Maryland: Terrapins fans ready to 'follow them wherever they go'

GREENSBORO, N.C. - Other than those who wore a mixture of red, yellow, white, and black, or sported a turtle of some kind on their clothing, spectators at the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament did little to give Maryland a sincere send-off as it bid adieu to the ACC after 61 years.

To some of the fans not old enough to recall legendary battles with Duke or North Carolina State or Virginia, seeing the Terrapins play their final ACC game was sweet. Some Tobacco Road enthusiasts bragged Thursday night, hours after the Terps lost to Florida State in the ACC tourney's second round, about gesturing with one finger toward the team's buses as they departed Greensboro Coliseum.

Their conversations at a nearby restaurant blended in with the rest of the din - fans of N.C. State, Virginia, Georgia Tech, and new ACC members Syracuse and Pittsburgh, all showing off their colors, all seemingly disinterested in anything to do with Maryland's leaving for the Big Ten Conference.

But there were Terps fans that made the trip and tried to savor every minute of their team's final ACC experience.

"It's sad," said Gene Winemiller, a Manchester resident who traveled with his son, Patrick, to watch Maryland play. "I wanted to see the Terps' last game they ever play in the ACC. ... We've been avid fans forever. I've been following this since I was 14. It's just a long history that I hate to see end."

There was a quiver in his voice, perhaps because his passion for the Terrapins runs deep. He attended the school. So did his wife. And three of his children.

Patrick didn't go to Maryland, but he wore Terrapins gear like his dad and made sure to grab seats when he spotted a pair online on the lower level near mid-court.

"We're not going to have the same rivalries, the Duke rivalry, the Virginia rivalry," he said. "Now you're going to have to establish 'hatred' for another team, something that's not nearby."

The arena's concourse walls and pillars were lined with ACC logos and images of each school's mascot. Souvenir stands displayed tournament hats and T-shirts colored for each team.

Some fans walking by the merchandise scoffed at the lack of Maryland gear. Two Wolfpack fans, perhaps fueled by liquid encouragement, pretended to tear down the banner bedecked with Maryland's mascot and shouted profanities.

Their point was clear - hit the road Testudo, don't let the door hit you in the shell on the way out.

(The Terps' plush two-legged turtle was showered with boos before a mascot basketball contest during halftime of one of the Thursday games. Only North Carolina and Duke's mascots got it worse.)

But that didn't deter fans like Chris Bangerd of Westminster from enjoying their time in Greensboro.

"We're here for the duration," Bangerd said, standing inside the concourse with her 19-year-old daughter, Katie, who is on her spring break from Stevenson University. "She's a little more into basketball than my husband, so she got to make the trip this time."

Bangerd is a self-proclaimed basketball junkie. A dream day for her would be watching hoops from morning to night, which is exactly what she and her daughter did Thursday.

They wore Maryland colors and rooted for the Terps, but when the home team lost it wasn't time pack up and head home.

In fact, Bangerd said she'd change clothes for the remainder of the tourney and move from Maryland to - gulp - Duke.

"See, I like Duke and Carolina too. I know, it's rough," Bangerd said. "I've got mixed [feelings]. I love the ACC, but I understand and it is what it is. I'll still follow Maryland. I don't know if I'll know the teams in the Big Ten like I do the ACC.

"I love it. It will be rough, but it's all right. We'll make the switch. I'm still a Maryland fan."

And would the Bangerds make travel plans for, say, Indianapolis or Chicago, at attend future Big Ten tourneys?

"Maybe in time," she said. "If you're a fan you follow them wherever they go."

Denny Snyder and a group of friends followed them to Greensboro one last time, a final chance to see the Terrapins play in a storied tournament at a storied ACC city. Snyder, who lives in Westminster and coaches varsity girls soccer at Winters Mill High, called the trip "bucket list" material and was taken aback by Thursday's atmosphere during the quartet of games.

Non-Maryland supporters seem united in seeing the Terrapins off and mocking them for the monetary problems that created one of the ACC's charter members needing to pack up and switch leagues.

It may take some time for diehard fans to adjust, but they wanted to take a Carolina journey and soak in one final ACC tournament experience.

"It makes me sad because I grew up watching them," said Katie Bangerd, who credited her parents for sparking her interest. "They would take me to games when I was younger, so we'll still be able to do that. We won't see them play the ACC teams like they did. But it's a bunch of teams I've never seen play before."

The idea of creating new rivalries and traditions isn't sitting well with some of the older Terps fans just yet.

"To me, a conference should be based on geography anyway," Gene Winemiller said. "It makes more sense that we'd be playing in a conference with West Virginia, Pitt ... Maryland, Virginia. Nebraska? I don't think so."

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