UM fans keep it clean, mostly

Crowd is raucous, but vulgar language not part of the act

February 13, 2005|By Kevin Van Valkenburg | Kevin Van Valkenburg,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK - The Maryland student section was a lot of things last night in the Terps' 99-92 overtime win over Duke, including: loud, clever, energetic, excited and effective.

The crowd was not, however, vulgar and offensive.

Not for the most part, anyway. There were a few chants that might have flirted with the boundaries of good taste, but in the end, it was just a typical raucous college basketball crowd.

Not worse and no better than any other Atlantic Coast Conference school. Fans poured onto the floor after the game was over, but it was controlled chaos, similar to what happened when the Terps football team beat Florida State this past fall.

That's all Maryland's been hoping for ever since the university was scrutinized - both locally and nationally - after last year's basketball game against Duke, when fans chanted obscenities at Blue Devils guard J.J. Redick in the closing minutes.

Maryland's athletic department took steps to avoid a repeat performance this year, including having Terps coach Gary Williams speak to the students earlier in the day about sportsmanship, as well as having a voluntary t-shirt exchange program at the entrance to Comcast Center, encouraging kids to trade in shirts with obscene words or obscene references to Duke for cleaner, more positive t-shirts.

"I think the dirty stuff was really toned down this year," said Tyler Butler, who wore a red wig and was covered with body paint from the waist up. "Coach Williams asked us to be respectful and show that we have the best fans in the nation. We crossed the line last year. I think the energy was still there this year, but it was more positive."

Even George Ewing, father of Duke point guard Daniel Ewing, said he thought the atmosphere improved dramatically this year.

"It's definitely toned down a lot," George Ewing said. "It's better than it was a year ago, and it's definitely better than it was two years ago."

Ewing said two years ago, a lot of Duke parents weren't sure if they wanted to return to College Park after someone hit the mother of Duke forward Carlos Boozer in the head with a plastic bottle.

"I didn't see the vulgar signs that I've seen in the past," Ewing said. "I think they've clearly made a conscious effort to clean it up."

The crowd certainly didn't suffer a lack of emotion. When Ikene Ebekwe tapped in a Travis Garrison miss with 39.5 seconds to play, giving Maryland an 87-86 lead, it was so loud in Comcast Center, if felt like a jet airplane had landed at center court.

"I think last year, we came into the game with a chip on our shoulder, and we kind of embraced that thug mentality a little bit," said ESPN SportsCenter anchor Scott Van Pelt, a Maryland graduate who publicly criticized the students last year after the incident in the Duke game. "It's always going to be nasty, because, frankly, these kids hate Duke, but there was considerably less venom this year. It was kind of the difference between having a shot glass of venom instead of a keg."

Most Maryland fans tried to focus on creativity instead of nastiness, especially with the signs they held up.

David Berry, a sophomore from New Jersey, had cut out a picture of Redick's face, then pasted it on top of a women's body next to the words, "Devil with a Blue Dress On."

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