College Park's act gets mixed reviews Attendance good

some students upset

March 18, 1991|By Don Markus | Don Markus,Sun Staff Correspondent

COLLEGE PARK. — COLLEGE PARK -- There were traffic jams, locked doors, parking problems and a displaced women's basketball team. There were big crowds, one memorable upset and an estimated $8 million to the local economy.

Was the National Collegiate Athletic Association East Regional coming back to Cole Field House and the University of Maryland after a 14-year absence long overdue, or was it an idea whose time had long passed? Will it be back again, or was this just a blast from the past?

Those are some of the questions that the university community and the NCAA tournament's championship committee will have to ponder. The event brought rave reviews from the NCAA, but it was met with mixed feelings by students, administrators and athletic-department personnel.

"It was a little difficult on Thursday [for the opening round]," university president William E. Kirwan said Saturday. "But everyone pitched together. I was very impressed with the understanding of the community in general and with the parking people."

Athletic director Andy Geiger, who last week voiced concerns about whether the Maryland women's team was forced to play a first-round NCAA tournament game at Holy Cross (the Terrapins lost) because practice time was unavailable, said he would consider having the school play host to another men's regional under different circumstances.

"The campus really would want to have it," Geiger said. "If it's during [spring] break, it's a no-brainer. If it's done during class time, it's really hard. Our biggest headache has been the regular life of the place. Some people are upset."

Especially the people who are paying to attend school. On Friday, students found themselves locked out of most entrances to Cole Field House because of an NCAA rule that prohibits anyone from watching teams practice.

"This is a real inconvenience to a lot of people," said Robby Long, a senior who was briefly on the men's basketball team as a walk-on two years ago. "Students are complaining all over the campus."

The biggest complaints were about parking Thursday, when students who had prepaid passes for the main lot behind Cole Field House were moved to another lot behind the engineering building, a 10-minute walk in the rain and snow from many classrooms.

"The next time this thing comes here, I'm just going to take the day off," said one student as she trudged to a class.

From a financial standpoint, the tournament was a boon to the NCAA and the community. Many local hotels and restaurants did a better business than normal for mid-March, and the shops in the student union were packed between games Thursday.

As for the NCAA, it normally has trouble filling arenas for first- and second-round games. Cole Field House was the second-smallest venue used the past week (University of Dayton Arena was the smallest), but there were sellout crowds of 13,386 both days.

"The people at Maryland should be proud of themselves for the job they did," said NCAA executive director Dick Schultz, who attended Saturday's games. "They did a great job selling tickets, and the event was run very efficiently."

Geiger said the university should stand to make about $40,000 for playing host, with the money coming from a percentage of the gate receipts. In the future, when the men's team is off NCAA probation and eligible for the tournament, will the interest be there in watching other teams play?

With first- and second-round sites set a couple of years in advance, bids for the 1994 tournament still are a few months away. But Geiger said that aside from a Friday-Sunday regional, arrangements would have to be made for the women's team if it needs to practice for and play a home game.

"We are trying to pull the athletic department together with the rest of the campus community," said Geiger. "We want to do something that works for everybody."

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