In prepping this blog post I discovered it's been more than 11 years since Maryland played in Cole Field House. The passage of time strikes a scare into my soul once more. The historic arena was the Terrapins' home for 47 years, and the past 11 have seen the program play in the on-campus Comcast Center. But in an effort to tap into the fan base's pride and sense of nostalgia, Maryland on Tuesday announced it would hold its 2013 Midnight Madness festivities at the famous former hallowed hoops house.
Not a good idea. A great one. It is the first time the men's program will hold an official basketball event at the Field House since it closesd the doors after beating Virginia on March 3, 2002. The return to Cole will commence on Oct. 18 with the women's and men's teams hosting a party for all Terps fans who can fit inside the building, and despite some attendance concerns in recent years, I'd think/hope the event will have a good chance of selling out.
"Cole Field House represented many of the most iconic and memorable moments in Maryland basketball program history," coach Mark Turgeon said in a statement. "Cole was host to multiple hall of fame coaches and countless All-Americans that helped make Maryland basketball what it is today. It will be a special evening for our fans, students, alumni and our university as we reconnect with the historic past of Cole Field House and Maryland basketball.”
The school notes the men's and women's teams combined to go 774-246 (.759) at home during the Cole Field House era.
The Baltimore Sun got a hold of Maryland's two most famous coaches in history, Lefty Driesell (who is credited with inventing the Midnight Madness concept) and Gary Williams, who won the school's only national title in the same year Cole closed, 2002. Both intend on making an appearance. Sounds like it'll be a great night and a heck of a way for Maryland to tip off its 2013-14 season, which will have NCAA tournament expectations.
“I'm looking forward to it. It's great, I think it will be fun,” Driesell said by telephone from his beach house in Delaware. “I hope we can get all the [former] players back there.”
Said Williams: “I would certainly enjoy being there. I haven't talked to [athletic director] Kevin Anderson yet about it, but I would look forward to it.”
The idea to hold Maryland Madness at Cole Field House this year grew out of a campaign to celebrate the school's final season in the Atlantic Coast Conference before its athletic teams move to the Big Ten next season. The 14,500-seat arena, which opened in 1955 and was among the largest college basketball venues in the country, holds special memories for both Driesell and Williams.
“Cole had outlived its time as a building, not necessarily as a basketball court,” Williams said Tuesday. “You couldn't do a lot of things in Cole. It wasn't air-confidtioned. We used to tell our campers in the summer, ‘Our air-conditioning broke yesterday.' There was a lot of asbestos, the bathrooms needed updating. So much money would have had to have been spent to bring it up to speed. Comcast Center was something that had to be done.” Williams said part of a new generation of Maryland fans have never been inside Cole Field House. “It will be great for young people who never got a chance to see a game in Cole Field House to see Midnight Madness there. They can get a kind of feel for that.”
Midnight Madness' appeal in a lot of ways has peaked, but a few schools every year manage to incorporate something different in order to keep it relevant, fresh and newsworthy. Maryland couldn't have done anything better than this.