Maryland vs. Duke: Terps seek to curb student fans' behavior during, after game
It was a basketball triumph followed by a black eye of national proportions. And 11 months later, Maryland officials and student leaders hope that only the first half of that narrative will be repeated Wednesday when the Terps' emotionally charged rivalry with Duke resumes at Comcast Center.
The clash in College Park on March 3 ended with Maryland toppling then-No. 4 Duke to clinch a share of the ACC regular season title. Maryland students stormed the court in celebration. Within hours, the revelry spilled onto Route 1, where fires broke out, property was ransacked and 28 people were arrested - the mayhem captured on video that, courtesy of YouTube, cast the school in an ugly, unruly light.
In hopes of averting a reprise, the university is staging a weeklong series of events stressing good sportsmanship - capped by a pregame pep rally and a postgame bonfire - designed to channel all the Terp-boosting/Duke-bashing mania to a constructive end.
Whether it will work is as much of a toss-up as Wednesday's game, which pits the fifth-ranked Blue Devils (19-2, 6-1), coming off their most lopsided defeat of the season, against the unranked but surging Terps (14-7, 4-3).
"You have to be careful," says former U.S. representative Tom McMillen (D-Md.), Maryland's star forward in the early 1970s, who supports any effort to raise the standard of game-day behavior at his alma mater. "It's a delicate dance, because the more you try to suppress this kind of stuff, the more it manifests itself."
It's not the first time university officials have sought to improve behavior at Comcast Center, where raucous crowds - dominated by the full-throttle chants of 4,000 undergraduates - give the Terps a decided home-court advantage. But it's the most broad-based, with student leaders taking the initiative and Athletic Director Kevin Anderson making game-day sportsmanship a priority shortly after assuming his post on Oct. 1.
The goal, explains Anderson, is to eliminate the vulgarity of students' chants without quashing their passion.
"Our student body is full of very creative, intelligent, clever young people," Anderson said in a recent interview. "And I do think their enthusiasm for the team and support of the team and cheering can be done without the use of profanity."
But at Maryland - and virtually every other college that plays major college sports - policing passion in the stands has proven a near impossible task.
While everyone agrees that rioting crosses the line, there's little consensus on what chants are out of bounds. What's crude to some - say, incessantly shouting, "HEY, YOU SUCK!" at visiting teams, as has become custom among Maryland students - is clever to others.
Moreover, in the view of many Maryland students, it's an essential ingredient to the Terps' on-court success, as well as a tradition to be carried on with vigor.
"Students aren't interesting in getting rid of 'sucks,' " says Steve Glickman, president of Maryland's Student Government Association, which is hosting Wednesday's pre- and post-game festivities as part of its effort to promote better sportsmanship. "We're trying to go after bigger words - stuff I don't think your editor would let in the article.