UPDATE: (Feb. 7, 9:08 a.m.) Maryland is no longer discouraging fans from driving to the North Carolina game, although the school says drivers should carefully evaluate road conditions along their routes to Comcast Center. It says some parking lots and sidewalks will likely remain snow covered.
The article below ran in Sunday's print editions of The Baltimore Sun.
Maryland is discouraging fans - except those who can walk to Comcast Center - from attending this afternoon's sold-out game against North Carolina because of weather conditions and difficulties clearing parking lots of snow.
"It's a historic event, unfortunately," Maryland athletic director Debbie Yow said in an interview late Saturday afternoon. She said the school planned to deliver the message to season-ticket holders via e-mail. Terps fans who don't come to the game will be given some sort of special consideration - tickets or the like, either this season or next - to be announced later.
Maryland's action amounted to one of many concessions the Terps and Tar Heels made to the powerful winter storm as they prepared to renew a rivalry that produced Maryland's biggest and most exciting regular-season win a year ago.
For Maryland coach Gary Williams, the storm meant spending the night at Comcast Center on Friday - and probably Saturday - rather than risk getting stranded at his home. Last year's Terps-Tar Heels meeting in College Park was an 88-85 overtime thriller that broke North Carolina's 10-game winning streak and helped turn around Maryland's season.
North Carolina spent much of Saturday snowed in at its Prince George's County hotel about four miles from Comcast Center. The team did a walkthrough at the hotel. Finally, the hotel parking lot was cleared and a bus took the Tar Heels to the arena for a late-afternoon practice that coaches had hoped would occur hours earlier.
"We got the Comcast Center all to ourselves except for Gary [Williams], who I hear is sleeping here," North Carolina associate athletic director Steve Kirschner said.
The Terps practiced at the arena earlier in the day.
Yow said the school wanted to be prudent about conditions - frigid temperatures were expected, and it's uncertain how quickly area roads can be plowed. "We're all very concerned about people's safety," Yow said. There could also be parking issues. "They can't get the lots cleared," she said. "One-hundred percent of the available people who can work will work. The university has staff working two 12-hour shifts."
But the game, to be televised on Fox Sports Net (Comcast SportsNet locally) was still scheduled to be played. Canceling would require a mutual agreement by the schools after consulting with the ACC.
"The ACC expects the game to be played if both teams are present and the officials can get to the game site," Yow said in an e-mail.
The Terps are 15-6 (5-2 Atlantic Coast Conference), while North Carolina (13-9, 2-5) has lost five of its past six games.
North Carolina arrived Friday to beat the storm, then spent much of Saturday watching and waiting to see whether its bus could be dislodged and plows could dig out the hotel parking lot.
As he waited, Marcus Ginyard, a fifth-year senior, attached a photo of a snowy parking lot to a Twitter post and wrote: "Trucks can't even get thru this."
It amounted to more frustration heaped on a trying season for coach Roy Williams and his defending national champions.
"I'm sure Roy is not happy. We're 2-5," Kirschner said early in the day. "It's difficult, No. 1, when you're playing a good team like Maryland," he said. "And No. 2, [Maryland's] flex offense is difficult to defend anyway. You're trying to get out there and practice as much you can with a young team."
Maryland was considering allowing students who don't yet have tickets to help fill Comcast Center in the event many seats go unfilled. Students normally account for about 4,500 seats.
Said Yow in an e-mail: "Yes, there will be some type of offer to students without tickets to come over [and] wait and see how many we can get into building." She said she would discuss the plan with Gary Williams.
Maryland erased a 16-point deficit in last season's game at Comcast Center. Greivis Vasquez had a triple double as the Terps rebounded from a loss in Chapel Hill earlier in the season.
The Tar Heels are younger this season but still possess a big front line. "As the year goes on, they're getting better as they get used to the new personnel," Gary Williams said. "This game will be a typical Maryland-North Carolina game."
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