Student chant, arrests scar otherwise 5-star night for Terps

March 04, 2010 | Drew Forrester

The Terps can’t even beat the Duke Blue Devils fair and square without the spotlight illuminating a troublesome situation at College Park.

What a shame.

Wednesday night’s thriller will long be remembered as the night Greivis Vasquez pulled the curtain closed on a brilliant 4-year (home) career that will someday culminate in his jersey #21 being hung from the rafters at Comcast Center.  It will go down as the most fitting of final games — Vasquez, with the game on the line and his team and the crowd on his back, shuffling through traffic and heaving up a half-desperate, half-I’m-gonna-will-this-thing-in 15-footer that stuck a golden knife through Coach K’s heart in the final minute of a 79-72 Terps win.

Maryland beat Duke on Wednesday night.  That’s a fact.

But it wasn’t pretty.  Don’t get me wrong…in terms of basketball-cosmetics, it was gorgeous.  Any win over Duke never needs make-up to make it look good.

It wasn’t pretty because the school lost control of the students at College Park.

Overnight, there was a national outcry centered mostly around the swarm of fans who stormed the court after the game.  National sports talk host J.T. The Brick evidently criticized Maryland’s fan base for doing it because “it’s a regular season game, people…act like you’ve been there before.”

OK, well, it WASN’T just any other regular season game…and there’s the problem that Maryland failed to address last night.

And as you probably know by now, it got even more ugly in the wee hours of the morning when College Park police arrested 27 people in and around the campus on Route 1 for disorderly behavior.  But that kind of stuff is bound to happen when 18,000 people are leaving a venue and they’re sky high about “anything” — be it a sporting event, a concert or any other public gathering that has an emotional tie to it all.  Young people, especially when they’ve been drinking, do silly things.  It’s as inevitable as the sun setting in the West tonight.

Back to the game…

The scene on Wednesday night was nothing short of The Perfect Storm.  It was a mid-week game that started at 9pm, meaning that kids in attendance (and by kids, I mean, “the students”) had all afternoon and the early evening to consume their favorite beverages as a ramp-up session for the evening’s festivities at Comcast Center.  Add in the opponent – Duke – and sprinkle in the fact that Maryland could not only win to stay alive for the #1 seed in the ACC tournament, but a victory over the Blue Devils meant that Coach K and Company couldn’t clinch the regular season crown on Maryland’s home court.  Add to the mix a nationally televised game (ESPN) and then toss in the BIGGEST ingredient — it was the swan song for Greivis Vasquez…and you had all the makings of a combustible situation.  It’s akin to making a bomb.  You put 2 or 3 of these elements together, light it, and nothing happens.  Add 2 or 3 more things to the process, light it, and now it can explode.

And that’s what was set to happen on Wednesday night around 9pm.

The storming-the-court issue is a backburner thing for me…personally…because the students and fans rushing to the scene of the crime were doing it MAINLY to bask in the glory of their school’s win over Duke.  The problem, though, isn’t about “how it looks” — as some folks have opined today nationally — it’s much more about public safety and the safety of the Duke players and coaches, who were presumably very uncomfortable for a few minutes afterwards as they were taunted by the massive collection of rabid Terps supporters on the court afterwards.  And all it takes at the moment folks go rushing from their seats is one person to fall, one little girl to get pushed down, or someone to get injured — and Maryland has a significant legal liability to deal with in the aftermath.

This, though, is not an issue directly connected ONLY to Maryland.  It’s so much of a concern nationally that a conference like the SEC now fines schools $35,000 if your fan base enters the playing field after an athletic contest.  It’s not a “how does it look” kind of deal.  It’s a “we don’t want anyone getting hurt or killed” situation that worries the schools and their conference leaders.

Maryland needs to take notice of what happened last night and take measures to protect themselves – legally – in the future.

But the court-rushing wasn’t nearly as embarrassing or unprofessional as something that did happen on Wednesday night that Maryland MUST seek to stop immediately.

The “F**k you Scheyer” chant from the student body that started before the game, echoed through the arena and gained steam throughout the night must come to an end.

It’s a scar on the body of the University — not just the athletic department or the students who don’t have common decency — and one that the school’s top adminstrators should review and set forth a course of action to make sure it doesn’t happen anymore.

This is NOT a Gary Williams issue.  Gary controls the basketball team, not the fans.  In fairness to Gary, he wants that building amped up to its highest level for EVERY home game and he likely doesn’t really care all that much how uncomfortable it is in there for either the opposing team or the fans in the building who might be offended by the use of vulgar language.  Aside from flat out cheating to win the game, Gary would do anything to beat Duke — or North Carolina — or anyone else — and if that means the student body being verbally abusive or threatening in some manner, Gary’s main concern is this:  “Did we score more points than the other team at the end of the game?”

This problem with the “F**k you Scheyer” chant is above Gary’s pay-grade, frankly.

Yes, yes, I know they air a video message on the scoreboard before the game asking the fans to behave properly and all that stuff.  It’s not working, in case you haven’t been able to figure that out for yourself.

Someone – whether it’s Debbie Yow or the outgoing President or the incoming person in charge – needs to make it his or her objective to get the message across to the students that chanting “F**k you” in the arena is just not acceptable.  Period.

Yell, scream, dance, take off your shirt (guys), wear crazy wigs, paint your face, yell some more…do ALL of that stuff x 10.  Do it louder.

But screaming “F**k you” in unison?  Bush league.

Maryland basketball is NOT bush league.  The program has always been above the curve in Gary’s 20+ seasons in terms of professionalism and decency and routinely fields a competitive program that makes all of Maryland – not just the graduates – proud of the state school.

However, students collaborating on a vulgar phrase like that IS bush league and it connects the basketball program in a way it doesn’t deserve.

Get control of those misfits down there and ask them to stop embarrassing the school.  It’s awkward if you’re in the building, I’m sure, and particularly uncomfortable to hear on national TV when you can literally hear the announcers raise their voices in an attempt to drown out the filthy language.

I’m surprised at one point a play-by-play person hasn’t just said, “You know what…folks at home…I’m going to stop talking for just a second and let you listen in to these clowns behind me who need a major lesson in decorum.  Hear that chant?  That’s the level of intelligence you get from the student body at College Park.”

It’s embarrassing.

And the school should do something to fix it.

I’m not sure how they do it.  That, frankly, is probably above MY pay grade too.  I’m not sure if you hand them all a card when they come in and specifically address the “F**k you” chant and say, “Please, we’re putting you all on the honor system here.  Do NOT engage in that kind of collective effort and use the “f-word” tonight.”

Would that help?  I don’t know.

I do know this:  It has to stop.

And while I know that Maryland’s not the only school in the country where the student body gets liquored and smoked up and jams their way into the stadium and then misbehaves, I also know that I don’t really care what the kids do at West Virginia or Missouri or Texas Tech.

I don’t care if Syracuse fans – for example only – embarrass Jim Boeheim’s program and/or the school with some vulgar chant.

I only care about Maryland, in this case.

Tell these kids to shape up — or at least ask them nicely, if nothing else.

Enough is enough.

And it’s up to the Maryland administration to do something about it.