As he has walked along the hill that overlooks Kenneth R. Gill Stadium on McDaniel College's rolling campus this summer, athletic director Paul Moyer has looked to the turf and seen a bizarre sight: Green Terror athletes simply laying on the field, relaxing.
When first-year football coach Mike Dailey has checked in with his players this summer, the members of the Green Terror squad have brought up the turf unprompted.
McDaniel replaced the 12-year-old turf field at Gill Stadium in the spring in the latest step of a master plan to upgrade the college's facilities. And though the Green Terror won't get to debut that new turf in a football game until it hosts Muhlenberg on Sept. 17, the early reviews have been positive for Moyer and Dailey.
"Those guys are extremely excited," Moyer said in mid-July. "But the other impact I think is huge is on prospective student athletes. It's also on our alumni, you know our tradition of tailgating here and what the energy surrounds the football game. That whole world is just ramped up.
"It says excellence to all of those groups, whether you're a prospective student-athlete looking at us and Gettysburg and Franklin & Marshall, or whether you're an alum who played here in the '60s coming back and going, 'Man, this is what Green Terror football is all about.' That's a pretty neat thing, and to a person, really across the board, it's been positive."
The field was installed by Shaw Sports Turf, which installed the original field, modeled after the one at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, in 2004. And the turf is just one part of a revamped look at Gill Stadium this fall, McDaniel Director of Media Relations Cheryl Knauer said via email. The Green Terror recently installed a new scoreboard, and locker room renovations are currently ongoing.
Next summer, the track around the field is set to be replaced.
The project — which Moyer said could be considered an "update" — cost $650,000, Knauer said, and it will have application far beyond the football, field hockey, and men's and women's lacrosse teams at McDaniel.
"Over one-third of our students are student-athletes, and exercise science and physical education is one of our most popular majors, so these projects will directly support our students," Knauer said in the email.
The Westminster Road Runners Club and other outside organizations also use Gill Stadium, and Moyer said he expects to host high school playoff games for both Carroll County and the state.
"We obviously support other community events out here," Moyer said. "That's an important thing for us as an institution."
Dailey, a hall of fame coach in the Arena League in the 1990s and 2000s, spent the past seven years at McDaniel as an assistant before taking over in December. The Terror are 3-37 over the past four seasons, mired in a 19-game losing streak, and haven't had a winning season in 2004.
So the new coach with the new turf represents a bit of a fresh start for the program.
"For me personally, it's about that energy," Dailey said. "It's exciting for me, it's exciting for our staff, it's exciting for our players. It's exciting for the other teams to play on it. Field hockey, lacrosse, they're all fired up about it."
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The new turf is a darker, fresher green than its predecessor and is decorated with a few more logos than before. Dailey said the excitement of his players for the turf fits into the mindset of "you look good, you feel good," which he called "human nature." While the product on the field the past few years has struggled, the Green Terror get a morale boost before even taking a snap this fall.
"They love to get out there and play," Dailey said. "They want a great crowd. They want people behind them, and this is going to enhance that atmosphere, which is already spectacular, so we're really looking forward to it."
Moyer said one of his goals as athletic director is to have "quality facilities" for every team in the program, and that mindset has stretched through most aspects of McDaniel student life. It's something that he's tried to do during his tenure at McDaniel, and in the field, he has a standout example of that.
"I think that's the reward, right?" Moyer said. "That's why we're all in it. The bottom line is we see the student athletes coming back, and I've seen guys out there laying down on the field, just feeling it. And you go, 'Oh man, this is what it's all about.' "