Loyalty has premium price for longtime Terrapins fan


May 03, 2002|By Mike Preston

DANA DAVIS PROUDLY displays the proclamation his grandfather, Charles "Doc" Davis, received from College Park officials at halftime of a Maryland football game in November 1979 declaring him the Terps' most "loyal and dedicated" fan. He brushes the dust off a football signed by Terps coach Jerry Claiborne and the rest of the team.

Davis spent a lot of time with his grandfather, a three-term mayor of College Park and a multi-sport season-ticket holder at Maryland since 1930. He accompanied him to Byrd Stadium to watch Randy White and Mark Manges and to Cole Field House to see Brad Davis and John Lucas. When "Doc" Davis, who didn't miss a home football game for 55 years, died, Dana Davis purchased football and basketball season tickets in 1986 with hopes of passing them on to the fourth generation.

But that may not happen.

Davis, 40, is among about 600 people waiting to find out if they have earned enough "Terpoints" to secure seats in the new Comcast Center next season. There are four ways to increase point totals: increase donations, refer new members, purchase football season tickets or purchase women's basketball season tickets.

In other words, the more money you pump in, the better your chances of getting seats. It's legalized extortion.

"They called me recently and told me I had 150 points," said Davis, director of purchasing for NeighborCare. "They said the cutoff would be about 198 points. I went from $250 to $600 for a donation, and then doubled that just to get to 198. I called a friend that I worked with 15 years ago, and he hooked me up with the money to put me in another class. Now, I'm at 262 points.

"This is like PSLs [permanent seat licenses] extreme, but at least that's a one-time fee. This seating situation gets stirred up again in about three years based on donations. The PSLs are more tame," Davis said.

This is another case of big-time sports going corporate. Ravens owner Art Modell did it in 1996 with the PSLs, and the Terps are doing the same. They just keep trying to sugarcoat the mess.

Most Maryland fans understand that for years the Terps have been one of the worst schools as far as fund-raising in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Eight of the men's sports teams are not at maximum scholarship levels.

But Maryland needs to stop calling this the "people's plan" and pointing out that North Carolina and Duke have similar programs but require substantially higher donations. That's like saying we found your lost wallet, but we just used the VISA card instead of both the VISA and the American Express.

Of the 17,100 seats in the new arena, about 4,000 are reserved for students. A nice cosmetic front, of course, for the television cameras. Another 800 to 1,000 are allotted for faculty. Another 1,600 seats have been set aside for "building partners" who make a one-time contribution of at least $25,000. They get first pick of seats, followed by Terrapin Club members who will be asked, beginning May 20, to select. About 11,000 seats will be allocated in an order determined by points (just say money).

The atmosphere won't be like old Cole, just like the former PSINet Stadium and Oriole Park have never been like Memorial Stadium. It will be largely a white-collar crowd. Cell phones are in, emotion and passion are out.

There should have been a better way to appease the old, loyal fans.

"They didn't look out for the average Joes," said Davis, a Laurel resident. "This is going to be like a Wizards game, where you never see the same people three games in a row."

That bugs Davis. His grandfather had great passion. For a 1944 home football game against Michigan State, he braved a hurricane and reportedly was one of about 25 fans in the stands. Charles Davis once asked his granddaughter to move the date of her wedding back so it wouldn't conflict with a Terps football game.

Dana Davis grew up in College Park and earned a bachelor of arts degree from Maryland in 1984. As a youngster, he would sneak down to the Terps' bench in the closing moments of a basketball game to get wristbands from the players as the crowd sang choruses of "Amen." As an older fan, Davis endured the loss of Lefty Driesell and Bobby Ross and the losses of Bob Wade, Joe Krivak and Mark Duffner.

Davis said he intends to buy a portion of the Cole floor and have his name engraved. He traveled to the Orange Bowl, ACC tournament and Final Four within the past five months.

His son's name is Gary, after you-know-who.

"When my grandfather passed away, the ticket renewals continued to come, but my grandmother would stick them under the couch with the Art Linkletter and Ed McMahon stuff," Davis said. "In 1986, I decided to get them put in my name.

"In 1997, I was told I couldn't have season tickets without being a Terrapins Club Member, so I joined. It only cost me $125, so it was no big deal. But I was told I only got so many Terpoints because I was only in the club for four years. I said, `Wait a minute, these tickets have been in my family for 70 years. I've been a multi-sport ticket holder for more than 15 years. Doesn't that stand for something?' "

Maryland officials say Davis is among a minority of unhappy fans. But the list keeps growing. Some feel their loyalty has been bought from them.

"I'd like to think the fourth generation of Davises will keep coming to the games, but I think those days are gone," Davis said. "Where does it end? I'll ask for a refund if I don't get my seats. I'll buy a bigger TV so I can enjoy the games.

"My grandfather is probably rolling over in his grave," he said. "I can't imagine what he is thinking, not with the dedication and commitment he had."

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