Vanderlinden draws a curtain of silence

MARYLAND NOTEBOOK

Practices closed to media, and so are Terps' mouths

November 17, 1999|By Bill Free | Bill Free,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK -- There is no need to wonder why Ron Vanderlinden has closed Maryland football practices to the media this week and virtually shut his players and himself off from all interviews.

The Maryland-Virginia duel at Byrd Stadium at noon Saturday is the biggest game Vanderlinden has coached in his three years here.

The first 32 seem like preliminaries to the high stakes facing the Terps (5-5, 2-5) when they take the field for the final regular-season game of the year.

The school's first bowl bid since 1990, which would produce an $800,000 paycheck, Vanderlinden's first winning season, Maryland's first winning season since 1995 and continued belief in the Vanderlinden way, will be on the line.

Four losses in the past five games have put Maryland in these straits.

"It has now come down to a one-game season," Vanderlinden said yesterday.

Senior right guard Jamie Wu said: "My future is Saturday."

Vanderlinden, Wu, senior left tackle Brad Messina and All-America candidate LaMont Jordan attended a news conference yesterday at Byrd Stadium.

That would be the final time before the game that Vanderlinden and any of the Maryland players would talk to the media.

Vanderlinden had announced Monday that he was closing practices and that only Wu, Messina and Jordan would be available yesterday for interviews. The coach said he would talk each day after practice, and he did Monday.

But a couple of hours after the news conference yesterday, Vanderlinden announced through the sports information office he would not conduct any more interviews the rest of the week.

When asked earlier in the day why he had closed practices and severely limited access to the players, Vanderlinden said, "We need to light a fire under this team."

The only information coming out of the Maryland football camp the rest of the week will be injury updates that will be provided by the sports information office.

A victory over Virginia (6-4, 4-3) would virtually wrap up an invitation for Maryland to the Aloha Bowl, which will have a representative at Byrd Stadium on Saturday.

"We want to extend the bid to Maryland in the locker room just like we did to them in 1982 at Virginia when we had our first Aloha Bowl," Aloha Bowl chief executive officer Leonard Klompus said yesterday. "I'll never forget that day down in that little cramped locker room in Charlottesville. But in order to give the bid out right after the game, we need to have the Atlantic Coast Conference clear Maryland from a possible Micron PC appearance."

As of yesterday, Klompus had not received that clearance.

Micron officials have said Maryland is still on their list, and they want to wait possibly until Monday before determining who they will invite.

A lot has changed for the Terps, even though they have stopped winning. They could now even be considered the ACC's fourth team for the Micron PC, Dec. 30 in Miami, if they beat Virginia.

North Carolina State (6-5), Clemson (5-5) and Wake Forest (5-5) have had trouble wrapping up the winning season that a school needs to be eligible for a bowl.

The Wolfpack needs to beat a heated rival, No. 23 East Carolina, on the road to qualify; Clemson has to defeat state rival South Carolina on the road; and Wake Forest needs a victory at home over Joe Hamilton and Georgia Tech.

Harrison, Evans should play

In the middle of all the bowl confusion, Maryland is trying to get as many healthy players on the field as possible for the Cavaliers.

Freshman quarterback Latrez Harrison (high left ankle sprain) and fifth-year senior Trey Evans (sore right arm) are expected to play.

"Latrez is moving around some and is better than we thought he'd be," quarterbacks coach Craig Johnson said. "He has a lot of work to do, but he should play."

Vanderlinden said Harrison was "about 60 percent right now Monday and should get better each day."

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