Joe, Tacoma, Wash.: Given the Terps' poor season this year, should an NIT bid (if tendered) be accepted? Looking at the recruiting classes for 2006 and 2007, it doesn't appear things are going to get better anytime soon -- is this because top prospects are turned off by Maryland or Coach Williams?
Heather A. Dinich: Hi Joe. I'm not sure how closely you've looked at Maryland's incoming class of 2006, but some experts have it ranked among the top 20 in the nation. As for the NIT bid, if that's the path the Terps wind up taking, there's no question they should accept that bid. That's kind of like the football team contemplating if it should play in Boise or go home for Christmas. Any postseason is better than none, and for all of the positive things Gary has said about the NIT, it would look pretty bad on his part to turn it down. I found this in the archives of the New York Post (March 30, 2005):
Gary Williams, who has taken schools to the NIT in each of his four stops as a collegiate head coach. Two more victories would give Maryland its first NIT title since Len Elmore led the program to the championship in 1972. "We didn't belong in the NCAA, so we were happy to be a part of this."
Kevin, Venice, Calif.: There are many things that have contributed to this frustrating season for Gary's team: the loss of Chris McCray, the lack of a point guard, the huge number of turnovers, the lack of consistent outside shooting, etc. But the thing that has bothered me most about this team is the one thing that Gary should have had the ability to change: the lack of effort and intensity, especially on the defensive end. In years past, what Gary's teams may have lacked in talent they made up for in hustle. This year they seem to get beat to every loose ball. Do you think Gary has been too easy on this team?
Heather A. Dinich: No, but I do think he has struggled at times with how to respond to it. Nonetheless, the Terps have played better defense in their past two games (Miami and Virginia) and were able to win because of it. Something sparked them after the loss to UNC, and Gary will tell you one of the most difficult things to do is get a team mentally ready to play the next game after a loss like they had to the Tar Heels.
Ben, New York: I really love the Q&As. I know that Gary has gotten top 20 recruiting classes before, like the one he has coming in for 2006. But they're primarily top classes because of depth and not one or two highly talented players. To my knowledge Gary has never landed a top 15 player (Steve Francis, a junior college transfer, may be the one exception). Yet we consistently see teams that have not had the success that Maryland has had in the last 10 years landing top 15 players (I use scout.com for my recruiting info). In 2006, Texas (Kevin Durant from Md.), Stanford, Georgia Tech, Ohio State and Washington all have top 15 players. These coaches have nowhere near the resume of Gary. I know if John Gilchrist had stayed and Chris McCray had been eligible things might be different this year. But that's not the point.
I love that Gary can find diamonds in the rough like Gilchrist, Joe Smith, Juan Dixon and McCray. But why can't he land the blue-chippers? Maryland, should no longer be exclusively an underdog's program. Maryland doesn't even appear on a recruit's list for a top 15 player in 2007. Julian Vaughn (No. 22) is the highest-rated recruit with Maryland on his list. Maryland is on Chris Braswell's short list with Georgetown in 2008 at 16. Does Gary just not think it's worth his time to go after the best recruits? I want to clarify that I think Gary should be allowed to coach for as long as he wants at Maryland -- he built this program and he deserves all the credit in the world. He also deserves the fans' support and he has mine. I just hope that as he aspires to take this program to the level of Duke, North Carolina and Connecticut that he will focus on getting the best high school players to come to Maryland. Those programs along with several others always lead the recruiting lists.
Heather A. Dinich: Wow. A lot of action to respond to here, Ben, but thanks for your thoughts, and you raise a point that has been a criticism of Gary for years. He hasn't signed many blue-chippers in the past, but some would argue he hasn't needed to. What Roy Williams has done this is year is the perfect example to disprove the theory that the only way to beat the top programs in the country is with the top talent in the country. Roy has two former walk-ons and a second-team all-state player (Reyshawn Terry) in his starting lineup. They beat Duke. I do agree, though, that Maryland would be a different team with a freshman like Tyler Hansbrough. There is no question Gary needs to go out and recruit, and it's no secret it's not his favorite thing to do. We can only wait and see if the class of 2006 gives this team what it needs, and in the long run, that might be more important than how it ranks.
David, Sterling, Va.: It is obvious every game the opponent shoots more threes and makes more threes than Maryland. Players each year get better and better at the three-point shot. Maryland's offense is still to take the ball inside, while it is obvious the opponent's practice the three-point shot. The game seems to have passed Gary by. He hired assistant coaches who were supposed to change this, but his offense is not shooting the three.
Heather A. Dinich: Tell that to Mike Jones, who beat Virginia with a three-pointer on Sunday.
Dan, San Diego, Calif.: Any word on the next Navy-Maryland football game? I'm a Navy grad and flew out for last year's game. Although we lost a tough one, it seemed like something the area would want to repeat. What gives?
Heather A. Dinich: Well, the latest word from Maryland is that AD Debbie Yow is optimistic there might be a rematch in 2010. Nothing has been signed, though, and Navy is working on some scheduling issues. Maryland has no open dates until 2010, so nothing could happen even if they wanted it to until then.
John, Leesburg, Va.: Hi Heather. Do you have any information about renovation or expansion of Byrd Stadium?
Heather A. Dinich: It's a long process, John. Right now Maryland is still pursuing field naming
rights opportunities because it needs to be financed 100 percent from private gifts -- zero state money. The key to the whole thing is getting somebody to do the naming rights for the field. That's the first big piece of the puzzle.
Gary, Scotch Plains, N.J.: Heather, why and how is there talk of Mike Locksley coming back to Maryland? I mean, didn't he leave in the midst of the recruiting scandal involving Notre Dame's Victor Abiamiri and Ambrose Wooden? I'm sure he was the one that was nudged out the door, so why would he come back? He's creating a pipeline in the area for an up-and-coming Illinois team, not to mention already holding a position there as the offensive coordinator and tight ends coach. I don't get it. Is there any truth to it?
Heather A. Dinich: No, he did not leave in the midst of the recruiting scandal. Your timing is a little off. Locksley left because he was offered a position at the University of Florida that was a better opportunity at the time. Yes, there's truth to him being a candidate, but at this point in the offseason, odds are Ralph Friedgen will be the one calling the plays regardless of whom he hires.
Nancy: I question Friedgen's coaching and recruiting ability. If he hadn't inherited top material from Ron Vanderlinden's tenure at Maryland he would be gone by now. It was Vanderlinden's material that took Maryland to three straight bowl games. Since then Maryland has been mediocre and Penn State has cleaned their clock recruiting.
Heather A. Dinich: Can't argue that back-to-back 5-6 seasons qualifies as mediocre, and that Penn State lured the top recruits out of Maryland this season. Still, the 29th-best recruiting class in the country is respectable, especially after losing two coordinators and two losing seasons.