All hoop-la no solace to UM football

October 20, 1994|By BILL TANTON

The two revenue-producing sports at the University of Maryland can't seem to get in sync.

Men's basketball is about to take off. Big time. Some have picked the Terps as high as No. 3.

That's not No. 3 in the Atlantic Coast Conference, which would be a huge enough accomplishment with Duke and North Carolina in the league.

It's No. 3 in the nation. That's unrealistic. Top 20 would be more like it.

Still, it shows how far some believe coach Gary Williams, in his sixth year at Maryland, has brought the program.

Last Friday night, when basketball practice began with Midnight Madness, there were 13,000 in Cole Field House. The fans, to use the vernacular, were going bananas -- over a 15-minute practice.

That shows the level of interest at success-starved Maryland. It also shows why first-year athletic director Debbie Yow wants to add 3,000 to 4,000 seats in Cole.

And then there is football, which just can't seem to get off the ground.

Mark Duffner was the winningest coach in the country at his previous stop, Holy Cross.

At Maryland, he won three games his first year (1992), two his second, and so far this season his team has won two of six games. Five remain.

There have been rare flashes of brilliance in Duffner's three-year tenure at College Park.

There was the final game of '92, when his underdog Terps not only beat but walloped Clemson, 53-23. That made a lot of people think winning was just over the horizon.

There was the first half of the Florida State game this year, the only time Florida State has trailed at halftime (17-20) in an Atlantic Coast Conference game since entering the league.

Unfortunately for Maryland, Florida State got serious in the second half and won the game, 52-20.

Every coach coming to a new job is quick to tell people it takes time to build a program.

At Navy, which has only one puny, 7-0 win over Lafayette this year, A.D. Jack Lengyel says it takes five years. His coach, George Chaump, is in his fifth.

Which is why coaches like Duffner and Chaump can't be very thrilled with Duke coach Fred Goldsmith.

Goldsmith proved it doesn't take five years. With him, it was more like five minutes.

In his first year at Duke, Goldsmith is 6-0. The Blue Devils were 3-8 last year, including 26-18 losers to lowly Maryland.

Mark Duffner says this about Duke's turnaround under Goldsmith:

"I think winning that first game got everybody off to a good start. It gave the players a whole new attitude. It gave them confidence and showed them that they can win."

Unfortunately for Maryland again, it was the Terps who were providing the opposition on opening day in Durham, N.C. Maryland, though favored, was trounced, 49-16.

Fred Goldsmith, who came to Duke from Rice, is no kid on his way up. He's 50 years old. He's been around. So has Chaump, who began coaching in 1958.

"I know Fred," says Chaump, "and I don't consider him a miracle worker. He's had his ups and downs like the rest of us, if you'll check his record. He did do an outstanding job at Rice."

Duke beat Navy, 47-14, at Annapolis this month.

Maryland comes home this week for a Saturday night (7 o'clock) game against Georgia Tech. That'll be followed by visits from Tulane and North Carolina State.

This is going to be a crucial stretch for the Terps and for Duffner and his young coaching staff.

If Maryland wins none of these and drops to 2-7, Duffner and Co. will be in serious trouble. The team's final two games will be against Virginia and Syracuse, both of which figure to beat the Terps.

A final record of 2-9 could spell the end of Duffner at Maryland.

But if Maryland can win these next three and improve its record to 5-4, it could give the team the momentum to win one of the final two games and finish with a winning record.

Duffner is no fool. He knows people are tired of waiting for Maryland to win. He knows how critical this stretch is.

"We have to win this first one with Georgia Tech before we can think about the others," Duffner says. "This is not coaching rhetoric, but Tech is better than its record [1-5] indicates. They're hungry for a win, just like us. They're going to come in here smokin'."

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