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After a lengthy ban, the ‘Hey’ song is back at Maryland sporting events

Maryland fans before a football game against SMU in September. (Scott Taetsch for The Washington Post)

As Maryland prepared to welcome members of its 2002 men’s basketball national championship team back to campus for a celebration during a game against Ohio State in February, Rudy Gersten renewed his quest to convince the athletic department to reinstate a sidelined musical tradition. Gersten didn’t receive a response to his email to Athletic Director Damon Evans, but the Maryland graduate and die-hard fan was thrilled to hear the familiar sound of “Rock and Roll Part 2” played in Xfinity Center during the Terps’ upset of the No. 22 Buckeyes.

Maryland played the stadium anthem — better known as the “Hey” song — by disgraced glam-rock star Gary Glitter at the men’s basketball team’s final home game three days later and again at Bob “Turtle” Smith Stadium when the baseball team hosted its first NCAA regional in June. Over the past few months, it could be heard during the Maryland women’s soccer team’s upset of Michigan in September and after key moments at home football games. A recorded version of the song will be played at basketball games this season.

“We felt like it was the right time to bring it back,” Jordan Looby, Maryland’s senior assistant athletic director of marketing strategy and fan experience, said of the song, which contributed to the intimidating atmosphere visiting teams encountered in College Park until the school banned it, seemingly for good, in 2004.

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“Rock and Roll Part 2” has a rich history at Maryland. Shortly after it was released and peaked at No. 7 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1972, the Maryland band, along with countless other college ensembles, added the song to its playlist. Also like at other schools, Maryland students appended their own lyrics to the tune. By the late 1980s, according to Washington City Paper, the song was accompanied by chants from the Maryland student section of “Hey! You suck!” and “We’re gonna beat the hell out of you and you and you!”

Maryland’s first attempt to ban “Rock and Roll Part 2” came in 1998, when then-athletic director Debbie Yow ordered band director Richmond Sparks to take it out of the rotation. Students responded by singing an a cappella version, and members of the Student Government Association requested a meeting with Yow to ask her to repeal the ban. By the Terrapins’ next home game, the band was back to playing the song.

“It helped energize our own team, and it made us a little more intimidating,” said Gersten, who attended Maryland from 1996 to 2000. “It made the crowd a little more difficult to play in front of.”

Yow banned “Rock and Roll Part 2” again, along with the pregame tradition of tossing crumpled newspapers toward the visiting team’s bench, in 2001, after Duke star Carlos Boozer’s mother was hit in the head by a plastic bottle thrown from the Maryland student section.

“The song has always been borderline,” Yow said at the time. “We’ve given the benefit of the doubt. The lyrics our students choose to use are profane. At this point, I think we have to look at it in a different way.”

Again, the song returned, only to be banned a third time in 2004. The Washington Post reported school officials “received a slew of complaints and loads of negative publicity” after Maryland fans chanted “F--- you, JJ” at Duke star JJ Redick during the final minute of the Blue Devils’ win in College Park in January of that year.

In the 18 years since, other schools, professional teams and leagues have discontinued the use of “Rock and Roll Part 2” at games after Glitter, whose real name is Paul Gadd, was convicted of numerous sex crimes. In 2006, Gadd was convicted of committing obscene acts with children. In 2015, he received a 16-year prison sentence for sexually abusing three young girls in the 1970s. (After “Rock and Roll Part 2” was featured in the 2019 Oscar-nominated film “Joker,” the New York Times reported Gadd is no longer entitled to royalties for his music.)

“It would make a lot more sense if that were the reason [Maryland] banned it,” Gersten said. “The fact that they banned it as punishment for a separate incident — the ‘Eff you, JJ’ chant — doesn’t really make sense. Those students, they went on to graduate and new students came in. You’re continuing to punish everybody for that one chant that one time?”

Yow left Maryland for North Carolina State in 2010, but the ban remained. Gersten tried on multiple occasions over the next decade to lobby her successors to reinstate the song, but his attempts fell on deaf ears.

“Traditions do not grow on trees,” said Gersten, who took to social media and message boards to encourage fellow Maryland fans and alumni to email Evans about bringing the song back in February. “They’re hard to start; they’re even harder to sustain. If the tradition died on its own, then that’s one thing.”

For a while after the song was last officially banned, the “Rock and Roll Part 2” tradition lived on in College Park. The students’ a cappella version was especially strong during a victory over Duke on Greivis Vásquez’s senior night in 2010.

“The students would still chant it even though the band wouldn’t play it,” said Looby, who has worked at Maryland since 2013. “We started playing loud music to drown them out, but college students, they’re going to find a way, so they started doing it right after tip-off because they knew we couldn’t play music at that moment. Over the years, it’s just slowly gone away.”

Looby said he heard from a lot of alumni over the past decade who wanted the song reinstated, but he wasn’t sure whether enough fans would remember the tradition for it to catch on when it was played against Ohio State this year.

“That was answered pretty quickly,” he said. “There was a recognition, like, ‘Whoa, they brought it back.’ And then people chanted it.”

Maryland has played the song over the public address system after big moments at home football games this season, and the accompanying chants could be heard loud and clear. Looby said using a recording of the song, as opposed to having the marching band or pep band play it live, gives the crew responsible for in-game entertainment greater flexibility as to when the song is deployed. He also said the reaction to the song’s return has been almost entirely positive.

“It was a Maryland-specific tradition that meant something different here than it did at other schools,” Looby said, “and we were excited to finally bring it back after having fans ask us for it for so long.”