Maryland's 8-3 regular-season record, national exposure as a result of a seven-game winning streak and an invitation to the Aloha Bowl have come "more rapidly . . . than we expected," Dick Dull, the school's director of athletics, said yesterday.
Because of the football program's resurgence, Dull said that new, permanent bleachers seating about 5,000 probably will be added at Byrd Stadium before next season and that new lights will be installed at the adjacent practice fields.
These plans were announced with one game remaining in Bobby Ross' first year as head coach, and less than a year after the team finished 4-6-1 under former coach Jerry Claiborne.
Dull was asked if Ross' four-year contract would be extended or improved. "I can't say now because I haven't even discussed things with Bobby yet," Dull said. "But Jim Kehoe (former Maryland athletic director) told me that after a season like this, teams needing coaches would be after Bobby. I'll tell you this, I will keep my football coach.
"He's given us instant credibility. I can't think of another man in the nation who more deserves coach of the year."
Dull said the athletic department will not have a celebrity spokesperson for the team next year. Maryland employed comedian Rodney Dangerfield last season and model/actress Susan Anton this year.
"I think we're at the point now where the football team can stand on its own," Dull said. "I'd say Bobby Ross is recognizable enough." Dull added that the athletic department will be just as aggressive and spend the same amount on promotions.
Dull said the football program "was at a standstill" when Claiborne left to take over as Kentucky coach last December, and called this season "the most satisfying athletic achievement" he had ever experienced.
"We have a very firm foundation now for a very good recruiting year," Dull said. "Step two in our thinking is to win the three games we lost this year (to Penn State by eight points, to West Virginia by one and to Clemson by two.)
"One season doesn't put us in a league with the traditional football powers that have been there for 20 and 30 years," Dull said. "But we're on our way."
After Saturday's 45-14 victory at Virginia, Ross was asked if the team's performance fulfilled his expectations. "I tried not to have any expectations, one way or another," Ross said. "I just took it one game at a time. I know coaches always say things like that, but that's the way I approached it."
Ross and his staff held a long meeting yesterday morning to plot recruiting strategy. The Terrapins will meet Monday afternoon, but will not resume practices again until about Dec. 12.
On Christmas Day in Honolulu, Maryland will play either UCLA or Washington in the Aloha Bowl. If Arizona State defeats host Arizona Saturday night, Arizona State will represent the Pacific-10 in the Rose Bowl, UCLA will go to the Aloha and Washington will go to the Fiesta.
If Arizona wins, UCLA (9-1-1) would win the Pac-10, Washington would play Maryland in the Aloha and Arizona State would play in the Fiesta.
Aloha Stadium, which has a capacity of 50,000, is already sold out. Each participating school will receive about 5,000 tickets. If any tickets go unsold, they will be returned to Honolulu, where there is a waiting list. The Terrapins will leave for Hawaii Dec. 19.
There were three bizarre games in the West Saturday, the wackiest involving Stanford and California.
Stanford was leading, 20-19, after kicking a 35-yard field goal with 35 seconds left, and appeared headed for the Hall of Fame Bowl.
But on the ensuing kickoff, California players lateraled the ball five times, Kevin Moen running the last 20 yards through fans and Stanford band members who had assumed the game was over, as the Bears scored and won it, 25-20.
"Once I got past the last white jersey, I wasn't going to let any band member stop me," said Moen, who started the play by catching the kickoff at his 45-yard line.
"We thought the play was dead. We would never do anything to hurt our team," said an unidentified member of Stanford's band who was knocked down on the play.
Stanford complained that one Cal player, Dwight Garner, was already down when he lateraled. But, said Stanford Athletic Director Andy Geiger, "There is no procedure I know of for an appeal."
Stanford quarterback John Elway said, angrily: "That was an insult to college football. They ruined my last game as a college football player."
Heavily favored Washington was all set to go to the Rose Bowl, but lost to Washington State, 24-20. And UCLA, still in the Rose picture, won, 20-19, when the Bruin defense sacked Southern California quarterback Scott Tinsley on a two-point conversion attempt with no time remaining.
It is likely to be the second straight year Notre Dame will not receive a bowl invitation. The Irish lost, 30-17, to Air Force.
Air Force accepted an invitation yesterday to play Vanderbilt in the sixth annual Hall of Fame Bowl New Year's Eve.
The Commodores accepted an invitation Saturday after beating Tennessee-Chattanooga, 27-16, and boosting their season record to 7-3. Vandy has a final game to play, against Tennessee.
Air Force (7-4), having upset Notre Dame, will end its regular season next weekend at Hawaii. It was the Falcons' first defeat of the Fighting Irish in 12 games.