Over three decades of service to TU Football

By: Jake Shindel, Sports Editor

On a rainy day in early October, many Towson Football fans forwent attending the game at the University of Delaware. But Ed Molen arrived at his usual Delaware spot at 9 a.m. to tailgate, as he does every Tiger home and away football game.

Ed and his wife Jacki have tailgated at every single Towson football game for 32 years, never missing a home or away game.  

Since his first game in 1992, nothing has been able to keep the Molen’s away from watching the Tigers play. They have attended games in sub-zero temperatures, while Ed had kidney stones, and even while he was undergoing chemotherapy after he was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in 2004.

Throughout the years, Ed’s job changed from running the booster program to becoming the Director of Football Outreach. Ed knows almost all of the players and parents, serving as a resource on the field for players, and a helper for parents looking to attend football games.

After working in the Navy for five years, Ed moved on to work for the NSA for 34 years. With the NSA, Ed was part of the senior leadership team for the facilities and logistics organization, and retired as the Skill Community Director for Facilities and Logistics, responsible for education and training for the Facilities and Logistics organization. Jacki is the Cafeteria Manager at White Oak School in Baltimore County, where she has been for 20 years. 

Ed and Jacki saw Towson win the first time they attended a game against Bucknell in 1992 at Minnegan Stadium. Ed, who graduated from Towson in 2000, began taking classes in 1992, so he and Jacki went to a game together.

They attended the next two home games versus Hofstra and Liberty. He said after the Liberty game, he noticed that one of the assistant coaches at the time, Paul Buckmaster, worked for the National Security Agency, where Ed worked for 34 years before retiring less than two years ago. He reached out to Buckmaster, who gave him tickets to see the team’s next game at Delaware State University.

After that game at Delaware State, Ed and Jacki were hooked. They went to join the football boosters program, and realized that there was none. A boosters program is in charge of fundraising money for a certain group. After talking with and getting approval from then-Towson Football Head Coach Gordy Combs, Ed took off work that Monday to plan Towson’s booster program, the Quarterback Club.

“I love football. I played football in high school. I grew up in Ohio, where football is king,” Ed said. “The opportunity to be involved with a college football program just excited me. I couldn’t believe that a head coach would talk to me. I thought it was crazy that a football coach at a Division I school would bring me into the fold.”

During his bout with Lymphoma, Ed based his treatment schedule around the football schedule. Typically, he would have treatment on Fridays, but if an away game required him to travel far out of town, he would reschedule treatment for a different day. 

“I don’t know anybody that would or could do what he does,” Beck Cheripko, a mother of two Towson Football alumni, said. “And to have a wife that supports it, it’s the two of them. It’s pretty amazing.”

A good chunk of Ed’s paid leave from the NSA each year was used so that he could be with the football team and travel to away games. Because of Delaware’s proximity to Towson, Ed and Jacki drove up the day of the game, and Ed would not have had to use his leave had he still been working for the NSA.

For the Delaware game, Ed woke up at 6, got some Dunkin coffee and ice, and then drove up to Delaware with Jacki, getting to the tailgate spot around 9 a.m. Because of the weather and the nature of an away game albeit being at Delaware, Ed did not do his usual set up. 

At a normal home game, he has lots of parents and friends coming, as well as some Towson Athletics faculty. Ahead of a big game against Morgan State, Ed said there were 500 people that went to his tailgate. On the back of his truck, Ed has a trailer, which he has only had for about five years, which contains a grill, tables, chairs, a TV, a bar with alcohol, and more. 

Despite being a diehard Towson fan, Ed welcomes anyone to his tailgate, no matter which team they’re rooting for. When going to games, he tries to be consistent in where he tailgates so that parents can easily find him, in the off chance that they miss his email that gets sent out to over 600 people. 

“We’re just here to have fun,” Ed said. “In the stadium, it’s a different story. Out here, it’s just for fun.”

Every week during football season, Ed sends out an email to people with information about where he will be tailgating. He says that after a player is done with the program, he doesn’t take their parents off of the email chain- if they want to leave the group they can, but Ed welcomes any alumni parents back to his tailgates. 

Cheripko said that her son Cole is the youngest of five kids, and they played sports in college as well. Now that Cole is done, they will have more time on their hands. Cheripko said she will definitely continue to support Towson Football, show up to Ed’s tailgates, and cheer on the Tigers at football games.

While Ed has no idea when he might stop hosting the tailgates and running the booster program, he may already have someone in line to take over once he’s done. Taylor Patterson originally came into contact with Ed through his son, who worked for the NSA along with Taylor. Taylor then became a Towson student and has since graduated and become a season ticket holder for Towson Football.

Gunnar, Ed’s son, met Taylor in 2014 and brought her to her first Towson Football game on Sept. 20, 2014 against North Carolina Central. Since then, Gunnar has stopped going to games as often because he has young children, but Taylor still goes to all home games and some away games. 

Taylor said that, with some practice, she is prepared to take over for Ed and Jacki after they are done with hosting tailgates. 

“If that’s what Ed wants, that’s something that I’d definitely be interested in. Obviously, Ed will probably be doing this until he’s in a wheelchair,” Taylor joked, “but that is something I definitely want to continue just because of how much I’ve gotten out of it, and how much I want to continue it, too.”

While Taylor doesn’t go to every away game currently, she said that if she takes over for Ed, she would attend every home and away game. For now, Ed has no plans of stopping. He and Jacki have been with the football program now through two different coaches, and next season will mark the beginning of the third head coach that Ed and Jacki have worked with in their long tenure with the football program.

With a new head coach comes a bit of uncertainty as to Ed’s role with the football program, but he says that he has already been in contact with new Towson Football Head Coach Pete Shinnick, and he was assured that he will have a role with the team, and he’ll be able to keep on doing what he does, as he has for the last 32 years.

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