Campus cheers Terps after night of rowdiness

Fans greet players as they return home from Final Four loss

April 02, 2001|By Jennifer McMenamin | By Jennifer McMenamin,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK -- Mike Mardesich didn't expect to find a soul waiting for him and his teammates when the Maryland Terrapins' bus pulled onto campus yesterday afternoon after a long plane ride home from Minneapolis.

"We lost, and after a loss, you don't expect to see anyone," the Terrapins senior center said as a few dozen students, alumni and fans cheered, snapped photographs and sought autographs. "We are just so disappointed, we couldn't think of anything like this. It's a real surprise. A welcome surprise.

"We had a great run, and these people seem real proud," Mardesich added. "We just wish we could have gone a little further."

Less than 17 hours after a heart-wrenching Final Four loss to Duke ended the basketball team's remarkable and historic season, the Terrapins returned to a campus that was slowly recovering from the defeat and overnight mischief.

Tables and benches on the plaza in front of the undergraduate library had been upended, and there were a dozen charred spots where bonfires had burned the night before.

Newspaper boxes had been torn apart and strewn across a small patch of grass near the South Campus Dining Hall. Expletive-laden graffiti had been scrawled in chalk on the sidewalks that crisscross the grassy stretch of McKeldin Mall. Concrete trash receptacles, bolted-down benches and sand-filled cigarette-butt urns were toppled across campus. And the blackened remains of what some said was a burned effigy of Duke player Shane Battier sat at the base of a bronze statue of Maryland's mascot, Testudo.

"We riot when we lose. We riot when we win. I guess this is just something that will happen whenever we play Duke," said Andrew Bonic, 21, a senior from Fairfax, Va., referring to a similar scorching College Park received when Maryland beat the Blue Devils in Durham, N.C., this year.

The intersection of Knox Road and Dickinson Avenue near Bonic's off-campus fraternity house, Theta Chi, was the scene of Saturday night's most serious damage.

There, a crowd of hundreds threw just about anything it could lift -- sofas and mattresses, an air conditioner, pieces of chain-link fence and bras -- onto a bonfire that blazed so high it burned overhead cable wires. Several efforts to roll an old junker of a car onto the fire failed. And crews spent more than 15 hours repairing the subsequent damage, which knocked out cable to thousands of Comcast customers in Prince George's County.

"I would have wanted to burn something, too, if it was my team that lost," said Tony Petruzzi, who spent the day working with city public works crews and Comcast repairmen on the melted cables. "I don't know if that's any consolation to them."

Maj. Cathy Atwell of the University Police said two people were treated for burns at local hospitals and released, but she did not know their identities or the extent of their injuries. No arrests were made and there were no reports of major damage, although Cpl. Tammy Sparkman, a Prince George's County police spokeswoman, said a complete assessment wouldn't be available until today.

Maryland junior Jason McGill, 20, of Baltimore shook his head in disbelief at the vandalism.

"It would have made more sense to go to Duke and smash up their campus," he said. "I don't get this campus. It's like, `Take that, Duke. We'll burn our own stuff.' I'm sure Duke is really scared by that."

Like many interviewed yesterday, McGill said he was proud of the Terps and felt lucky to be attending the university when the team made its first Final Four appearance. He's already looking forward to next season.

"Duke doesn't want to admit it's a rivalry yet," he said with a smile. "But we beat them one more time at Cameron [Indoor Stadium, Duke's home court], and they'll be plenty angry."

Across campus, in the parking lot behind Cole Field House, a small throng of dedicated fans, chilled by the cold drizzle that fell all afternoon, began cheering the moment they spotted the team bus several blocks away.

Five-year-old Jordan Reynolds of Alexandria, Va., waited impatiently with her mom, 1994 Maryland graduate Sue Reynolds, and her 2-year-old brother, J.C., to give her favorite team a small cheer-up gift: a batch of homemade brownies decorated with red M&Ms.

Maryland graduates Michael and Amy Shugar of Laurel hurried over with a hastily assembled banner -- declaring "Terps we're proud" -- made of pink polka-dot bedsheets, red paint, tape and the cheapest wood from the local lumber store.

"The team exceeded our expectations, and we wanted to let them know they mean something to us," said Michael Shugar, as red strands of a pompom hung down like hair from beneath a Terps hat. His wife chided him to hold their wet sign higher for the team to see.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.