With matchups against five other Football Subdivision schools since 2008, including cross-town rival Maryland, the sixth contest of that period still shocks Dan O’Connell, Towson’s veteran Director of Athletics Media Relations.
“I never, ever expected to play in Baton Rouge in Tiger Stadium,” O’Connell said.
Now officially claiming he’s seen it all with the Football Championship Subdivision Towson Tigers, O’Connell said the game arose from a relationship between Towson athletic director Mike Waddell and some LSU officials.
Sandwiched between Southeastern Conference road trips for LSU, Towson comes in as a guarantee game, meaning LSU will not return the trip to Maryland while Towson earns $500,000 to play the nation’s No. 3 team.
LSU Senior Associate Athletics Director Verge Ausberry acknowledged the relationship between Waddell and LSU officials, but added every potential LSU opponent is scouted so that games continue to build on themselves.
After reaching out to “about four or five schools,” Ausberry found the perfect fit.
“[Towson was] a better fit,” Ausberry said. “I don’t want to play a team that runs an option or a wishbone.”
With controversy surrounding Savannah State’s early-season bludgeonings at the hands of perennial FBS powers Florida State and Oklahoma State only for the payout, outsiders may view Saturday’s contest as a similar venture for Towson.
While acknowledging the $500,000 payout was a deciding factor, O’Connell asserted there were more far-reaching motives for agreeing to travel to Baton Rouge.
“We’re looking to increase our brand and to become more well-known on a national level,” O’Connell said. “We’re trying to get our name out there.”
As for Ausberry, who has overseen scheduling for the Tigers since 2006, the Savannah State firestorm didn’t rattle his cages regarding LSU’s only FCS opponent.
“We’ve been doing this since 2002,” Ausberry said. “It didn’t scare me one bit because it was the right thing to do.”
O’Connell said the excitement in Baltimore is palpable for the contest, adding that watch parties have been coordinated in surrounding areas for those alumni and students who won’t be in attendance.
For those who will take the almost three-hour flight to Baton Rouge, the culture shock may be overwhelming.
“The largest crowd ever to see us play was about 35,000 at Maryland last year,” O’Connell said. “Last year our home attendance for seven games was 63,000 [combined].”
After hearing the tales and accounts of the “experience of Saturday night football in Death Valley,” O’Connell said he’s excited to take in the campus scene when he arrives today.
But at the game, there may be a different story.
“I’ll probably enjoy it until, you know, it starts,” O’Connell said.