Gill hopes that the mounting pressure will cause Loeschke to reinstate the teams. "I really believe in the next couple of weeks she'll take a deep breath, review everything and step forward to a press conference … and announce we're reversing course," he said.

"I'd like to hope that's exactly what will happen long before she gets in front of the governor."

Gill said he did not lobby either O'Malley or Franchot and was unaware of any attempts to do so: "This is one time I can say, without crossing my fingers behind my back, I'm not in the middle of it."

Franchot said after the meeting that he was "pretty disgusted" by accounts he read in The Baltimore Sun about the team cuts and said he hopes Loeschke reverses course "unless there's an awful good explanation."

O'Malley became aware of the situation from news accounts, though he said far less than Franchot at the board meeting. "The governor wants to hear from the president the reasoning behind the decision to cut programs rather than rely on news accounts," said his spokeswoman, Raquel Guillory.

Treasurer Nancy K. Kopp, the third member of the Board of Public Works, voted against deferring the contract. She said she saw no reason to delay an important project that "had nothing to do with baseball or soccer being played at Towson. It was just a vehicle that was used to express displeasure with the president's decision" and notification process.

While students and coaches should be treated "decently and respectfully," she said, "I am always a little nervous about the politicians intervening in activities on campus."

Unflattering light

The story has cast Towson, one of the largest public universities in Maryland with nearly 22,000 students, in an unflattering light, including coverage on the sports website Deadspin. And it has upset key members of an alumni network that includes more than 125,000 graduates.

Loeschke has alienated some of Towson's most prominent and active alumni. That group is led by Mike Gill's brother Gary — president and CEO of the commercial real estate firm MacKenzie Ventures Inc. — and has included Atlanta Braves president John Schuerholz, who played baseball and soccer at Towson.

The dispute has dimmed the glow of excitement that greeted Loeschke's hiring in September 2011, when university leaders hailed her as the ideal person to keep the university on an upward path despite the need to scratch for limited state funds.

She was a familiar presence on campus, having spent more than three decades as a student, drama professor and administrator at Towson. She later served five years as president of Pennsylvania's Mansfield University, where she added programs in the face of budget cuts.

"The biggest challenge will be getting the resources we need to maintain and build excellence," she said after taking over at Towson.

She has vocal supporters at Towson. Among her fans is Manny Welsh, a student representative on the University Senate, who publicly endorsed her decision to eliminate the teams, as did the president of the school's Student Government Association. Welsh said students are split but he thinks the criticism from the governor and comptroller is off base.

"She adores students," he said of Loeschke. "We've never had a president who was so active and so visible in the campus community. This entire situation is an example of how a controversial decision with poor communication turns into an absolute mess."

Even before Loeschke decided to cut the teams — soccer immediately, baseball right after the spring season — members of her administration were at odds with those advocating to keep the teams.

Prominent alumni, parents, team members and coaches all say they were shut out of the decision-making process and kept in the dark. "Everything I got was rumor," Gottlieb said this week. "To say there was transparency is an insult to my intelligence."

Loeschke's decision upheld a recommendation put forth last fall by Waddell, the athletic director. She agreed with him that cutting the sports would be the best way to stabilize athletic department finances and comply with Title IX, the federal law mandating equal opportunities for women on campus.

The move will eventually save the department about $900,000 a year.

Cutting athletic teams to save money is not unprecedented at the state's universities. University of Maryland, College Park President Wallace D. Loh eliminated seven athletic teams last summer because of severe, long-standing budget issues. The university is now examining whether any of those teams can be reinstated when the university moves to the Big Ten conference.