NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- It was easy to find Maryland fans inside Bridgestone Arena and on the streets outside. The arena is located in a downtown tourist area filled with restaurants and bars, many featuring live country music.
The Terps wear four colors -- red, white, black and gold -- but the traveling fans favor red apparel. It is the color most associated with the school, and there were splashes of Maryland red all around the arena, which seats about 20,000.
Notre Dame has made four consecutive Final Four appearances, and Connecticut, which was playing in Sunday night’s late game, has been to seven straight. But this is Maryland’s first trip since 2006 and -- while its fans were clearly outnumbered on the streets by waves of blue-clad Connecticut supporters -- Terps backers seemed particularly eager to see their team.
“We’re first-time Final Four people,” said Joyce Wellman, an artist from Washington, D.C., who flew here Saturday morning. She participated in a sendoff for the players as they boarded a bus from the Nashville team hotel to the arena Sunday and were serenaded by the Maryland band.
One fan who didn’t arrive was university president Wallace Loh. The school said his flight was cancelled due to mechanical problems, and he was unable to get another flight that would make it to the game on time.
Maryland quickly sold out its allotment of 500 tickets. An untold number of other fans obtained tickets for the sold-out game through other methods, including secondary ticket providers.
Retired teacher Sharon MacKenzie got her ticket for a little more than $100 from a friend and drove seven hours to the arena Sunday morning from her home in Indian Land, S.C. She was wearing a red-and-white necklace and a red Maryland sweatshirt with a black “Final Four” T-shirt underneath.
MacKenzie, who played field hockey and lacrosse at Maryland between 1968 and 1972, said she knew she wanted to attend the game as soon as the Terps defeated Louisville in the Elite Eight on Tuesday night.
“I was texting back and forth [with friends] after it was over,” she said.
Another Maryland fan, John DeGreck of St. Louis, drove to Louisville for the regional final. Maryland backers were a tiny minority on the Cardinals’ home court and “it was the loudest I’ve ever heard it” at a Terps game, he said.
DeGreck drove back to St. Louis, where he remained until driving five hours to Nashville on Sunday morning.
Maryland fans Kevin and Laura Sizemore didn’t have to worry about travel. They are high school teachers in Nashville and were thrilled the team had come to their home city.
“We don’t get too many of their games down here,” Laura said.