Maryland freshman Christina Dias is not a basketball fan, and she’s attended classes in College Park for less than nine months.
But as she lay on the grass at McKeldin Mall in the middle of campus Thursday afternoon, even she could appreciate the significance of men’s basketball Coach Gary Williams announcing his retirement.
“Even as somebody who doesn’t care about basketball and never goes to the games, I still know that he’s a huge deal,” Dias said. “He’s such a big part of Maryland athletics, it’s really kind of sad.”
News spread quickly across the campus late Thursday afternoon after Williams, 66, announced through the athletic department his retirement after 22 seasons at Maryland.
But while the more than a dozen students interviewed on campus within hours of the announcement unanimously expressed surprise and disappointment, there were no immediate outward signs in College Park that anything had happened.
“It’s a sad day for all of us,” senior criminal justice major Ryan Cook said as he sat eating at Stamp Student Union. “I’m going to miss the guy.”
Athletic Director Kevin Anderson sent a campus-wide e-mail with the news shortly after his department sent out an official news release, and word of the coach’s retirement spread from there.
Students say their Facebook news feeds and Twitter accounts were inundated with reaction to Williams’s announcement, and it seemed to them like everybody they knew had already heard.
“I just saw Facebook blow up,” senior neurobiology and physiology major Ryan Longchamps said as he walked through a mostly deserted area right outside Comcast Center. “Everybody’s hearing about it slowly but surely. He’s a big reason why I came here.”
While there were no visible on-campus tributes right away, Anderson encouraged students to attend Williams’s news conference Friday afternoon at Comcast Center, and several students said they would likely attend.
University President Wallace D. Loh was scheduled to hold a reception for graduates Thursday night, and at least one group of friends planned to wear T-shirts proclaiming “Garyland” instead of “Maryland.”
Students interviewed said they had no idea an announcement like this could be coming, but more than one speculated that the Terps’ failing to make the postseason last year and sophomore center Jordan Williams’s announcement this week that he would remain in the NBA draft influenced Gary Williams’s decision.
“Gary Williams is the face of Maryland basketball and has been especially since the  national championship,” sophomore Bryan Wilson said. “But I also think that because it’s been so long since the national championship, maybe it is time for somebody else to step in and hopefully take it in a new direction.”