Cole finale is already a worry for Williams

Hoopla of home farewell, Virginia to be tough combo

November 16, 2001|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,SUN STAFF

Maryland's last season at Cole Field House hasn't begun, and Gary Williams is already being bugged about the finale.

With construction progressing on the north side of campus on the 17,100-seat Comcast Center, the Terps begin their 47th and final season at Cole tomorrow, with a 1 p.m. game against American.

Barring an uncharacteristic poor season that sends No. 2 Maryland to the National Invitation Tournament, its last game at Cole will come against Virginia on March 3, a Sunday night game scheduled to start at 8.

"I've already gotten some calls about that one," Williams said. "I get some tickets because of my contract, but for a lot of ACC games, they're never enough. There are always some last-minute phone calls from long-lost friends looking for tickets, and I don't want to think about that one.

"It might be a tough game to prepare for. Virginia has a very good team, and chances are it may be important to the league standings. From the team's perspective, we have to make sure the game is the most important thing of the day and that we don't get caught up in all of the hoopla."

Virginia also provided the opposition for the first game at Cole, a 67-55 Maryland victory Dec. 2, 1955.

While Williams and his team attend to business on the court, the Maryland athletic department will handle plans to commemorate the final season at Cole, where the Terps are 471-151.

The nostalgia will include former Maryland players as honorary captains throughout the season, a tradition already in place. All Terps athletes who achieved All-America honors while performing at Cole - whether they be men's and women's basketball players, volleyball players or wrestlers - will be recognized Jan. 26, when the men meet Florida State.

The guests of honor for the Virginia finale, which will be telecast on Fox Sports Net, will include the 1958 team, the first from Maryland to make the NCAA tournament. The coach was Bud Millikan, who was in charge of the program when it moved from Ritchie Coliseum to Cole. Millikan, 81, resides in Stone Mountain, Ga.

"I would certainly like to attend the final game at Cole," said Millikan, whose 1963 recruits included Williams. "As we say in the South, if the Lord's willing and the creek don't rise, I'll be there."

The men's basketball awards banquet for the 2001-02 season will be held on the Cole floor. After 2002 summer camps, the floor will be removed. Pieces of the floor will be among the memorabilia offered for sale by the university at the Maryland athletics Web site,

Besides the dates that are customarily circled on the schedule - No. 1 Duke looks for its fifth straight win at Cole Feb. 17 and North Carolina comes to College Park Jan. 9 - another highlight of the regular season comes against Illinois in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge Nov. 27. Maryland's 77-game nonconference winning streak at Cole, the longest in the nation, will be tested by the third-ranked Fighting Illini.

The Terps invited Georgia State and Lefty Driesell, who coached Maryland from 1969 to 1986, to play a game at Cole. When Williams wasn't interested in a request to play a return game in Atlanta, Driesell declined the Terps' offer.

"I don't think Lefty would have gone to Georgia State when he was here at Maryland," Williams said.

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