By Jeff Barker, The Baltimore Sun
8:56 PM EDT, September 19, 2011
COLLEGE PARK —
It's not hard to determine what consistently sells tickets to University of Maryland sporting events: winning teams.
But speakers at a sparsely-attended Maryland forum said Monday that the university also needs to better address fans' concerns by creating more football tailgating options around Byrd Stadium, making games more family-friendly, curbing profanity at Comcast Center basketball games and continuing to push Maryland's "brand" in the region.
"I promise you if you make this environment fun, people will come," Maryland student Ary Manzhukh said at a public meeting of a commission studying the operations and finances of Maryland's athletic department. Manzhukh, a senior, raised a number of concerns — including parking.
The 17-member President's Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics called the meeting so faculty, students and staff could provide input. Spectators filled less than one-half of the student union atrium. Only two speakers signed up in advance to speak — and one said they hadn't realized what they were signing. Commission co-chair Barry Gossett joked that he might start calling on audience members.
Ultimately, 14 audience members did speak, voicing a number of concerns and suggestions. Several speakers said they hoped the university won't cut any of Maryland's 27 sports teams.
The commission was created in July. It is examining conditions that led to the athletics department having to employ now-depleted reserves to balance the annual budget.
The commission, which is studying ways to boost revenue and cut costs, will issue recommendations by Nov. 15 to university president Wallace Loh.
Loh, athletic director Kevin Anderson, men's basketball coach Mark Turgeon and football coach Randy Edsall have all been at the university less than a year. Edsall spent much of the offseason promoting the team to fans and recruiting.
"I don't want to see women's sports eliminated," said Karel Petraitis, a board member of the Terrapin Club, which provides scholarships for Maryland athletes. "I am just hoping we don't gut the program now."
Members of the commission offered few hints of what it might recommend. Mostly, they asked questions and listened.
Terrapin Club official Colin Potts was asked how Maryland can generate more excitement among fans .
Potts said fan outreach efforts with coaches and players would be useful. He said new family activities outside the stadium this season have already proved beneficial. And he said having a team "that is ranked every year" would certainly help.
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