By Chris Knoche
In a surprising and very public - move this weekend, Maryland athletic director Kevin Anderson told Liz Clarke of The Washington Post that none of his athletic teams at Maryland would play their counterparts at Georgetown until a decades-long impasse over scheduling a mens basketball series between the two schools is settled.
The only thing really new about this story is that Anderson to the delight of both his coaches and his fan base - is refusing to play Georgetowns reindeer games any longer.
I cant claim objectivity on this for a number of reasons. First, I am paid by the University of Maryland to do its basketball games on radio.
Second, I have seen this situation up close and personal since Lefty and Big John first had at it in in the old D.C. Armory in the late 1970s. From that point, Georgetown and its larger-than-life coach were able to usurp the Terps on the local front in terms of exposure and cache for the next decade.
In the 1980s, the programs headed in completely different directions. The Hoyas had a handful of legendary teams while Maryland was sent reeling by the death of Len Bias and the disastrous Bob Wade era in College Park.
Enter Gary Williams.
It didnt happen overnight, but Williams was able to duct-tape his teams into respectability. Without question his most important win EVER - was when he and a young group of Terrapins surprised Georgetown at USAir Arena, 84-83, in 1993. That singular win put the Terps back on the NCAA hoops map and led to the best decade of basketball in the programs history.
The two teams have met twice since then, but only because they ran into each other in tournaments and couldnt avoid the contest. The first was a 10-point Maryland win in Anaheim, Calif., in the Sweet 16 in 2001. The second was a Georgetown rout in a Thanksgiving tournament in Florida in 2008.
When Maryland beat Georgetown in that game in 1993, I was the head coach at American. That one thrilling game led to a resurgence of calls for some kind of Big Five-style local series that would allow local teams to compete every year. It was all about wanting the big dogs to play. And it never happened.
It didnt happen largely because John Thompson did not want to lose the edge he had locally in all the areas mentioned above. He had a lot more to lose than Maryland and Williams, and he was probably the singular reason a series never came about.
I have no doubt that Williams as proud and defiant as he is - fully expected the 1993 game would be returned to the Terps in that next year or two at Cole Field House.
Scheduling may be the single most important thing a college basketball program does. It can be used to raise money and profiles. It can be used to reward players with a chance to play in their hometowns. It can also be a lot more art than science. You might schedule a home game against a team that is very good this year and think you have a chance for a good home win against a quality opponent, and then the team that shows up next year is anything but. Similarly, you may have games scheduled on the road that appeared to be winnable two years ago and those teams are stacked by the time you play them.
Coaches take their scheduling very seriously. Heck, there are some decent coaches who probably scheduled themselves right out of a job. Present company included.
When you schedule a game on the road without a financial guarantee, there is a reasonable expectation of a return date at your place. Maryland had that expectation, and it continues to have the expectation. At this point, Im not sure that Anderson isnt even demanding that the series start at Comcast Center if and when it ever starts back up. He simply wants the conversation.
This is a gamble of sorts for Anderson and Maryland. Georgetown basketball probably has more to lose by scheduling Maryland at this point than the other way around. Andersons public venting of his frustrations is likely to make the Hoyas less likely to schedule the Terps than they ever were before. Thats the way Georgetown rolls. Correctly or incorrectly, the Hoyas have never really cared about what other people think.
Back in the day when I was still coaching, the No. 1 topic - by far - that everybody would ask me was about the possibility of local teams playing regularly.
They werent talking about AU-GW.