The Towson football team suffered its first hit without even taking the field.
Thursday’s announcement by the Big Ten to restrict its member schools that play football and other fall sports to conference-only schedules because of concerns over the coronavirus pandemic meant that Maryland’s game against the Tigers scheduled for Sept. 5 at Maryland Stadium in College Park has been canceled.
It also meant that Towson had lost the $325,000 the Terps had agreed to pay to play the game.
According to a copy of the contract signed in October 2012 and provided by Maryland, the Terps were subject to forfeit the $325,000. However, there is another clause stating that “exigencies beyond the control of either party, such as Acts of God, Acts of common enemy, civil disorders, or orders of military or public authority, may render it impossible to or highly undesirable to play the game. … Under such circumstances and the Home Team and the Visiting Team agree to cancel the game, [the payment] of this contract shall be null and void.”
Tigers athletic director Tim Leonard confirmed that the university will not receive the money. He declined to comment further beyond a written statement.
“While we are disappointed in not being able to play Maryland this fall, safety comes before this unique game with our fellow USM [University System of Maryland] institution,” he said. “We look forward to visiting College Park in 2023.”
Morgan State’s season opener at Appalachian State on Sept. 5 could be at risk of being delayed or canceled depending on how the Mid-Eastern Athletic and Sun Belt conferences react to the COVID-19 outbreak that is surging in states like North Carolina, which is home to Appalachian State.
But Bears athletic director Edward Scott said the university is proceeding as scheduled.
“As of today the game is still moving forward as planned,” he said in a written statement. “However, we are continuing to monitor the situation on a daily basis.”
The payout Towson had expected to receive is not as lucrative as the $510,000 LSU had paid in 2012 for the Tigers to travel to Baton Rouge and play in a 38-22 loss or the $500,000 Florida had given for Towson in 2019 to fly to Tallahassee and play in a 38-0 shutout.
But the monetary loss is potentially significant for a Tigers athletic department that last month asked every sport and every unit within the department to slice 25% from their operating budgets.
Towson graduate David H. Nevins, who was former president of Comcast SportsNet in the early 2000s, said that the football game would have drawn viewership numbers between 5% to 10% of the 6 million or so residents in Maryland and generated a couple hundred thousand dollars in revenue from local advertising.
“It would have attracted a lot of local advertisers who do business in the Baltimore-Washington area,” said Nevins, who had chaired the Board of Regents for the University System of Maryland and the Board of Visitors for Towson and currently runs a marketing and communications firm. “I know there would have been an effort to sell to College Park and Towson alumni who own businesses. … It would not be significant compared to the Preakness, but there would be more local television viewers watching because they’re interested in Towson.”
Nevins said he felt for the Tigers players who might have been eager to test themselves against Football Bowl Subdivision competition like Maryland. He also noted that many Towson alumni had circled the game on their calendars.
“It’s disappointing, it’s a shame, but I would be remiss if I didn’t say that in the scheme of things, it’s not one of the great tragedies of the pandemic,” he said. “There’s a lot of suffering out there, and it’s just one of many missed opportunities. But both schools will survive and thrive and live to compete another day.”
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