Florida State at College Park is a No. 1 attraction except to TV stations here

Bill Tanton

November 04, 1993|By Bill Tanton

The No. 1 college football team in the country, Florida State, is coming to College Park Saturday to play Maryland.

By my count, this will be the first time a No. 1 ranked team has ever played at Byrd Stadium.

"Except for our own No. 1 team," says Herb Hartnett, Maryland's sports information director.

I have news for Hartnett: Maryland has never been ranked No. 1 during the season. Not really.

Sport magazine had Maryland No. 1 in the 1985 preseason. But that was one magazine.

The Associated Press poll has come to be accepted as the most official one. In the '85 preseason, AP ranked Maryland No. 7.

In their opening game at Byrd that year, the Terps were beaten by Penn State, 20-18. Even Sport conceded it had gone a little overboard on the Terps.

The only time Maryland has been No. 1 in the final poll was after the 1953 season. But when the poll was taken before the '54 season, Maryland was No. 3.

When the late Bear Bryant brought his Alabama team to Byrd to open the 1974 season, 'Bama was No. 3.

So here we are now with the best team in the land coming in -- a first for us around here -- and not a single TV station in Baltimore will carry the game.

Let's not kid anybody. This shapes up as no contest. Unbeaten (( (8-0) FSU was a 48-point favorite early in the week. Now the gamblers have taken the game off the board.

But wouldn't the TV sports fans here want to get a look at the No. 1 team in the land? Wouldn't they want to see likely Heisman Trophy winner Charlie Ward play against Maryland?

Wouldn't they want to look in on coach Mark Duffner's struggling 1-7 Terps to see if there's any sign of a light at the end of the tunnel? Wouldn't they want to see Florida State one week before the game of the year, FSU at Notre Dame on Nov. 13? I think they would. At least until this game got out of hand.

Yesterday ticket manager Jack Zane reported there were 2,500 seats left for the FSU game, Maryland's home finale. He expects those to be gone by kickoff at noon Saturday.

"I don't think people realize," Zane said, "that the game's not on TV locally."

The fact of the matter is that Maryland has not been on live TV at all this season in Baltimore.

The opener with Virginia and last week's game at Duke were shown on Washington's Channel 7, which is not available to cable subscribers in Baltimore City (United) or in Baltimore County (Comcast).

Home Team Sports did the Maryland-North Carolina game on delay.

It seems to me that when the No. 1 team in the country plays anywhere the game should be on TV in the principal city of the state being visited.

To me, this is one more example of Maryland's inability to sell itself in Baltimore.

I'm not the only one disappointed about that. The Maryland people are, too, particularly Lee Corrigan, who works on the Terps' broadcast network.

"Our clearance situation in Baltimore has always been terrible," says Corrigan, who is a young Maryland graduate (as well as being the nephew of ACC commissioner Gene Corrigan). "The Maryland-Florida State game will be shown on live TV throughout the ACC region -- but not in Baltimore.

"I'm disappointed. The ACC is disappointed. Jefferson-Pilot [producer of the weekly ACC telecasts] is disappointed.

"This Baltimore-University of Maryland thing is a two-way street. We've tried to get our games on TV in Baltimore. Andy Geiger [Maryland athletic director] and Mark Duffner went to Baltimore and met face-to-face with officials at the three major TV stations, and they chose not to pick up the games.

"Channel 45 wanted us to pay them a lot of money to get the games on their station, but Jefferson-Pilot and the ACC have never paid to get on TV in any market.

"Baltimore's Channel 54 does what's called counter programming on Saturday afternoons. When other stations show football, Channel 54 shows an old movie and draws the non-football fans, which is smart on their part.

"We view Baltimore as a very important market. We did a demographic survey and learned that 40 percent of the tickets we sell for football, basketball and lacrosse are bought by people from Baltimore City and Baltimore County. That shows there's interest in Maryland sports in Baltimore."

The only Maryland football game that will be shown live in Baltimore this season is the North Carolina State game next week. Channel 13 will air that.

"Channel 13 showed three other ACC games this year -- none involving Maryland -- and one game in September had a 6 rating," Corrigan said. "That's a good rating."

If Maryland is ever to ingratiate itself here, TV coverage of Terp games is a natural way to get things going.

The Maryland people understand that. That's why they've already begun the process for the '94 season.

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