Maryland Terrapins Hope for Bigger Football Crowds

By Eric Prisbell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, October 24, 2008

Maryland faces the prospect of another less-than-capacity crowd for its game tomorrow against North Carolina State even though Coach Ralph Friedgen has implored fans to pack Byrd Stadium following what he considered disappointing attendance for last week's victory over Wake Forest.

As of yesterday afternoon, some 4,000 tickets were still available for tomorrow afternoon's game, and school officials feared that the weather forecast -- rain, thunder and strong wind gusts -- might deter some fans from coming, even on homecoming.

"Whether I have concerns or not, there is not much I can do about it," Friedgen said. "I have got enough concerns with my team. I would hope they would come. What's better than watching a football game in the rain?"

North Carolina State sold about 1,200 of its 4,000-ticket allotment, said Brian Ullmann, Maryland's senior associate athletic director for external operations. The rest of those tickets went on sale for Maryland fans, along with any additional unsold tickets. In all, 4,500 tickets were still available Tuesday, and just a few hundred more had been sold by yesterday afternoon.

"We don't care at all," wide receiver Danny Oquendo said about the attendance. "Whether the fans are behind us 100 percent, whether it is a packed house or not, we just want to win. We are not doing it for them. It is for us."

Oquendo and other players said they did not notice the partially empty upper deck for last week's game against Wake Forest. But it bothered Friedgen enough that he brought it up in his news conference following the 26-0 victory, saying: "I don't know what they want from this team. If you are fans, you stick with us, or you don't. We have to get this place hopping. It has to be a home-field advantage for us."

The announced crowd of 46,257 was the second-smallest crowd in the last 34 games at Byrd Stadium. Two school officials were not particularly disappointed by the attendance because they cited several contributing factors: the economy, a noon kickoff and a carry-over effect from Maryland's last game, a 31-0 loss at Virginia on Oct. 4.

Wake Forest sold 1,200 of its 4,000-seat allotment of tickets, with the rest going back to Maryland to sell for $27 each. While Wake Forest was ranked 21st nationally, Ullmann said a "false perception" about Wake Forest may have contributed to a lack of fan excitement.

"Even though they are a good team, they just haven't drawn here that well," Ullmann said. "They aren't like Florida State or Clemson. They don't have the same appeal to Maryland fans."

Even with a partially empty upper deck, center Edwin Williams said it was still beneficial to have the support from the crowd, adding: "The fans have always behind us this season, even in tough times. I think a lot more will come this Saturday because it is homecoming."

A home-field atmosphere could be particularly important for a Maryland team that will play three of its next four games at home with revived ACC title hopes. Maryland (5-2, 2-1 ACC) is tied with Boston College, Wake Forest and Florida State for first place in the Atlantic Division.

Friedgen said he understood some fan cynicism following the Virginia loss but said he is hoping for a better turnout now that the Terrapins are back in title contention. But unlike last week's game, which featured a nationally ranked opponent, the Wolfpack (2-5, 0-3) remains the only ACC team without a conference victory.

Oquendo said noon kickoffs can be too early for young fans but later start times, like tomorrow's 3:30 p.m. kickoff, should translate into a better fan showing.

"Home field is not that big of a deal to me," Oquendo said. "I prefer to play away sometimes. When I do hear something, I would like to hear boos. That motivates me a little more to play hard."

Terrapins Note: Friedgen confirmed that senior cornerback Kevin Barnes is out for the season and will undergo surgery to repair the fractured scapula (shoulder blade), torn labrum and torn rotator cuff he suffered against Wake Forest.

"He seems to be in good spirits," said Friedgen, who estimated a five-month rehab for Barnes. "He was hoping for the best. He was kind of in a little denial at first."

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