For Yow and UM athletics, these are the best of times

March 30, 2001|By Mike Preston

COLLEGE PARK -- Since returning from Anaheim, Calif., four days ago, University of Maryland athletic director Debbie Yow has been on a hectic pace.

There has been a flood of e-mails and letters, and she has returned as many as possible. She has had to digest a 55-page NCAA guide to the Final Four, help organize a big-screen showing at Cole Field House of Maryland's semifinal game against Duke, and then organize a fan send-off of the team Wednesday.

It has been one 14-hour day after another, but Yow is enjoying every minute. These are exciting times, and this may have been the biggest week in Maryland's sports history.

Not only is the men's basketball team playing in the Final Four for the first time, but both the women's and men's lacrosse teams are ranked No. 1. The football team opens spring practice tomorrow with first-year coach Ralph Friedgen creating a buzz that hasn't been felt around this program since the days of former Terps coaches Bobby Ross and Jerry Claiborne.

And with the school planning to open a 17,000-seat arena during the 2002-03 sports season, maybe there is something to the Terps' unofficial, but adopted slogan: Fear the Turtle.

"In 1998, both the men and women lacrosse programs were No. 1, but this is a first with the basketball team being in the Final Four at the same time," said longtime men's lacrosse coach Dick Edell. "It's an exciting atmosphere around here. I've never seen anything like it. And it's going to be like this in the fall, too. Ralph is going to get it done, no doubt about it. Remember, I've been here for 18 years and was here when Ralph coached the last time [under Ross]."

After a recent 10-day swing with the men's basketball team in Boise, Idaho, and then in Anaheim, Yow hasn't had much time to enjoy the week. But during a recent interview, she let her emotions show.

"It really is huge, isn't it?" said Yow, in her seventh season at Maryland. "It is, it is, it really is. I'm excited for the lacrosse teams being No. 1, and with Coach Friedgen."

And then Yow the athletic director became Yow the former coach.

"As for the men's basketball team, their season is especially gratifying for me because, first of all, it teaches a very positive lesson," Yow said. "To have been through what they have been through, not just to rebound, but to do what they have done, teaches the right life lesson: Don't give up, persevere and stay focused. When you get out into the real world, do what you or I do for a living, or become a high school teacher or a pro basketball player, you don't call all the shots.

"Things don't always go well at the time, but you can draw on the strengths you develop in these situations," Yow said. "Because we all like to quit or give up at certain times, but something has to get you through that. The effects of the basketball programs have been great for morale. Everybody likes to be associated with a winner."

Actually, no sports program at Maryland or in NCAA history has kept pace with the women's lacrosse team. In 11 years under coach Cindy Timchal, the Terps have reached the title game nine of the past ten years and have won six straight crowns.

The Terps have the game's best head coach, the top assistant (Gary Gait) and two of the best players in the game in midfielder Jen Adams and attackman Allison Comito.

They also have seven starters back from a year ago.

Title No. 7 might not be too far behind.

"It's exciting to see it translated to other teams," Timchal said. "I feel as though our team has shown the way in many respects. We're highly regarded, have wonderful athletes and are academically very strong. Each program is a separate entity, but what each team does certainly helps the athletic program."

It helps overall recruiting.

"We've done a lot as far bringing recognition to the school," Timchal said. "But when you have such a highly visible sport as men's basketball have success, it does help."

Getting to the Final Four is not new for Edell. He has played in the championship game three times since 1995, and is fourth on the list in all-time wins behind Massachusetts' Dick Garber, Syracuse's Roy Simmons Jr. and Army's Jack Emmer.

That's pretty good company.

But the most distinguished characteristic of Edell-coached teams is that they play with so much passion, so much energy. No one has ever accused Maryland of not being physical.

No one.

Yow is waiting for the football team to carry its weight. Since Ross left after the 1986 season, the Terps have gone through coaches Joe Krivak, Mark Duffner and Ron Vanderlinden.

Only Krivak had a legitimate excuse for losing -- trying to coach the team during the fallout from the death of Terps basketball player Len Bias. As for Duffner and Vanderlinden, just rah-rah guys.

Friedgen is different.

His credentials are impeccable. He has built some of the most sophisticated offenses on the college and pro levels. He is just an old, football guy who eats and sleeps the game.

Well, he isn't sleeping all the time.

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