Maryland, American and George Washington have expressed an interest in participating in a holiday basketball tournament involving area teams at Capital Centre.
Jerry Sachs, president of Capital Centre, said yesterday he is in the preliminary stage of contacting area schools and has not asked for, nor received, any commitments.
"We'd be happy to talk to all the local teams," Sachs said. "With the right participants, it could be a very successful event. Right now, we're just feeling out a few of the athletic directors to determine the level of interest.
"We're not very far into the exploratory stage, but we'd like to see if it's foreseeable for next year," Sachs said. "But it doesn't have to happen next year. We think the area could support such a tournament. With the popularity of college basketball in this area, it could be terribly attractive." Sachs said the tournament could involve a mix of local teams and programs of national prestige, or just local teams. "It could go either way," he said.
Because so many teams are committed to play in warm-weather climates during the Christmas season, such a tournament probably would be played during Thanksgiving weekend.
Dick Dull, athletic director at Maryland, supports such a tournament, saying yesterday, "I think a tournament involving local teams is a direction in which we ought to move. We have an obligation to the community." Chip Zimmer, acting athletic director at George Washington, said there is great interest at his school.
Many coaches and athletic directors interviewed this week said they feel a holiday tournament is the only way schools in this area will play each other.
"A tournament seems to be the only real solution," Zimmer said. "We'll never solve the problem of 'Well, I'm not going to Fort Myer to play AU,' or 'I'll play Maryland here, but not at Cole Field House,' or 'We won't play Howard on the road.'
"We (the area schools) are being awfully short-sighted," Zimmer said. "It's a crime against the fans that we can't get together with one another."
For the last two years, at nearly every Maryland basketball press conference, a reporter has asked Coach Lefty Driesell, "When is Maryland going to play Georgetown?"
Everybody laughs, including Driesell, but the question is legitimate; not just for Maryland, but Georgetown and GW also. American is the only school playing all the local schools, except Howard. And AU is likely to begin a yearly series with Howard next year.
"It's super-frustrating trying to schedule local games," said Howard Coach A.B. Williamson. "I don't even approach Maryland or Georgetown any more. I'm tired of all the politics."
Why are games between local teams so hard (or impossible) to schedule?
Talk to athletic directors and coaches, on the record, and they say things like, "We couldn't agree on a suitable date," or, "We have so many conference games it's hard to fit everybody in," or, "We don't want to play X on the road right after a tough conference game."
The real answers are found in conversations for nonattribution. The best local team (Georgetown now, Maryland in the 1970s) has nothing to gain from playing George Washington, American or Howard. Maryland dropped George Washington after losing two straight years to the Colonials, once by 10 points at Cole Field House.
Years ago, unheralded teams at Georgetown loved to play reluctant Maryland with a chance to beat a national power. Now, with Georgetown a national power, Driesell and Dull want to resume the series. The Terrapins last played GW during the 1978-79 season, Georgetown in 1979-80.
"I wrote (Coach) John Thompson and asked him about playing in the Capital Centre on New Year's Eve," Driesell said.
"Maybe college basketball can replace Guy Lombardo," joked Frank Rienzo, athletic director at Georgetown. Rienzo said he does not want to play a local school when both student bodies are on vacation.
Georgetown, on top locally, doesn't want to play American at Fort Myer any more--only at Capital Centre or no place at all. Georgetown would rather not play GW in its 5,000-seat Smith Center.
Dull even said yesterday that Maryland is not interested in resuming a 54-year series with GW unless all games are played at Cole Field House.
"Obviously, we're in a much better position to gain something than Maryland or Georgetown would," said Zimmer. "They're already at the top of the hill and we're scratching to get there."
Also, there's the practice of buying victories. All local teams (and teams all over the country) appear guilty of that. Bring in a nobody or a Division II team, guarantee $5,000 or so and presto--a home victory.
For example, Division II Monmouth College plays at George Mason, at Georgetown, at George Washington and at Howard this season.
Then there are personality conflicts.
"If you like the opposing coach, obviously you'll give him a game before somebody you don't like," said one local coach.
Georgetown's Rienzo said he isn't sure there is an overpowering need to have the local teams play each other.
"That concern held a higher priority when more teams were independent," Rienzo said. "But now, with everybody playing conference schedules, the number of available dates both teams can agree upon are very limited.
"Will I stay awake if I don't see certain (local) matchups?" Rienzo asked. "Probably not."