Passions normally confined to Cole Field House spilled out onto the steps of the McKeldin Library at the University of Maryland in College Park yesterday as more than 150 people debated the qualities of basketball coach Lefty Driesell.
In a midday demonstration that would have had a sporting quality except for the seriousness of the topic--and the somewhat vicious chants that filled the air--a throaty band of students favoring Driesell pitted their vocal chords against a coalition of groups calling for Driesell's resignation.
"Hey, hey, ho, ho, Lefty Driesell has got to go!" shouted members of the campus Women's Center, Progressive Student Alliance, Food Co-op and activists in the student government.
The rival faction, hailing largely from fraternity houses, countered with "Lefty! Lefty! Lefty!" And later: "ACC, ACC, ACC!"--for the Atlantic Coast Conference in which Maryland's teams compete.
Over the years, students, alumni and a stray sportswriter or two have been known to complain about Driesell--usually about his coaching ability. But the coach has been the object of much off-court discussion since last month when he was reprimanded by university Chancellor John B. Slaughter for making telephone calls to a woman whose complaint about an alleged sexual assault by basketball star Herman Veal resulted in late-season athletic ineligibility for Veal.
The reprimand called actions by Driesell, including the phone calls, "unacceptable" intervention in the case.
Driesell was nowhere to be seen yesterday as his detractors unfurled banners made from bedsheets that said "Bench Lefty" and "Women Before Basketball."
They also waved placards with messages such as, "We need Lefty like a fish needs a bicycle" and "Lefty Driesell has fouled out."
However, Veal, a junior who has been tight-lipped about his coach's intervention in his behalf, looked on quietly from the fringe of the crowd.
"Everytime they do something against Driesell , they're doing it to me," he said.
Later, in the din of pro-and-con rhetoric, he said, "There are a hundred things I'd rather be hearing about." Asked if he planned to remain at Maryland for his senior year, Veal replied, "Why shouldn't I?"
Students at the rally, many of whom turned out last week to protest the visit by a Playboy magazine photographer taking pictures of university women for a display on the "Girls of the ACC," said Driesell should resign because his behavior helped foster a perception that athletes and sports are more important than scholarship and women's rights.
"Herman Veal is not the issue, it's Lefty's conduct," said John Rogers, a student government member, speaking into a bullhorn. "This is one of the top 10 schools for violence against women. Lefty's behavior promotes these perceptions."
Driesell supporters shouted at Rogers and other speakers on the steps of the library to "Cut your hair," and "Get a job!" and some took up a chant that defamed the character of the woman who filed the sexual assault complaint.
Freshman Neil Lewis scribbled "Lefty is Great" on a piece of paper, folded it into a plane and launched it toward the other side.