It was the Terrapins' football games against the Tar Heels that lured Maryland Del. John R. Hargreaves (D-Carolina) to College Park yesterday and that suited the school's administration just line.
Even though they sometimes complain that too many legislators see them only as a football institution and give short shrift to other university financial needs, University of Maryland officials relied yesterday on the surefire draw of two free tickets to Maryland football as a means of "getting acquainted" with the General Assembly.
So Hargreaves, House appropriations chairman, and his wife and three dozen other legislators and their companions dropped by the College Park campus before the game for a lecture, a cocktail, some soft-sell lobbying and sumptuous buffet.
They had to attend the pregame functions to pick up their tickets worth $8 each. Football, amost everyone admitted, was the most popular attraction.
"As long as it's productive for them (the University)," said Hargreaves, reflecting on his free tickets and sipping a bloody mary," then I guess it's money well spent." Then he grinned.
Since the days of "Carle" Byrd, the University of Maryland president before Dr. Wilson H. Elkins took over in 1954, the school has performed its "Legislators Day" tradition with relish.
Dr. Robert L. Guckerstern, chancellor of the College Park campus, acknowledged that it is the "lure of football" that makes for good will before the "heat" of the legislative session, where 40 per cent of the school's budget is allocated.
And it is "prayers," he told his polite audience before three dry technical lectures yesterday, that he engages in most frequently when the General Assembly meets each spring.
Despite Gluckstern's confidence that the annual tradition was a worthy endeavor to gain "understanding of the university," he and several legislators were defeusive about it.
"This is a longstanding tradition," Gluckstern said. "But I can see the headline," he added, sweeping his right hand through the air. "'Crass Means of Influence-Buying at the University of Maryland . . .'"
Gluckstern said the meal and drink, worth approximately $10 a person, were paid for out of a special fund for "public events" and the tickets were provided by the athletic department. The UNC-Maryland game was chosen, he said, because the athletic department figured the game would not be a sellout and providing the tickets would not be a loss.
In fact, the university is not alone in its generosity toward the legislators and the free football tickets were not much different than the time-honored racetrack passes given to senators and delegates by the thorough-bred track owners. Criticism of that and other practices in the past has angered many legislators.
While legislators sipped bloody marys and screwdrivers served from huge punch bowls, Del. Frederick C. Rummage (D-Pringe George's) explained that to him the function was an obvious "public relations" gesture and not "lobbying."
Del. Joel Chasnoff (D-Howard-Montgomery) indignantly noted that he thought the "issue of taking a (free) ticket is an overplayed overworked issue."
But state Sen. Howard A. Denis (D-Montgomery) objected so much to the free tickets that he sent Gluckstern a blistering rejection to the university's Legislators Day invitation. "This is far and in excess of normal lobbying," he said in an interview. "I also send back racetrack passes. We get two from each track around the state and I cut the tickets in half and send them back."
In response to Denis' letter, Gluckstern sent what Denis called a "snippy" reply defending the practice. ". . . If this practice has influenced support (at the legislature) that fact appears to be unrecognizable from my review of legislative budget actions over the last several years."
On the surface yesterday, however, the good will flowed with the one or two drinks, the buffet of delicacies like strawberry crepe, quiche lorraine and rounded balls of fresh fruit.
Sen. Victor L. Crawford (D-Montgomery) helped himself to a cocktail and said half mockingly: "One does not 'lobby.' The technique of this thing is to 'get to meet people.' Anyhow when a lobbyist takes you out to dinner you seldom talk about business.I'd call this 'genteel lobbying.'"
Del. R. Charles Avara (D-Baltimore City) and a "great supporter" of the university, said he had changed his mind about "qualms" he once held about accepting Maryland football tickets.
When he became vice chairman of the appropriations committee, Avara said he began to feel "more comfortable" about it, even though he would rather pay for the tickets. "We have a chance to talk to these people here, some who have short fuses when they come to Annapolis. So I figure why not iron out our differences before the session?"
Throughout the year, the university engages in other forms of soft-sell lobbying, from private discussions with legislators to invitations to the annual piano competition and a legislators' basketball game.
The university traditionally has found stiff criticism of its budget requests in Annapolis because some legislators argue the school has too much independent power over its expenditures and is not practical enough in the content of its services.
Consequently, legislators yesterday were shown slide shows about transportation, physical fitness and sterile milk research potentially beneficial to the state.
"This is ridiculous," sniped one student as the lecture continued. "I thought we were coming here to get our faces known since we'll be lobbying these people in the legislature."