COLLEGE PARK -- Andy Geiger, Maryland's new athletic director, is "not at all satisfied" with attendance at the Terps' home football games this season.
Although four games remain, Maryland completed its home season last week before a Byrd Stadium crowd of 27,554 for its game against Wake Forest. Average attendance for five games, including 39,255 for Clemson at Baltimore's Memorial Stadium, was 31,664.
That's the Terps' lowest average since 1981, when they drew only 31,100 and had a 4-6-1 record in Jerry Claiborne's final year as coach. Last year's home average was 38,457 despite the team's sorry record of 3-7-1.
The poor attendance resulted in what Geiger calls a "shortfall" of $46,735. The ticket sales projection was $1,412,755; revenue was $1,366,020. The shortfall would have been worse had the budget not been drawn up with the idea the Clemson game would be played at Byrd.
"We were under projections for some games, but over for Clemson because it was switched to Baltimore," Geiger said. "I'm not at all satisfied. We have money problems and this doesn't help. We're behind, but we're not desperate."
Maryland ranks sixth in the eight-team Atlantic Coast Conference with its 31,664 home attendance figure. The ACC average is 42,888 thanks in large part to Clemson, which averages 78,750, more than 30,000 above No. 2 North Carolina (46,125).
Maryland's low attendance can't be attributed to the team's performance. The Terps won their first two games in dramatic fashion, yet there were more than 20,000 empty seats at Memorial Stadium when they met Clemson in their third game. Maryland will go into its match at Duke tomorrow with a 4-3 record.
"It's a shame we didn't draw more," said coach Joe Krivak. "This is a tough area. For two games [North Carolina State and Wake Forest], the crowd was under 30,000. It's a shame when you look at who we faced and how well the kids played."
"You can't put the blame on the team," Geiger said. "They've been better than expected. They throw; they've been entertaining."
In their search for answers, Maryland officials are inclined to put most of the blame on the quirky schedule. Five of the first seven games were at home; all five started at noon. The opener was Sept. 1, before the students returned to class.
"It's rare that the schedule has been so front-loaded," said Jeff Hathaway, assistant athletic director for sports marketing. "That hurt our season ticket sales. In the past, we've had home games spread through three months. I think a lot of people thought twice about committing five Saturdays out of seven to Maryland football when it was still beach and boating weather."
Hathaway could almost see the attendance dip coming. Season ticket sales were approximately 12,000, a drop of 2,000 from 1989.
"Also, for a couple games, the weather was less than conducive," Hathaway said. "Last Saturday, for example, it was overcast in the morning. That's when the decision to go to a football game is made."
Student attendance dropped dramatically. About half of the student section -- between 4,000 and 5,000 seats -- were empty for all home games. For the Clemson game, 6,500 student tickets weren't picked up, although the university provided free bus service to Baltimore.
"Why?" Hathaway said. "We were 2-0 going in, and it was Clemson. Did they go to the beach that weekend? Would it have been better to play in Baltimore in mid-November, like we usually do?"
Said Geiger, "We need to get a grip on what fans like. The !B games were jammed in at the beginning of the season. All of them started at noon, and I don't know if that's good. Should we play a few night games? Some people like to have a game in Baltimore, others don't."
Not once was Byrd's normal capacity of 41,500 taxed. With temporary seating, as many as 58,973 (for Penn State in 1975) have squeezed in.
In a marketing sense, Hathaway says the familiar things were done. Season ticket fliers were sent to alumni and previous purchasers. There were two giveaway days, key rings for Virginia Tech and baseball caps for Georgia Tech. Maryland bought newspaper ads and radio and TV commercials.
"We'll examine our marketing programs," Geiger said.
This year's wretched schedule was an aberration. Next year's card opens with Virginia, Syracuse and West Virginia here, followed by Pitt, Georgia Tech and Wake Forest on the road. Then it's Duke here, North Carolina on the road, Penn State here (or perhaps in Baltimore) and Clemson and North Carolina State away.
"We're paying attention to all of this," Geiger said, "and we'll learn from it."