Did Stefon Diggs get robbed by not being included on the All-ACC… (Mitch Stringer, US PRESSWIRE )
Baltimore Sun reporter Don Markus and editor Matt Bracken weigh in on the three biggest topics of the past week in Maryland sports.
Maryland is curently trying to encourage football fans with a couple of early season packages, one of which includes an $80 deal combining the West Virginia game on Sept. 21 at M&T Bank Stadium with either the Aug. 30 opener against Florida International or the Sept. 7 game against Old Dominion. Do the Terps risk sellout of their game in Baltimore with a majority of Mountaineer fans in attendance?
Don Markus: Knowing how well West Virginia “travels” for football, and given the proximity of Morgantown to Baltimore, you have to figure there’s going to be a pretty significant contingent of fans rooting for the visitors. When the Mountaineers played in College Park two years ago – in Randy Edsall’s first season at Maryland – there was quite a bit of gold and blue in the stands at Byrd Stadium.
Maryland games in Baltimore or at FedEx Field are traditionally not part of the season ticket package, but the Terps included this year’s game to try to help keep pushing the numbers forward. But the fact that the ticket office needs to package the West Virginia game with two non-conference games that will have trouble attracting fans – or vica versa – speaks of the lack of buzz surrounding the football team.
According to the Maryland athletic department, Maryland has sold 22,000 and West Virginia has sold 3,000 as of Friday. “We anticipate a very pro Maryland crowd at our game in M&T Bank Stadium,” an athletic department spokesman wrote in a text message. This figure doesn’t include students who might attend the game, the spokesman said later.
The last time Maryland played in Baltimore, against Navy to open the 2010 season, the Terps were coming off a 2-10 record the year before. The pressure on Ralph Friedgen had subsided a bit after Debbie Yow had left earlier that summer for North Carolina State, but the interest had definitely waned.
Even the subsquent development of redshirt freshman quarterback Danny O’Brien and the sensational play of wide receiver Torrey Smith for the Terps during what turned out to be a 9-4 season didn’t fire up the fan base enough to save Friedgen’s job.
Now, with the Terps coming off 2-10 and 4-8 records in Edsall’s first two years, the fan base is possibly more disgruntled than it has been since the days of Ron Vanderlinden. While a 3-0 start against FIU and Old Dominion at home and Connecticut on the road won’t hurt, I know a lot of Maryland fans are taking a wait-and-see approach before they jump back on the bandwagon.
I can see some going to the West Virginia game, but with Ed Reed possibly returning the next day with the Houston Texans, I can also see more buying up what tickets are available for the Ravens game the following day. I am not sure how many tickets were allotted the Terps and how many went up to Morgantown, but there should be plenty of seats available for West Virginia fans.
For those who have trouble getting tickets at Mountaineer Field, paying a few extra bucks to see their favorite team three hours or so down the road in Baltimore is a small sacrifice to pay. Not that it’s unusual for teams with rabid fan bases to scoop up tickets for road games. Just ask Ohio State fans how many games they’ve gone to at Indiana or Northwestern. Just ask Buckeye fans if they have circled the 2014 Big Ten road opener in College Park.
A friend of mine who has been a longtime Maryland season-ticket holder in football and basketball reminded me of when Georgetown played the Terps at the USAir Arena to start the 1993-94 season. The Hoyas were nationally ranked and didn’t make that game part of their season-ticket package. In fact, as my friend recalled, they charged double the price of the Syracuse game. Though it was considered a Georgetown home game, Terps fans bought up most of the seats. Maryland won.
I just covered the U.S. national soccer team’s win in the Gold Cup last Sunday over El Salvador, and M&T Bank Stadium seemed more like San Salvador than Baltimore until the Americans scored a bunch of goals in the second half in a 5-1 rout. Winning on the road is going to be tough for the Terps this season, whether the game is in Blacksburg or Tallahassee, or if their fans don’t show up on Sept. 21 in Baltimore.
What is up with Mark Turgeon offering a scholarship to an eighth-grader?
Don Markus: You often hear a high school senior say after he signs with a college program that it was because of the long-standing relationship he developed with a head coach. If Tomas Murphy eventually signs with Maryland, he is bound to say that it all began in middle school.