Maryland announced Friday night that it would give away $10,000 to a student in attendance at Saturday’s football home opener against Towson, should the Terrapins return a punt for a touchdown in the second half.
It didn’t happen in the Terrapins’ 63-17 rout of the lower-division Tigers. Towson punted four times in the second half, with none of them resulting in a return of any yardage. Junior wide receiver D.J. Moore sent the student section into a frenzy early in the third quarter, when he fielded a punt and appeared to return it 61 yards for a touchdown — but it was called back after officials ruled that Moore had called for a fair catch and was interfered with by a Towson player.
Moore did find the end zone three times on offense, scoring on receptions of nine and 34 yards in the first quarter and adding a 21-yard touchdown run in the third.
The promotion, aimed at boosting attendance by encouraging the student section to remain filled after halftime against an overmatched foe, drew attention on Twitter after it was announced Friday night. Some pay-for-play advocates mocked the move, including Domonique Foxworth, a former Maryland standout and former president of the NFL Players Association who is now an ESPN Radio host.
Maryland had finalized the promotion before the season and followed other schools that have used such lures to boost student attendance. The school works with a promotional company to put up the money and pays an insurance premium for a portion of the $10,000, according to Maryland spokesman Zack Bolno.
“There are other institutions doing similar types of promotions,” Bolno said before the game. “This promotion is to enhance the fan experience. It’s an opportunity to engage our students and create excitement around our game-day environment.”
Not everyone felt the same:
This isn’t the first time a bottom-tier Big Ten team has used a marketing ploy to attract students to games. In 2015, Rutgers planned to give away $100,000 to students — breaking it up into $1,000 for 100 — if the Scarlet Knights returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown in their season opener against Norfolk State. In a cruel twist, Scarlet Knights wide receiver Janarion Grant returned the opening kickoff of the second half 80 yards for a touchdown.
Maryland’s student section boasted a capacity crowd for the first half of Saturday’s home opener against the Football Championship Subdivision Tigers, although there were plenty who were unaware of the giveaway — the athletic department’s Twitter account first promoted the giveaway late on Friday evening — and it remained to be seen how many would remain for the second half.
The last time Maryland returned a punt for a touchdown at home came last November in a postseason clinching win over Rutgers, although that 86-yard score came in the first half.