Last weekend the longest losing streak in NCAA Division I history finally — mercifully — came to an end. The Towson Tigers defeated conference foe UNC Wilmington by a score of 66-61, ending a 13-month winless streak of 41 games for the school. Often we as media get caught up in the esoteric and mundane, focusing on the statistic and accompanying storyline rather than the fact that there are actually people involved in a story such as this one.
Certainly a major burden/albatross has been relieved from the backs of head coach Pat Skerry (responsible for 22 of those losses) and his players — they are now free to move on with their season with the goal of building for the future (the Tigers lost to Hofstra, 74-49 on Wednesday night). But there’s also an element of relief for students, alumni, and fans no doubt fatigued with seeing the (negative) publicity rained on the school as a result of this losing streak. If you ask the question, why does this matter, take a look at the prose of one of Towson’s oldest living alumni, QD Thompson, in a Letter to the Editor posted on Sunday in the school’s newspaper.
Speaking as a 90-year-old Towson Tiger, and with tears in my eyes after reading a long summary of the Towson Tiger men’s basketball team’s recent victory (66-61) over UNC-Wilmington that broke the Tigers’ 41-game losing streak, I just wanted to say hallelujah and congratulations to Coach Pat Skerry, his staff and players, whose warm victory blood I am sure is still bubbling in their vessels. It reminds me of my days at the Towson State Teachers College in the late ‘30s, when I was a sophomore. One day, I was speaking with the Director of Athletics Dr. Donald I. Minnegan, who was also my coach and mentor, and he heard me say, “But, Doc, I can’t do that.” And with that, he clamped his hand over my mouth and screamed out, “Thompson, don’t ever let me hear you say, ‘I can’t’ again, because there is always a way to accomplish anything.” I soon learned that Doc was absolutely right. Attention Coach Skerry, I pass this little story along to you and suggest you place it in your pipe and smoke it.
According to the Towson sports information staff, Thompson played basketball for the school in the late 1930s/early 1940s (Class of 1942) and clearly still has a very strong emotional connection to the university located just north of Baltimore, Maryland. This once again shows that the bond between alumni and their schools (and by proxy, their school’s teams) is exceptionally strong. Professional teams are represented by an amalgam of logo, colors and personnel both past and present, but with few exceptions does physical location actually mean anything — Lambeau, Fenway, Yankee, and a few others — but mostly not. Universities, on the other hand, have all of those things too, but more importantly, the essence underlying the connection is one of place. Location matters, and that’s the primary advantage that college sports has over the pros.