Terps should see to it that Memorial Stadium football memories aren't so fleeting

John Steadman

September 14, 1990|By John Steadman

WITH TRUMPETS blaring and drums rolling, the major football season in Baltimore is about to open and close . . . in one day. Just like that it's over. The city deserves a better fate. Maryland and Clemson provide a Saturday matinee that should make for a superb attraction but that's not enough.

It'll be enticing but not entirely satisfying. The beginning is the end. Sixty minutes and then no more. The end. A one-shot deal. The state's major football-playing colleges, either Maryland or Navy, sometimes pay a courtesy call. They are paid well for the visit.

It hardly seems fair. Nothing more than a tease. A mere taste, so to speak, and then the plate is pulled away. Once, too, there was a franchise known as the Baltimore Colts that operated for 35 years until it was stolen away under the cover of darkness, an insipid act that disgraced the National Football League -- even though it was powerless to intervene.

That's all part of history. The pros offer exciting recall. But, likewise, too, the glorious college game of decades past and so many Saturday afternoon heroes. Such teams as Ohio State, Notre Dame, Penn State, Syracuse, California, Wisconsin, Michigan, Southern California, Princeton, Cornell, Yale, Northwestern, Georgia Tech, Harvard, Dartmouth and others ranked among the elite of a particular era came to play Navy or Maryland.

There were two Army-Navy classics, 1924 and 1944. Knute Rockne first brought Notre Dame to Baltimore in 1927 to test Navy and, for a period of years, played here every other season. Such glittering names as Larry Kelly, Tom Hamilton, Bill Busick, Clint Frank, Buzz Borries, Dick Duden, Jackie Jensen, Bob Sagau, Don Whitmire, Angelo Bertelli, Felix "Doc" Blanchard, Glenn Davis, Clyde "Smackover" Scott, Bill Shakespeare, Leon Hart, Bob Williams and so many others of similar distinction played on the location where Clemson and Maryland meet tomorrow.

And then, too, let's not forget Johns Hopkins, St. John's and Western Maryland when they made appearances against Maryland, before the Terrapins outgrew their intra-state competition. Perhaps the most impressive performer of all was Bill Shepherd, the Western Maryland halfback, who led the nation in scoring in a year when his team was ranked 17th in the country, one ahead of Texas and two behind Notre Dame.

Even the first North-South postseason bowl game, which was moved on to the warmth of Miami, was played here. A snowstorm obscured the yard lines and sent the spectators into a deep-freeze. So Baltimore has a long-standing fascination and a passion for football. Unfortunately, in Maryland's magnificent seasons under coach Jim Tatum, it didn't book itself into Baltimore. Any wonder the city has carried such lukewarm feelings about Maryland?

The Terrapins needed Baltimore as much as Baltimore wanted a team to root for after the Colts defected. It's too late now to correct past mistakes but Maryland, if it's paying attention, should consider playing not once a year, or every other year, in Baltimore, but two or three times a season.

Let it make Baltimore its so-called "home away from home." Scheduling Navy has been suggested but the academy would be asking too much of its future officers to have them play another emotionally-taxing game against Maryland, considering it has to make this kind of an effort when it kicks off against Army, the Air Force and Notre Dame.

Maryland, without a doubt, needs a presence in Baltimore. Why shouldn't it play here? There are more seats in Memorial Stadium (63,000) than Byrd Stadium (41,000). Any reason a tradition shouldn't be created? Maryland missed a promising opportunity to transfer two or three of its home dates to Baltimore, rather than College Park, after the Colts became a memory.

At the close of the current campaign, Byrd Stadium undergoes revamping. Engineers promise construction will progress in such way it will not interfere with football next year. But in case it does, Baltimore is standing by. It's available. Maryland only needs to ask.

After the Orioles complete their use of the facility next year, prior to going to their new park, the stadium will be empty. In 1991, Maryland has three appealing engagements, with West Virginia, Sept. 21; Duke, Oct. 26; and Penn State, Nov. 9, that could easily be switched from College Park to Baltimore, with the tickets marketed via a package arrangement.

Such a plan would enhance the interests of all concerned -- Maryland, visiting teams and the fans. If Maryland has reservations than the governor should tell the school to do it.

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