Maryland readies for Va. Tech invasion

Baltimore Sun

- Maryland and its fans have been subjected this season to a large dose of turnovers, heavy rain and seven losses in nine games.

Now fans, who have also complained that too few games are being televised, fear that they are about to face another indignity - an invasion of their stadium by thousands upon thousands of Virginia Tech fans.

Maryland and Virginia Tech officials say they expect more than 5,000 Hokies fans at Byrd Stadium when No. 20 Virginia Tech (6-3, 3-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) plays the Terrapins (2-7, 1-4 ACC) today.

A Hokies fan group leader predicts the number could rise above 10,000.

"I would not be surprised to see 10,000 to 15,000 Virginia Tech fans at the game, especially considering the decline in attendance for Maryland and the fact that there are more than 30,000 Hokie alumni in Northern Virginia alone, plus several thousand more in Maryland," said Gary Cope, general manager of

"I live in Christiansburg and know that a ton of Hokie fans from this area are leaving [Friday] for the game," Cope said.

Thomas V. Mike Miller, president of the Maryland Senate, said he is concerned about the appearance of so many visiting fans.

"This Saturday is going to look like the Redskins and the Steelers," said Miller, a Maryland graduate and ardent Terps sports fan.

Miller was referring to an NFL game in Landover last season in which thousands of towel-waving Pittsburgh fans blunted Washington's advantage at FedEx Field.

Maryland said the Virginia Tech game is sold out. Students were still claiming their tickets late in the week.

Byrd Stadium holds about 51,500 and has averaged a little more than 44,921 fans per game this season, according to the school's attendance figures. Maryland season-ticket sales have declined for the fifth consecutive year.

Virginia Tech athletics spokesman Dave Smith said about 5,600 tickets were distributed through the school's ticket office. That figure includes the standard allotment that Maryland would give to a visiting team. Because the Baltimore-Washington region is Virginia Tech's top alumni area, "you can figure several thousand additional tickets have likely been purchased up there," Smith said.

Brian Ullmann, a Maryland senior associate athletic director, said the university does "everything we can to sell to Terps fans first."

But, Ullmann said, "when we put single-game tickets on sale to the general public, it stands to reason that [Virginia Tech] fans will buy some." Virginia Tech is the first school this season to use its entire ticket allotment from Maryland, Ullmann said.

Some Maryland fans, including Miller, have also expressed frustration at the small number of Terps games on television this season.

The opening game against California was on ESPN2, and the Clemson and Virginia games were on ESPNU. - which broadcasts live streaming video online - showed Maryland against Middle Tennessee State, Rutgers, Wake Forest, Duke, North Carolina State and now Virginia Tech.

Based on its contract with the conference, ABC/ESPN gets to select the prime ACC games. The most compelling ones end up broadcast on the networks.

Miller said it concerns him that fans "in Baltimore can't see their own team [on television], but they can see the Big East."

Damon Phillips, vice president of, said in an interview that he understands that fans "are used to watching their games on television. [The Web site] is a way to serve fans additional games. Our goal is to get as many games available to watch as possible."

Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen was asked by a fan during his weekly radio show recently why more games aren't televised.

"To be honest with you, we've got to win more games. To get off the Internet and onto the regular schedule, you do that by winning," Friedgen said.

"The one thing about being on the Internet, all my relatives get to see it wherever they are. But I'd like to get on prime time again myself," the coach said.

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