Mark Burdett, vice president of corporate sales and business… (Baltimore Sun photo by Karl…)
Mark Burdett is a big man who doesn't think small.
He sees way more than just a football game when Maryland and Navy kick off the new season today at M&T Bank Stadium.
He sees a signature event in the making.
For openers, he'd like to see the two teams play each other every three years in Baltimore.
Blow it out over a full weekend with parades, festivals, the whole nine yards.
Let both schools use the game as a recruiting tool. Have a Navy destroyer anchored at the Inner Harbor for tours. Let Maryland take over the Science Center and show off all they do in their respected science and technology departments.
Have the destroyer lob a few shells over the Domino Sugar sign and let the Maryland tech geeks figure out the trajectory of the fire-power.
OK, we kid about that last one.
But Burdett, the Ravens' vice-president of corporate sales and development and a key figure in bringing the game here, is serious about turning Maryland-Navy into a classic.
He even sees the two schools battling for something called the Governor's Cup, a trophy the winning school gets to display until next year's game.
"It's all conceptual at this point," he says. . . .[But] it's just a matter of making the financial package attractive enough to make the universities want to do this."
There's no question that having the two teams play here for the first time since 2005 is a major coup for this town.
The game is part of a double-header on national TV, followed by the attractive Virginia Tech-Boise State matchup at 8.
Maryland-Navy won't be a sell-out. But 64,000 tickets have been sold. And a nice day, with something other than the noontime-in-Faluja heat we had last week, might boost walkup sales.
"For both universities, that's a significantly bigger crowd than they play [in front of] at home," Burdett said. "And with that, they both get a payday. Most colleges only get paid when they play at home"
Burdett declined to say exactly how much each school would haul in, calling it "proprietary information."
"But it's in the millions of dollars," he said. "And rightly so."
Although it won't have some of the touches Burdett envisions for future games, today's contest won't be lacking in pageantry.
Navy jets will roar over the stadium in a pre-game flyover. The Brigade of Midshipmen will march into the stadium in their crisp white uniforms, always a stirring sight. Maryland's crack marching band will be teaming with Navy's band for an ensemble piece at halftime.
The governor will be there and so will every other politician in Maryland, hoping to get some face-time on the late local news.
And when the game is over, no matter who wins or loses, both teams will remain on the field to sing each other's alma mater.
"We'll have to do a follow-the-bouncing-ball thing" on the video screens so the players know the words, Burdett says, laughing. But sing they will.
(Related aside: Did you read the column in this space Thursday about Jerry Fishman? The wild-man Maryland linebacker who flipped Navy the bird in the infamous 1964 meeting between these two teams and nearly started a riot?
(Could you imagine Fishman singing Navy's alma mater? Yeah, right. Not even if they held a gun to his head.)
Burdett himself admits to being "conflicted" about which team to root for today.
He's a Maryland alum, Class of '81. But he grew up in Annapolis. And his dad, Paul Fletcher Burdett, graduated from the Naval Academy and saw combat with the Navy in the South Pacific in World War II.
Burdett and his family have also sponsored four Midshipmen, which essentially means bringing them into your home and giving them a place to chill and escape the constant pressures of the Naval Academy.
When pressed, Burdett says he roots for both Maryland and Navy. He won't pick the winner of today's game, saying simply: "I'd like to see it be high-scoring and very close."
High-scoring and close would be good, of course. Because the one thing that could turn this game into a snooze would be a Navy rout of Maryland.
Which could definitely happen. The Middies and their slick quarterback, long-shot Heisman Trophy candidate Ricky Dobbs, are coming off a fine 10-4 season and a win over Missouri in the Texas Bowl.
Maryland is coming off a miserable 2-10 season and was picked to finish last in the pre-season ACC poll.
On paper, it doesn't look good for the Terps. But they don't play these games on paper.
Game time is 4 p.m. Maybe it's the start of something big in this town.
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