The “House That Gary Built” Looks More Like A Restaurant Nobody Goes To Anymore

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I recall a long time ago (it seemed like a long time ago, but let’s call it 2008-ish) that I would tell any Maryland basketball fan who would call my show to complain about Gary Williams’ – a. Lack of recruiting b. Inability to get past the Sweet 16 or c. Something else – that someday, they would be looking back on Gary’s days as “the glory years.”

Well, here we are, with another dud of a Terps team this year, hoping for a winning lottery ticket in their final ACC Tournament to somehow sneak into the Field of 64.

And nobody’s buying it. Least of all, the fan base. The Washington Post chronicles the unfortunate but undeniable truth about the program as it bids so long to the ACC after 61 years.

Such scenes have become rare over the past four years in College Park, where students once regularly camped out to watch a Maryland basketball program that reached the Final Four in 2001, won the national championship in 2002 and made the NCAA tournament in most of the other years under legendary coach Gary Williams. Now, barring a run to the ACC tournament title this week, the Terrapins will miss college basketball’s marquee event for a fourth straight season, and this year’s seniors will become the first class to graduate without witnessing an NCAA tournament appearance in 21 years.

“The program has always been a part of March Madness,” said Scott Block, a senior from Howard County who has been close friends with Tommins since freshman year. “At least, it was.”

The program’s recent stasis has coincided with a sharp decline in overall attendance for a financially troubled athletic department that is banking on basketball ticket receipts to carry it through choppy monetary waters. Maryland is averaging 12,198 fans per game this season, down 32 percent since the 2007-08 season, when the Terrapins maxed out Comcast Center’s capacity with 17,950 packing the arena on a nightly basis. The school also says student attendance has dropped by roughly 375 over the past year.

My opinion on new coach Mark Turgeon is the same as it was when they hired him. He’s good enough, I suppose. But the “program” that many fans assumed could continue in the Post Gary Era, retired WITH Gary. The pulsing blood and literal sweat of that legendary coach WAS the program in the modern 3-point era.

Oh yeah, I know. Lefty. But what I tried to argue back then (and was angrily shouted down by many Terp fans) is that despite the Lefty Era and the Gary Era, Maryland basketball wasn’t anywhere near the caliber of the Four Horsemen of college hoops royalty: Duke, Carolina, Kentucky, Kansas.

They program wasn’t even Indiana, UConn, Michigan State, or Syracuse.

Nor probably Florida, Louisville, UCLA or Arizona.

It’s a good program, with a very nice DVD-ready history. But in a lot of ways, it’s also Georgia Tech North. A program that has got to be hot at the moment, for fans to care, or even show up.

About the Author

Steve Czaban is a 25 year sports radio veteran, who hosts an afternoon drive show in Washington D.C. He also appears on "Bob and Brian" in Milwaukee. "Czabe" also writes and edits his own commentaries for www.czabe.com and other on-line and print publications. He can be reached at czabe@yahoo.com.

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4 Comments

  1. That school deserves what it gets. They are about to get a very rude wake-up call after bailing on the ACC just so they can fix their lack of revenue. Maryland has officially become the Rutgers of the Big Ten/12

    1. That picture was taken 1/2 hour before tip off that’s just unfair 🙂 . Before we start to kill MD lets look at the area teams as well. Who else averages 12,000 people? MD ranks 25th in the country in attendance for 2013. How does that equate to a restaurant that no one goes to? Czabe you are a trolling clown. I still love you though, and i agree that GW was under appreciated. The attendance example is just weak barometer of popularity, MD is no different than the skins, more people go when they are good.

  2. The reason that the schools that you mentioned are royalty is because they always win. They don’t go through droughts where they miss the tournament for 4 straight years. If they did, they would quickly lose their royalty status and would also lose fans in the process. People always say that St. Louis Cardinals fans are the “best in baseball.” Maybe that has something to do with the fact that the Cardinals are always good? Let’s see the Cardinals suck for 10 straight years and see how great their fans are.

    Gary was great in his prime, but this slide started under him. He rested on his laurels after the National Championship and mailed it in as far as recruiting goes. While guys like Jay Wright were traveling to High School games 3 states away to watch recruits on a rare off-day, Gary was at Bentley’s getting liquored-up with Steve Bisciotti, or flying out to watch the ponies with his buddy Rick Pitino. Gary deserves credit for building the program back up after the NCAA probation, but he also deserves credit for letting the program slide after the National Championship.

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