BALTIMORE, MD -- Towson University has accepted an invitation to join the Atlantic 10 Football Conference, effective July 1, 2003 with competition beginning for the 2004 football season, it was announced today.

"We are extremely pleased that Towson has accepted our invitation to become a member of the Atlantic 10 Football Conference," says commissioner Linda Bruno. "When our directors of athletics first agreed to explore expansion, Towson was an obvious choice. It is an excellent institution, geographically preferable, and the football program is making great strides. We look forward to a long and successful relationship with Towson."

The Atlantic 10 Football Conference is currently comprised of the University of Delaware, Hofstra University, James Madison University, the University of Maine, the University of Massachusetts, the University of New Hampshire, Northeastern University, the University of Rhode Island, the University of Richmond, Villanova University, and the College of William & Mary.

"We are excited by the invitation to join the seven public and four private institutions which compose the Atlantic 10 Football Conference," says Towson University interim president Dan L. Jones. "All have excellent academic reputations and collectively compose one of the nation's most successful Division I-AA conferences. We greatly appreciate the support which the conference's presidents and athletic directors have provided to assure a long-term future for Towson's football program."

"We are absolutely delighted with the Atlantic 10 Football Conference affiliation," says Towson director of athletics Wayne Edwards. "This is a major milestone in the history of our football program, and our coaches, student-athletes and fans look to the future with great excitement and optimism."

With a full-time enrollment of 16,600 students, Towson offers undergraduates a choice of 40 majors and is Maryland's second largest institution of higher education. The Tiger football program made its intercollegiate debut in 1969 and joined the I-AA ranks in 1987. It began a football association with the Patriot League in 1997 and enjoyed consecutive 7-4 campaigns in 1999 and 2000.

Now in his 11th season as head coach of the Tigers, Gordy Combs (58-45-0) has guided the program to great success, including seven winning seasons and procuring Patriot League coach of the year honors in 1999. Combs was a two-year starter at linebacker at Towson and served as captain as a senior in 1972.

Towson University Stadium is in the final stage of a $31.5 million project that is expected to be completed in January, 2003. The renovations include 6,000 new spectator seats that will increase capacity to 11,198, a new press box, a field house containing locker rooms, offices, athletic training and equipment rooms, and a resurfaced track. It is the third largest facility of its kind in the metropolitan Baltimore area behind Ravens Stadium and Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

The decision to extend membership to Towson University was unanimously made by the Atlantic 10 Football Conference directors of athletics and approved by the presidents of both the Atlantic 10 Conference and Atlantic 10 Football Conference.

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