With Peach Bowl ticket sales slower than anticipated, Maryland football coach Ralph Friedgen has sent an e-mail urging members of the athletic department's primary booster club to buy tickets whether they plan to attend the game or not, saying, "Our future bowl participation may be determined by our fans' attendance."
Friedgen yesterday said that Maryland has sold 7,100 of the 20,000 tickets it purchased for the Dec. 31 game against Tennessee in Atlanta. Sales to the general public begin today.
According to sources familiar with the situation, Maryland told Peach Bowl officials it would guarantee the sale of 20,000 tickets -- 2,500 more than was required -- as an inducement to eliciting the invitation. To fill the ACC half of its lineup, the Peach Bowl also considered Virginia, which tied Maryland for second place in the conference and beat the Terrapins, 48-13, on Nov. 23. The Cavaliers were invited to the Continental Tire Bowl, which had the fifth choice of teams from the ACC.
Last season, Maryland sold 22,000 tickets for the Jan. 2 Orange Bowl in Miami, the Terrapins' first bowl game since 1990.
Asked yesterday about the importance of selling bowl tickets, Friedgen said that maintaining a reputation is important.
"The word gets around," he said. "I'm sure for the people of the Peach Bowl, that was a factor in their decision."
In his e-mail to Terrapin Club members, Friedgen stressed the importance of being known as a school that, in bowl vernacular, "travels well."
"Your support of my vision for Maryland Football has been heartwarming and encouraging, but I need your continued backing," the e-mail read. "The bowl representatives will be watching the Terps to see if our fans turn out in Atlanta as they did for the Orange Bowl and the Kickoff Classic.
"Our future bowl participation may be determined by our fans' attendance. Bowls select teams whose fans have a track record of traveling to support their team. If you don't think it's important, ask the University of Virginia, who were selected to play in the 5th pick bowl for the ACC."
The game is considered a sellout, but after Maryland and Tennessee bought tickets beyond what was required, plenty of tickets are available at both schools. Required to sell 17,500 tickets each, Maryland bought 2,500 extra and Tennessee 4,500.
"This week is a critical week," said senior associate athletic director Larry Leckonby, who is overseeing the team's bowl participation. "Right now, I'd say it's probably a slower pace than everyone anticipated. . . . I'm not ready to panic at all. Maybe talk to me Friday night, about 7 o'clock."
In a postscript to the e-mail, Friedgen addressed Terrapin Club members who are unable to attend the game but want to buy tickets "in support of the University of Maryland." Those individuals can purchase tickets that would be designated for use by "disadvantaged youth, law enforcement or military personnel in the Atlanta area," he wrote. ". . . And, you will receive the full tax benefit of donating the tickets to charity."
The ACC budgets money to assist schools that will not be able to sell their bowl ticket allotments. For Maryland, once the school sells 8,000 tickets, the ACC will assume the cost of any unused tickets up to the 17,500 tickets Maryland was required to purchase, ACC assistant commissioner Mike Finn said. However, Finn said, the conference will not assume the cost of any extra tickets purchased, making Maryland liable for the cost of the 2,500 tickets -- at $55 apiece -- it purchased from the Peach Bowl.
"Certainly, that would be significant," Leckonby said. "But we have some provisions in the [$1 million] bowl budget for some tickets. We'll have to see how it actually plays out."
Terrapins Notes: Offensive coordinator Charlie Taaffe said that he has had informal conversations with Wyoming representatives regarding that school's head coaching vacancy. Taaffe and Wyoming Athletic Director Lee Moon coached together at Virginia in the 1970s. . . .
Friedgen said senior fullback Chad Killian, who started the season's first five games but has been out since then because of a knee injury, is not expected to play in Atlanta.