As American troops begin another day of war against foreign nation on unfamiliar terrain, it's not hard for Maryland basketball coach Gary Williams to remember the last time the nation was in this situation.
"When I was in school in the '60s, we were in the middle of the Vietnam situation," said Williams yesterday. "That's when they were drafting guys. They'd give them physicals and when they )) got their degrees, they were drafted. They were taking guys left and right."
There hasn't been a draft for 17 years, but the society is nonetheless feeling the effects of the war in the Middle East. Some athletes are affected more directly. Aluma Goren, a freshman on the Maryland women's basketball team, is an Israeli citizen and a five-year veteran of that country's national team. She returned home in mid-December to visit her family. Goren, through a university spokesman, declined to comment on last night's Iraqi missile attack on Israel.
As the war escalates, people on and off the playing fields wonder aloud about the propriety of participating in games while Americans are engaged in combat.
Williams, 45, has thought about that, too, and he believes that it is good, both for the players and the country, to keep on playing.
"This is a pretty good lesson on how life works. Life isn't one smooth sailing operation," said Williams. "You don't want to put the players in jeopardy, but you've got to go on with your life.
"I don't think there's one person in this country that's not thinking of this. That doesn't mean that we shouldn't play these games. That wouldn't make us more concerned."
Athletic director Andy Geiger conferred with university president William E. Kirwan on the matter and said both men agreed with Williams.
"We are going to continue to play," said Geiger, affirming that the men's basketball team will travel to Tampa to play South Florida tomorrow night, while the women's team will host North Carolina Saturday afternoon.
In addition, members of both teams will wear American flag patches on their uniforms beginning this weekend.
"They will wear them as a tribute, not to the country but to the individuals," said Geiger. "There will be no institutional imposition."
Geiger said that he had not spoken with the school's athletes about their feelings on the subject of continuing to play or on making statements about American involvement, but would evaluate the situation during the next few days to see if continued play is appropriate.
"It's their game and their team," said Geiger. "We shouldn't force the kids to play, if they don't want to."
"Playing games is a big part of the academic experience. So, unless it becomes unseemly and they say, 'We're embarrassed,' I think we'll play."
Williams said he told his players after Wednesday's loss to Virginia that while the Terps are in the midst of a three-game losing streak and without the services of their best player, junior guard Walt Williams, there are other things of a higher importance to consider.
"There are a lot of really good basketball players who are over there, fighting for their country," said Williams. "We might be upset about losing or having to play without Walt. But I told them, 'Just remember that there are people in a much worse situation and to keep that in perspective.' "
The Atlantic Coast Conference yesterday decided, in a conference call of the eight athletic directors, to play the remainder of the schedule, after Wednesday's nationally televised North Carolina-North Carolina State game was postponed. It will be rescheduled, probably next month.
Dr. Paul Hardin, chancellor of North Carolina, said he approved of the ACC's decision to continue playing.
"I think that in times of war we need more than ever the escape of entertainment," he said. "We did not cancel the game out of any philosophical position. On Wednesday, we felt there was no interest in the game.
"We just felt that everyone at the arena wanted to be with their loved ones. Had we played and during the course of the game 200 service personnel would have been killed, we would have felt silly. Now war is a fact. Life will return more or less to normal. What has gone on will go on."
Tom Mickle, an ACC spokesman, said the league would serve as a "clearinghouse" for protocol, but would re-evaluate the decision if the national mood changed or if there were objections on the individual campuses.
* Maryland women's basketball player Carla Holmes, who was suspended from the team Dec. 12, was formally "released" from the team yesterday, according to a statement from the school's sports information department.
Holmes, who was suspended briefly last season, was released "to allow her to attend to her priorities," according to the statement, which said the decision was mutually agreed upon by Holmes and coach Chris Weller.