Trojans not ready to pack their bags

Published 12:00 am Friday, February 2, 2001

Sports Editor

Feb. 1, 2001 10 PM

Troy State University officials say the home for the Trojan football team is here in Troy, despite rumors to the contrary.

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Officials at TSU say they are looking into the possibility of playing one football game per year in Montgomery’s Cramton Bowl, but that there are no plans to seek to move a significant number of games out of Troy.

Why would TSU look to Montgomery for opportunities to play football, considering the city of Troy recently gave the school a total of $4.5 million to help in renovations to Richard M. Scrushy Field in Memorial Stadium and Trojan Arena?

The thinking is that Troy State is moving up – at least in divisions. Next year begins a period of transition toward full Division 1-A status. As of right now, the Trojans have home games scheduled in 2001 with Appalachian State (Sept. 15), Southern Utah (Oct. 20), and Jacksonville State (Nov. 17), with three more open dates remaining on the schedule.

Officials at Troy State have said they would like to schedule at least two more home games for a total of five and were one of those to be played in Montgomery, next year wouldn’t be much different from the season just completed. The Trojans played just four regular season home games in 2000.

"I certainly wouldn’t have a

problem with them playing just one game in Montgomery," said Marsha Gaylard, President of the Pike County Chamber of Commerce. "If they were talking about all the home games, then I would have a problem with it. But I can understand why they would want to play in Montgomery."

As Alabama and Auburn used Birmingham’s Legion Field, before expansion of their on-campus stadiums, Troy State would like to use Cramton Bowl to host Division 1-A opponents. Cramton Bowl currently seats 24,500, while Memorial Stadium, even with the recent renovation, seats a capacity of 17,500, which isn’t enough to peak interest of some potential opponents, said TSU Athletic Director Johnny Williams.

"We’re in negotiations with some major universities such as Southern Mississippi, Marshall, TCU and Iowa State," he said. "In order for those teams to play us (at home), we must have a stadium with 25,000 to 30,000 people. We’re looking at getting major games contracted and we’ve got to have somewhere to play those games since we don’t have big enough facilities."

But city leaders hope that the problem of seating can be worked out, but they know it won’t happen overnight.

"It is certainly our desire that all Troy State home games be played here in Troy," said Troy City Council President Johnny Witherington. "Home games are very important to the city in terms of their economic impact."

But Witherington also supports Troy State’s move to Division 1-A and said perhaps it’s time to discuss even further renovations to Memorial Stadium. Future plans have been developed, calling for an expansion to the stadium of up to 30,000 seats, as well as skyboxes and an expanded press box.

"We would be open to discussion with Troy State about possibly donating more funds toward that," said Witherington. "Maybe it’s reached that point in time."

Troy Mayor Jimmy Lunsford agreeswith Witherington, but said any dontation by the city would depend on revenue.

Lunsford said he has talked with TSU Athletic Director Johnny Williams and said that he would definetly not be against the Trojans playing in Montgomery, providing accomodations could not be made inside the city of Troy.

"That article had people stirred up and had them thinking Troy State was leaving for Montgomery," Lunsford said. "That’s not the case. Johnny and I have talked about possibly even scheduling a game with Air Force at Cramton Bowl, especially with Maxwell and Gunter Air Force Base located in the Montgomery area. That is something which would drum up great interest for Troy State and the city of Troy."

Lunsford advises fans of Troy State and the people of Troy to keep an "open mind" about situation.

"We may have to go through one or two years like this in Division 1-A before we can become affiliated with a conference," he said. "With conference affiliation, then we can look forward to a home-and-home situation for most of the games on the schedule."

Williams had encouraging words for people who want to see more games in Troy.

"Troy is our bread and butter," Williams said. "I’m working every day to build an athletic program to help TSU and the City of Troy in order for it to grow."

In 1968 Troy State beat Texas A&I 43-35 for the NAIA National Championship in Cramton Bowl. The Trojans won the title before a then-game record 15,000 people.

"People seem to forget we played for the National Championship in Cramton Bowl in order to accomodate the number of people who came to watch that game," said Lunsford. "If we played a fairly large Division 1-A school today, it wouldn’t be that much different."