There was controversy, sustained hope and a little bit of disappointment left over in College Park yesterday in the wake of Maryland's 28-26 victory over North Carolina Saturday.
First, the controversy. After North Carolina failed on a two-point conversion attempt with 22 seconds left, the Tar Heels had to kick off in a situation obviously calling for an onside kick. After Maryland was penalized 15 yards because happy fans stormed the field and uprooted the west goal post, Bob Rogers kicked the ball, then fell on it in a pile at the Maryland 36.
Bradley Faircloth, the Atlantic Coast Conference supervisor of officials, said yesterday that two officials threw flags into the pile because they saw Rogers touch the ball about one yard before it had traveled the required 10. Some observers, including ABC-TV commentators, felt that a Maryland player may have touched the ball first, which would have allowed Rogers' recovery to stand. Carolina would have had the ball with no timeouts and 20 seconds left.
But there was another issue unmentioned by the ABC-TV crew. A third official had called Carolina offsides on the kickoff. The flag lay about eight yards from the Tar Heels' bench. Maryland declined that penalty and exercised its option to keep the ball, which it did, and ran out the clock for the victory.
"What went unnoticed was that Carolina was offsides when it kicked off," Faircloth said yesterday. "The worst that could have happened for Maryland is that Carolina would have had to kick the ball over again (after a penalty)." Faircloth said he watched the television replays yesterday morning, but "found them inconclusive" as to whether Rogers or a Maryland player touched the ball first.
Faircloth, who was watching the play in Byrd Stadium, said he saw no need for the controversy, "assuming the officials called the play right." He said he would review the play as normal procedure.
In Chapel Hill, Dick Crum, coach of previously undefeated and third-ranked North Carolina, said through a spokesman that he would not comment publicly on the play. But one school official said, "The point our people would make is that the replay seems to show Maryland did touch the ball first and we did recover. And the worst that should have happened is that we should have kicked again."
Coincidentally, Rogers tried the play successfully against Texas in the Sun Bowl last January, then kicked a 53-yard field goal. Had Carolina executed the play successfully Saturday, Maryland officials would have had to replace the west goal post, which would have taken 30 minutes. An ABC-TV official said yesterday the network was already in trouble for televising until 7:14 p.m., 14 minutes past the allotted time.
"We thought if it had been necessary," the spokesman said, "that Carolina could have turned around and kicked the field goal at the other goal posts." But the NCAA rules do not allow that. And in this case, with a 15-mph wind blowing toward the east, there would have been considerable controversy. But because of the offside penalty, the point is moot.
Now, for the little bit of disappointment. Maryland is 7-1 overall and likely to be ranked in the top 10 in both wire service polls. The Terrapins will travel to Auburn Saturday to play the Tigers, who are also 7-1 and nearly certain to replace Carolina as the No. 3 team in the nation.
A network dream, right? Wrong. The game will not be telecast. CBS, which had the option of showing the game nationally or regionally, decided not to show it at all. CBS will instead telecast (from Jacksonville) Georgia against Florida, which lost Saturday to Auburn, and Pitt at Notre Dame, which has lost on network television to Michigan State and Miami.
"Obviously, it's a commercial decision," Dick Dull, director of athletics at Maryland, said yesterday. "They're not looking at what is best for college football. They're looking at how many viewers Notre Dame will attract. Those two teams (Pitt and Notre Dame) aren't ranked in the top 10. CBS is missing a lot of good football games and I don't understand it. They've ignored us and the ACC for most of the season."
Mark Carlson of CBS said, "It was a very tough decision. But Georgia-Florida is a very traditional game in the South and Maryland-Auburn is an intersectional game which has no real bearing on the conference race. Maryland-Auburn wasn't given consideration for a national game. The Florida loss bothered us somewhat. But we only have one Maryland appearance left this season, and we may want to use it on Nov. 19 when they play North Carolina State because we are going regional that day."
ABC then passed, but had a fairly good reason. "We obviously are sending shock waves through the Washington area and the ACC," said ABC's Donn Bernstein. "But we only have one Auburn appearance left (by NCAA rules) and we want Georgia-Auburn, which could be for the Southeastern Conference title, on Nov. 12.
"It's a shame," Bernstein said. "Maryland-Auburn belongs on television. No question."
Instead, ABC will show Oklahoma at Missouri, Alabama at LSU and Washington State at Oregon State.
Dull tried to work quickly to get the game televised on closed circuit in Cole Field House, but said it couldn't be done or promoted properly in less than a week. "If we keep winning," Dull said, "the networks have to show us. All the bowl games are televised, aren't they?"
Which brings up the sustained hope. Maryland's victory not only gives the Terrapins the inside track on winning the ACC, but also on getting invited to the Orange, Sugar, Fiesta or Cotton Bowl. Should the Terrapins win the rest of their games--at Auburn, at Clemson and at N.C. State--they would probably appear in the Orange, Cotton or Sugar. A 9-2 finish could get Maryland into the Fiesta, which is interested in having an eastern team to boost ratings.
Maryland set two attendance records Saturday. The crowd of 51,200 put the season total at 278,415 (24,000 more than the previous mark) and the average at 46,403.
Carolina tailback Ethan Horton, injured late in the game, underwent arthroscopic surgery last night to remove a cartilage fragment from his left knee. He is expected to play again this season.