SHREVEPORT, La. -- They dressed for practice in a hotel. The field is at a high school, two miles from a school called Green Acres Junior High. The practice surface is all brown grass, "AstroDirt" as one player called it, and as the University of Maryland conducted its first practice yesterday, members of the media conducted interviews.
Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the 1990 Poulan-Weed Eater Independence Bowl, in which Maryland (6-5) will meet Louisiana Tech (8-3) Saturday (8:12 p.m.) at Independence Stadium.
The Maryland team flew in yesterday morning, then held a 1-hour, 5-minute workout at Airline High. The Terps were greeted by a marching band whose members were on the runway when the plane landed. About 20 women, including the Miss Independence Bowl queen, lined up outside the plane to cheer the players.
The Independence Bowl, Maryland's first bowl appearance since the Cherry Bowl in 1985, is supposed to be a reward for the Terps who finished 6-5, their first winning season since 1985, against what was rated as the 11th-strongest schedule in the country.
But the Terps were a little grumpy when they arrived yesterday. And who could blame them?
Because of the athletic department's projected $3 million deficit for the season, the Terps went on a commercial flight instead of a chartered plane; one of those two-for-one deals.
"This is the Budget Bowl," said Maryland inside linebacker Scott Whittier.
The team left College Park on a bus yesterday at 4 a.m. to catch a 5:45 flight. The Terps stopped twice, once in Atlanta and then in Mobile, Ala., finally arriving in Shreveport at 11 a.m.
"I feel like I'm sick," said Maryland senior linebacker Glenn Page. "My insides are moving around I've been up so long. Plus, some of the guys have been up all night. They wanted to make sure they heard [quarterback] Scott Zolak sing Christmas carols on the bus."
The Terps were cheered up by their reception in Shreveport. They were given a police escort from the airport to the hotel and the same treatment from the hotel to the practice field.
"I felt pretty special," said Maryland junior linebacker Greg Hines. "It was kind of different. They were very hospitable and they made us feel important. They were treating us like we were national champions."
That was, until the Terps learned they had to change into the practice uniforms at the hotel, then ride back to the hotel after practice to shower.
"Yeah, we were walking through the halls and people were looking at us like we were nerds," said Page, jokingly. "I think the maids were impressed. You just had to remember you couldn't walk down the hall with only your jockey strap on."
The Terps were also surprised when they first saw the practice field. Initial reaction by Page: "My own 'Field of Dreams.' "
Hines: "Oh, a little taken back."
Fourth-year head coach Joe Krivak, in his first bowl appearance as a head coach, even let the once unpardonable happen.
Interviews were conducted during practice, a no-no at College Park.
"I didn't mind for the first day just as long as they don't videotape the practice," said Krivak.
After the practice, several players spoke of their plans for the evening. Krivak had imposed a 12:30 p.m. curfew.
"That's because everybody will have fallen out by then because they're so tired," said Brown.
Not necessarily. Barksdale Air Force base is near from Maryland's hotel. "Yeah, the way those planes keep flying in and out, we may never get to sleep. We might think Iraq is attacking or something," said Page.
"I heard they have a long list of activities for us," said Hines. "If they don't I don't know what we'll do in our spare time. It doesn't look like there's too much here."
In view of all this, why did the Terps tell athletic director Andy Geiger they wanted to accept the bid? Didn't they know Dallas was 180 miles away and New Orleans 300?
"Overall, I think everyone will and probably has enjoyed themselves," said Whittier. "This is a great game for the guys who are leaving the program and good for the younger ones to build on."
Hines said: "It's definitely been a long day and everybody is tired. But this is something special to us. This is our Orange Bowl. This is our national championship game."