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College Baseball: Towson's baseball move to make Willard free agent

March 12, 2013|By TIM KOELBLE | koelble@herald-mail.com

The recent decision to discontinue the baseball program at Towson University will affect one athlete from Washington County.

Former Smithsburg High School star Ryne Willard, a sophomore at Towson, was among the 36 players who received the news Friday that the 2013 season would be the last for baseball at the school.

“I was in class at 9 a.m., got an email at 9:15 that there was a meeting at 10 about the baseball program,” Willard said. “We had a short time to get to the meeting and some players didn’t get there. And then we had to go out and play a game three hours later.”

Towson University president Maravene Loeschke announced the university was cutting baseball and men’s soccer out of its athletic program while bringing back men’s tennis, calling the decisions “an optimal solution to achieve a balanced annual athletics budget, achieve Title IX compliance and ensure the athletic program can be competitive in Division I and the Colonial Athletic Association.”

Fortunately for Willard, he paid attention to signs around campus that the baseball program might be in jeopardy. He said the warning signals started to appear as far back as October 2012.

“The president has not handled this well at all,” Willard said.

Willard, the 2011 Herald-Mail All-County Hitter of the Year, said he planned on taking a redshirt option for this season, figuring the cuts were coming. He said he plans on transferring to another Division I school, as do many of his teammates.

“Division I schools are going to take a good look at you if you have three years of playing eligibility left, so I redshirted,” Willard said.

The cuts affect about 55 athletes, as well as coaches and support staff.

Even Towson grad Joe Gottlieb, in his 26th year as head baseball coach, was informed he would be out of a job as of June 7.

Gottlieb was reportedly kept away from the Friday meeting, instead being whisked off to another room where he was informed of the decision.

Atlanta Braves general manager John Schuerholz, a Towson alum for whom the baseball stadium is named, is miffed at the cuts. Schuerholz played both sports at Towson.

According to a story in The (Baltimore) Sun, Schuerholz has been a contributor to the athletic program and gave $250,000 to the school for renovations on the baseball stadium.

The story said school officials have been talking to Schuerholz about moving his name to another building, but Schuerholz contradicted that, saying “the next conversation I have with them about what they plan to do will be my first.”

As the Towson team gets into the season, the redshirted Willard is doing everything he would be doing in a season except for playing in games.

“It’s really hard not being out there playing,” Willard said.

Feeling disenfranchised by their school, Towson players put black tape over the university name during games against Delaware last weekend.

Willard said there might be other uniform changes as a form of protest.

“As a team we might get black shirts on our own with name and number and no school name,” he said.

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