- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 1, 2004

Maryland coach Gary Williams has a simple message for Terrapins fans: stop the profanity.

Williams yesterday said he will address the spectators before today’s game against N.C. State at Comcast Center about an increase in coarse and profane language that threatens to undermine the university’s national reputation. A vulgar chant directed by students at Duke guard J.J. Redick was clearly heard by ESPN viewers during the final moments of Maryland’s 68-60 loss Jan.21.

“We have too good of a university, too good of a basketball program, too good of a place to play — our fans are as good as anybody’s in the country — we don’t need that small percentage to hurt what we’ve done the last 10 years, both academically as a school and athletically as an athletic department,” Williams said.

The vulgarity, which included profane messages on T-shirts and signs, has prompted university officials to ask the state attorney general’s office to review whether such actions are protected speech under the First Amendment. Previously, state officials said the ongoing problem wasn’t illegal under a 1971 Supreme Court ruling in Cohen v. California that a draft dissenter’s profane anti-war message came under the heading of free speech.

Still, university officials are trying to stem the growing problem that peaked against rival Duke. Maryland previously barred fans from throwing crumpled newspapers on the floor after the introduction of opposing teams and amended the lyrics of “Rock ‘n Roll Part II” before tipoffs.

Williams has talked to fans from courtside about the issue “five or six times” in the last decade. Letters in the Diamondback school newspaper and a chatboard on a prominent Terps Web site suggested Williams might be the only university official who can calm students. Williams said he didn’t mind the role, adding, “This is part of my job to make this the best possible program.”

Maryland is hardly alone in fan misbehavior. Florida fans chanted a tasteless message at Terps guard D.J. Strawberry earlier this season regarding his father Darryl’s drug problems. The game was interrupted three times by thrown debris. In 2001, several ACC crowds chanted “crackhead parents” at Maryland guard Juan Dixon, whose parents died from AIDS.

“That’s rampant throughout the country right now,” Williams said, “but because we’re in Washington, D.C. … we seem to get more attention on this than other places.”

Meanwhile, the Terps (11-6, 2-4 ACC) need a rejuvenating victory over N.C. State (11-5, 4-2) to remain in NCAA tournament contention after losing three of their last four games. Williams said Maryland must sustain good play for the entire game to reverse a three-game slide against ranked teams.

“Once we can do things for 40 minutes, we’re going to be pretty good,” he said. “We’re playing nationally ranked teams, and they’re going to beat most people at home. We butt heads eight to 10 times this year with ranked teams. No other league does that. You have to be tough about it and understand you’re not going to win every game with this year’s team. Next year might be different.”

Said guard Chris McCray: “I know Duke’s undefeated, but there’s no dominant team in the ACC right now. We still have a chance to win it.”

The young team with nine underclassmen is maturing and could still be a Sweet 16 contender for the third straight year if it survives the next five weeks. Williams said finishing the season strong also will affect coming seasons.

“With young guys, they’re nowhere near the potential they can be, so you don’t want to waste the month of February in terms of their development,” he said. “You want to keep getting better.”

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