Maryland hoops' unofficial No. 1 brings back memories of top football ranking 30 years ago

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Thirty years ago, the Maryland football team opened the season ranked as the No. 1 team in the country by Sport Magazine.

It was the last time one of the school's two marquee programs held any sort of top ranking — until the men's basketball team was ranked No. 1 on Wednesday in an unofficial ESPN poll, ahead of perennial powers such as North Carolina, Kentucky and defending national champion Duke.


The Sport Magazine ranking in 1985, which was tied to its cover story on Maryland's massive "Beef Brothers" offensive line, was not considered as prestigious — or official — a ranking as the Associated Press media poll or the United Press International coaches poll.

Both of those had the Terps toward the bottom of the top 10.


Maryland proved quickly it wasn't the best team in the country, losing to Penn State in the opener at Byrd Stadium, 20-18.

Stan Gelbaugh, the team's starting quarterback, said Wednesday that the Terps had a lot of things going against them that afternoon before he had his first pass from scrimmage returned for a touchdown by future NFL teammate Michael Zordich and kicker named Ramon Paredes missed three field goals.

"It was almost a surreal feeling because I don't think any of us ever expected being ranked that high going into that season," recalled Gelbaugh, who also threw an interception from the Penn State 9-yard line on Maryland's second possession. "But having all that hype and just being uptight, we made a lot of dumb mistakes. Just the pressure of not having beaten them since 1961 was too much."

The Terps also wound up losing at Michigan and to Miami in Baltimore before winning the ACC and finishing their second straight 9-3 season with a win over Syracuse in the not-so-prestigious Cherry Bowl.

With the opening-game loss, Gelbaugh said, "[the hype] was over. … The pressure was off and I thought we played much better."

That situation came to mind when ESPN's college basketball reporter Eamonn Brennan posted a piece Wednesday that had Mark Turgeon's team as No. 1 in his no-longer-way-too-early Top 25. ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi also moved the Terps up from a No. 2 seed in April to a No. 1 seed in the latest bracket revealed Wednesday. (Lunardi also had the Terps possibly facing West Virginia in the second round again.)

There's probably more merit to Turgeon's team being ranked No. 1 in August than it was for Ross' team in the summer of 1985, but as junior college transfer Jaylen Brantley tweeted Wednesday shortly after Brennan's story was posted, "We still have a lot to prove. Not satisfied!!"

Turgeon's team had its ups and downs with a target on its back last season when the Terps got into the top 25 right after Thanksgiving and eventually worked its way into the top 10 late in the regular season. That target was the size of a thimble last season compared to what this season is going to be like.


The buzz surrounding Ross and his Terps 30 years ago was tangible, for its time, but nothing like it will be should Maryland go into the season as the No. 1 team in the country. Gelbaugh has some advice for Turgeon's players.

"What I would tell them — be prepared," Gelbaugh said. "The more prepared I was in my career, the less nervous I was. There's got to be nerves. Usually in basketball, you have some warmup games to get used to the pressure, but in football, it was a little different. We jumped right out of the starting blocks and we were drinking from the fire hose."

Gelbaugh also has another clear memory from 30 years ago.

"I remember a lot of people wanted me to get them tickets," Gelbaugh said. "It might have been the only year I've been around Maryland when the tickets were hard to get."