starting to realize the concept of “planning ahead.” People have weddings to go to in the fall, which in my opinion is a very amateur move during football season. That is exactly why I am writing this column in June, to assist you in planning ahead.
Once again, I am just doing my part as a Towson Alumni. I had the best four years of my life at Towson, my friends and I frequently joke about how many years we would cut off our lives to get a chance to relive those times. This is for the students, the faculty, the alumni, and the community. Let’s all get back together for the sake of the success of Towson Football. You will not be disappointed.