Friedgen calls on fans to show commitment by showing up at Military Bowl

'We've got a chance to send a message to these people that turned us down that we do support the program,' Terps coach says

  • Maryland University football coach Ralph Friedgen, right, and East Carolina University football coach Ruffin McNeill share a laugh during a news conference in Washington, Tuesday, Dec. 7, 2010, to promote the 2010 Military Bowl.
Maryland University football coach Ralph Friedgen, right,… (Associated Press photo…)
December 07, 2010|By Jeff Barker, The Baltimore Sun

WASHINGTON — Maryland football coach Ralph Friedgen and a top Military Bowl official said Tuesday that Terps fans need to attend the Dec. 29 game here to demonstrate to high-level bowl games that they are committed to their team.

"The dilemma we're in right now is our fans really need to come out and support us because I think we've got a chance to send a message to these people that turned us down that we do support the program," Friedgen said.

Friedgen appeared at a Military Bowl event in a downtown Washington hotel as another of his players — cornerback Dexter McDougle — was about to undergo surgery for a motor scooter accident.

The redshirt freshman suffered a broken collarbone over the weekend will miss the bowl game against East Carolina — and probably spring practice as well, Friedgen said.

"One of [McDougle's] other teammates was driving it and just lost control," Friedgen said. "Obviously, you don't like to lose people — even on the field."

Maryland said the driver, defensive lineman Isaiah Ross, was not badly hurt.

The accident follows a scooter crash in October in which offensive lineman Pete DeSouza suffered multiple leg fractures. DeSouza was struck by a car whose driver was ticketed for refusing to yield the right of way.

The accident left him with titanium rods in both legs. DeSouza said last month that he wasn't wearing a helmet.

Asked whether McDougle or Ross were wearing helmets, Friedgen replied, "I don't think any of them wear their helmets."

The scooters are a common mode of transportation for campus athletes. Friedgen and others said they became popular several years ago. Former Maryland quarterback Josh Portis was among the first football players to use one, Friedgen said.

The coach said he was writing a letter to players' parents to inform them of the accidents and enlist their cooperation in urging players to stay safe.

"I just don't think I have the authority to tell people they can't have scooters," he said. "But I am sending a letter out to our parents recommending that they support me on this."

The bowl game, which is in its third year and was formerly called the EagleBank Bowl, is at Washington's RFK Stadium.

"This is right in your backyard. And East Carolina's going to show up. And if we really care about our football program, our fans need to show up also," Friedgen said.

Maryland (8-4, 5-3 Atlantic Coast Conference) hoped to be invited to higher-level game farther from campus, and some fans have said they do not plan to attend as a protest.

The team's attendance has fallen in recent years, and Military Bowl executive director Steve Beck said Terps fans can make a statement Dec. 29.

"If Maryland has a bad showing, it's not going to be good for them," Beck said in an interview after the news conference.

Beck said about 30,000 tickets are gone. Each school gets 10,000 tickets. Another 5,000 go to active military service personnel and 2,500 to D.C. youths.

Tickets range from $25 to $90.

East Carolina (6-6) finished in a tie for fourth place in Conference USA. Beck said East Carolina fans had already sold out their downtown Washington hotel.

"We'll have a lot of purple in D.C. here pretty soon," East Carolina coach Ruffin McNeill said.

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