COLLEGE PARK -- More home games -- and more that are winnable -- are what Debbie Yow and Mark Duffner have in mind for Maryland's future football schedules.
The Terps play their fifth and final home game Saturday night, against North Carolina State. Athletic director Yow and head coach Duffner are new at putting together a Division I-A football schedule, but they know that programs that win and go to bowl games typically play six games at home and five on the road, something Maryland has done only once since 1989.
"I don't know how we've gotten in the situation where we're always playing five home games, and I would like it to change," said Duffner, whose team is 3-1 at Byrd Stadium. "I think there's movement afoot in that area."
The core of the Maryland schedule is eight Atlantic Coast Conference games, four at home and four on the road. Three non-conference dates are where the Terps must sway the balance in favor of six home games, which Yow is attempting to achieve by renegotiating some agreements.
The Terps are supposed to open 1995 at Tulane and also play at Louisville, while getting West Virginia at home. In 1996, the tentative schedule has them at Pitt and West Virginia, and home against VMI. In 1997, Ohio University, Pitt and West Virginia are due to come to Byrd Stadium, but Yow said none of those dates is concrete.
"We'll go through every contract we have, because we want to exhaust every possible situation to ensure the scenario of playing six games at home and five on the road," Yow said.
In negotiating non-conference games, Yow must weigh conflicting goals.
Penn State, for instance, was good for the Terps' athletic department and its budget deficit of approximately $7 million, but bad for the football team. That one-sided rivalry, which ended when the Nittany Lions joined the Big Ten, meant a sellout crowd -- and with two exceptions, a loss -- to Maryland.
Last year, a sellout crowd of 42,008 watched Penn State rip the Terps, 70-7, at Byrd Stadium. Last week, the Terps played their only non-conference home game of the year, and 24,456, their second-smallest home crowd since 1989, watched Maryland rout Tulane, 38-10.
The Terps are assured of their best record in four years, but ticket revenue will drop from $2,741,824 in 1993 -- when Maryland played one of the toughest schedules in the nation and attendance was boosted by border battles with bowl-bound Virginia and West Virginia -- to approximately $2 million this season, when Tulane was the third straight visitor to come to Byrd Stadium with one victory.
Next Monday, Maryland will begin a $20 million project that will expand seating at Byrd Stadium from 42,000 to between 48,000 and 49,000.
It's the second phase of a renovation that began in 1990, and the logic follows that a better facility means a better recruiting situation, thus more wins, and in turn more bodies in the stands. Unfamiliar opponents might cut into gains in attendance, but by then, Yow hopes that a winning team will be the attraction.
"I'm a big believer that you crawl before you walk, and you walk before you run," Yow said. "We're just walking here. . . . I think recruits first ask your record, and then they want to know who you play. They want to be associated with a winner."
Another consideration for Yow and Duffner is a recent requirement that bowl teams have six victories over Division I-A competition.
Seven ACC teams are playing six home games this year, and five of them got to that level by scheduling a I-AA opponent. If Maryland proceeds with plans to play VMI in 1996, it would give the Terps their first I-AA game since 1982, but they could follow the lead of Virginia, which canceled agreements with VMI and William & Mary.
NOTES: The Terps are attempting to get over .500 in November for the first time in four years. . . . N.C. State's 5-2 overall record includes a victory over I-AA Western Carolina, and the Wolfpack needs to win two of its remaining four games to have a shot at its seventh straight bowl. N.C. State finishes with three ranked opponents, Duke, Florida State and Virginia. . . . The Terps are as healthy as they've been since September.