The man who pitted Ralph Sampson and Patrick Ewing against each other for the first time as college stars and helped briefly revive the Maryland-Georgetown rivalry is bringing the Terps back to Baltimore.
Longtime promoter Russ Potts, who graduated from Maryland in 1964 and later worked in the athletic department, said Monday that the Terps will play Princeton Dec. 19 at Royal Farms Arena.
The contract is waiting final approval by Maryland.
Even the 76-year-old Potts seemed genuinely surprised to hear the Terps had not played in Baltimore since the 1999-2000 season, when Maryland beat Iowa in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge.
“I had no idea,” Potts said. “That’s incredible.”
A former assistant athletic director at Maryland and a four-term Virginia state senator who lives in his hometown of Winchester, Va., Potts said he has tried for years to bring the Terps back to the city.
“I have long felt that we ought to do a game every year in Baltimore,” Potts said. “When you look at all the great players to come out of Baltimore — not just Maryland players — the basketball heritage is incredible.”
Potts acknowledged that he hoped to find a more high-profile opponent to play the Terps, who are among the favorites to reach the 2016 Final Four.
“We think we’ve got a good opponent in Princeton with a good reputation, but obviously I would have liked to have UCLA or whoever,” Potts said. “By the time I got involved their schedule was already packed with a bunch of blockbusters. This was the only thing that made sense.”
Maryland is scheduled to play Georgetown on Nov. 17 at Xfinity Center as part of the inaugural Gavitt Tipoff Games, the first time the teams have met in a regularly-scheduled game since the 1993-94 season opener.
The Terps are also scheduled to play North Carolina on Dec. 1 at the Dean E. Smith Center in Chapel Hill, N.C., in what is expected to be the marquee matchup of the ACC-Big Ten Challenge. They’ll also play Connecticut on Dec. 8 in the Jimmy V Men’s Basketball Classic at New York’s Madison Square Garden.
Prior to their last visit to Baltimore, the Terps played at what was then called Baltimore Arena every season between 1992-93 and 1999-2000. Maryland played there just twice between 1969 and 1992, losing to Penn State in the 1982-83 opener and winning the season-opening MCI Harbor Classic in 1987-88.
At a Big Ten Conference event last fall in Baltimore, Maryland coach Mark Turgeon talked about the difficulty of scheduling a game in the city.
“It's the arena, finding the right team to play,” Turgeon said at the time. “There's a lot of things that go into it. It's not easy. I thought it would be a lot easier to do than it was, but hopefully it's going to work out and we can do it in the future.”
Princeton returns all five starters from a team that finished 16-14 overall and third in the Ivy League (9-5) behind Harvard and Yale. The Tigers are coached by Mitch Henderson, who was part of a Princeton team that knocked off defending national champion UCLA in the first round of the 1996 NCAA tournament.
Potts said he would like to schedule the Terps in Baltimore on a more consistent basis. He brought Oklahoma to Baltimore to play Maryland in 1992-93, with the return game the following year in Oklahoma City.
“In a perfect world in the future, we’d have another Oklahoma-Maryland [home and home] series with one game in Oklahoma City or Tulsa and the other in Baltimore, because that’s the easiest way to try to do those,” Potts said. “Coaches don’t want to do a one-shot. They want to satisfy their constituency on the other end.”
Potts gave “all the credit” to Maryland athletic director Kevin Anderson and senior associate athletic director Damon Evans, as well as Turgeon, for getting the Terps back to Baltimore.
The athletic department has done a number of events in the city since joining the Big Ten and will hold another Thursday night with fans and boosters as part of the Maryland Pride series.
“We’ve been talking about this [game for the men’s team] for a couple of years, to have that presence in Baltimore,” Potts said.