Terps say $20M deal step in right direction

Colleges

August 25, 2006|By Heather A. Dinich | Heather A. Dinich,Sun reporter

College Park -- During yesterday's formal announcement that the naming rights of the field at Byrd Stadium were sold to Chevy Chase Bank for $20 million, Maryland athletic director Debbie Yow spoke of the Terps' appearances in the Orange Bowl, Peach Bowl and Gator Bowl.

She then turned to her football coach and asked with a smile, "We will be back, will we not, Ralph?"

With Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. sitting to his right, the university president just two seats away, and an auditorium filled with wealthy alumni, other high-ranking university officials and longtime supporters of the program, Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen answered, "Yes."

The announcement of a partnership with Chevy Chase Bank that will aid in the financing of a $50.8 million stadium expansion project was in some ways a pep rally for what the improved facility could do for a football program coming off back-to-back 5-6 seasons.

"It's going to send a message of where we're going and the support we have, not only in the community but within the school," Friedgen said. "There's going to be a lot of recruits out there listening to this and knowing where we're going.

"The mission is to win a national championship. I'm not backing down from that. This is just one more step towards that."

The Terps will open their season Sept. 2 against William and Mary on Chevy Chase Bank Field at Byrd Stadium, which will be the name of the field for 25 years. Under the agreement, the bank's name will appear inside the stadium and on the field, but not on the outside of the facility. It's the first known instance of a collegiate program striking a deal to put a corporation's name on the field only.

The bank's name will be on Tyser Tower, where the press box is located, on the TerpVision scoreboard, the auxiliary scoreboard, section markers, entrance gates and the lower facade on the north grandstand. It also will be on tickets and on the sideline, where the bank's name will be painted white with the word "field" outlined in red. The logo already had been added to the Exit 28B sign on I-495 near Route 1.

Darryl Hill, director of major gifts for athletics, said there are no immediate plans for another agreement of this kind regarding the other athletic fields on campus, but that the athletic department is seeking alumni sponsors to name those fields after.

"We're looking for naming rights for the soccer field, but we're looking for individuals, not at businesses," he said. "As far as I can say, this is the last large commercial naming deal, at least in the near future."

Karel Petraitis of College Park is a member of the Maryland Gridiron Network, and her and her late mother's names are on a wall in the Gossett Football building. She said she gives it a pat every time she walks in.

"This would be a great day for her to see Byrd would get renovated," Petraitis said. "It needs it, and Ralph needs it to bring the program where he wants it to be. It's like Debbie said: What you've got is Chevy Chase investing in a program that puts academics first. We gave money to this program because of Ralph, and his commitment to students first. That, to me, is where you look."

Friedgen pointed out that when he first took over the program, the Gossett Football Team Building didn't exist, nor did the academic center or the cafeteria.

"I told our team and our staff that we haven't stopped," he said. "This is a major step forward to where we want to go."

heather.dinich@baltsun.com

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