The Maryland basketball team will play a home and home series with UCLA beginning next season, a move that is one step in Athletic Director Jim Kehoe's plan to generate more revenue from his basketball program.
The first step in the plan is to drop the 9-year-old Maryland Invitational Tournament, Kehoe said, replacing the two tournament games with UCLA and one other nationally prominent team each season.
The UCLA deal is virtually sealed, with the major remaining question being whether the 1981 game will be here or at UCLA.
Basketball Coach Lefty Driesell would like to host UCLA next season because the Terrapins' annual game with Notre Dame is in South Bend.
Maryland also is scheduled to open the 1981-82 season by playing in the Great Alaska Shootout, a three-day, 18-team tournament that annually includes several top 20 teams.
Kehoe wants to keep the second date open in case one of the teams scheduled to play in the MIT -- Army, Princeton and Long Island University -- insists on a game with Maryland.
Kehoe cited three reasons for canceling the MIT. "When we first started the tournament it was innovative and different," he said. "Now everyone has one. Second, it's hard to schedule three good teams. Third, back when we started this we were looking for publicity and exposure. Now we're looking for money, period." The MIT peaked in 1975 when UCLA was a participant and the two-night tournament drew 29,000 people, capacity for Cole Field House. That was also the only year Maryland did not win the tournament.
Since then, tournament fields have dropped in quality and attendance bottomed out last year when only 6,442 fans showed up for the two nights. That was also the first time the tournament lost money, about $26,000, Kehoe said.
"Maybe I sound like a bore, but the fact remains that the only way for us to make money is to schedule home games in Cole Field House," Kehoe said.
The tournament stopped being a moneymaker because it is not part of the season ticket plan. The school could not make the tournament part of the season ticket package because it had to divide tournament revenues with three schools.
Also hampering ticket sales is the fact that many Maryland season ticket holders receive tickets free because they are members of the Terrapin Club.
Kehoe also said that he is still trying to schedule a game for next season with Georgetown. The Hoyas are not on Maryland's schedule this year, because the two schools could not agree on a date or a place to play. That is still a problem in trying to schedule a game next season.
Kehoe and Driesell said they expect both UCLA games, which they tentatively scheduled for December, to be on national television. That revenue should more than make up for travel expenses.
"The exposure is certainly good for us," Driesell said. "What's more we haven't ever beaten UCLA (the two teams played in 1974 and 1975) and I would like to beat them.
"But we play a pretty tough schedule right now. Making it tougher is not exactly something I want to do. But I understand the situation. I know we need to make money and playing a team like UCLA is as good a way to do it as any."
The 10th and final MIT will be played Dec. 29-30 with Bowling Green, Marshall, and St. Joseph's as the participants.