Byrd Stadium got Queen Elizabeth; Cole, the king of rock 'n' roll. In 1957, the young Queen of England was the guest of honor at a Maryland football game. On two nights in September 1974, Elvis Presley played Cole. From the swing of Benny Goodman to the rock of Bruce Springsteen and Bob Dylan, a broad spectrum of musical performances was staged at Cole, but never in the summer. It lacks air conditioning.
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Pingpong diplomacy stopped by in 1972, when the United States played host to China in table tennis. Billie Jean King played tennis and gymnast Olga Korbut tumbled in Cole. It played host to five NCAA wrestling tournaments, and one very absurd challenge match between two very tall men. The late Owen Brown, a forward for the Terps in the early 1970s, got hustled on the mats one day by Driesell, who pinned him twice.
"I went to Granby High in Norfolk," Driesell said last week of the home of the "Granby Roll," a basic wrestling move. "Players would get to bragging, and I would tell them I'd take bottom to start. I knew that Granby Roll. Pinned one of my players just last year. Probably reinjured my neck."
"Lefty Driesell and Cole Field House are synonymous," former athletic director Jim Kehoe said of basketball's status at Maryland. "If it hadn't been for Lefty, the packed houses and the need for a new arena, none of this would have happened."
Driesell fiddled with one of Cole's crucial measurements. The sole concourse that fans descend from narrows to barely 10 feet, but it's 30 feet from sideline to the cement bowl that holds 12,230 permanent seats. Millikan coached in that sterile environment, but Driesell bridged that gap by demanding risers and folding chairs around the floor.
The added seats increased the listed capacity to 14,500. That has been exceeded on several occasions. Everyone from prep prospects to pachyderms drew applause during the Driesell era as the Terps tried promotions of all kinds.
"On Circus Night, we couldn't get an elephant out of the tunnel and it delayed the start of the second half," said Virginia state Sen. Russ Potts, who promoted Maryland basketball and football in the 1970s. "Kehoe was livid. I told him, 'The elephant won't listen to me, you talk to him.' I think that was the last Circus Night."
Tom Roy was among the prospects introduced during a game against North Carolina in 1971. Tar Heels guard George Karl pointed to the scoreboard during the 24-point Terps loss and made his own recruiting pitch to Roy.
A win over Duke in Driesell's first season led to the singing of "Amen," which became to Maryland victories what Red Auerbach's cigar was to Boston Celtics titles. North Carolina coach Dean Smith once told his players at the half that he would serenade them with the spiritual if they came back and won. The Heels did.
Driesell's second season brought a monumental 31-30 win over No. 2 South Carolina. Their first meeting ended in a blowout and brawl in Columbia, the Terps losing both. After weeks of verbal jousting between Driesell and counterpart Frank McGuire, the Gamecocks came to Cole and were "protected" by the Maryland Medieval Mercenary Militia, a group of students playing dress-up. After an overtime victory, students tried to topple the baskets.
"You see kids take down goal posts after football games," said Driesell, whose son, Chuck, then a second-grader and future Terp, was nearly trampled. "That's the only time I've ever seen them try to bend the baskets."
How much preparation went into the slow-down game, in which Maryland led 4-3 at the half?
"I don't believe we worked on it all," said Jim O'Brien, the frizzy-haired sophomore who scored the winning basket. "I went by him [Driesell] one time, and he said let's bring them out of the zone. We may have planned to play at a slow pace, but that became complete dead ball."
McGuire and South Carolina left the ACC, but other villains arrived.
Smith, the winningest coach in college basketball history, punched his ticket to three Final Fours and went 30-12 at Cole. He notched more wins there than Frank Fellows and Bob Wade, who preceded and followed Driesell.
Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski went 15-1 at Cole from 1985 to 2001, the last being maybe the most galling Terps defeat there, as the team blew a 10-point lead in the last 54 seconds. Its bookend came in 1973, in the first made-for-TV college game on Super Bowl Sunday. David Thompson's first visit to Cole quieted the crowd, as the best player in ACC history -- sorry MJ and Ralph Sampson -- leaped over a textbook box-out by Bob Bodell for the winning put-back.