- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 24, 2004

The University of Maryland announced yesterday it adopted voluntary guidelines to discourage vulgar behavior by fans at basketball and football games.

The policy, formed by a student task force and adopted by the university, does not permit fans to be ejected from games for engaging in vulgar behavior.

Instead, the policy recommends measures to encourage good behavior: talks by basketball coach Gary Williams; messages promoting good conduct broadcast during games; best sign contests; the creation of new, clean cheers; and a T-shirt exchange for fans who wear clothing bearing vulgar slogans.

The traditional pregame song — “Rock and Roll, Part II,” which is accompanied by a student chant that includes profanity — won’t be banned.

School officials said the policy would be strengthened if fans don’t comply with the voluntary guidelines.

The Maryland attorney general’s office determined March 17 the school could restrict such vulgar conduct without infringing upon First Amendment rights. However, the attorney general urged the school first to try a policy that called on fans to comply voluntarily with good-conduct guidelines before enacting legal restrictions.

Maryland athletic director Debbie Yow said the new standards are “in lockstep” with the recommendation of the attorney general.

“They’re adopted with understanding that should the policies not be effective, then more stringent measures will have to occur,” Yow said. “This is that last effort.”

School policy allows fans to be ejected from games for engaging in violent behavior or for blocking the view of other fans by holding up signs.

More than 63 percent of the 200 students polled by the task force said they were slightly or very concerned about fan behavior. However, 73.8 percent said they were equally concerned about the prospect of restrictions on their behavior at games.

More than a third admitted using profanity at games. Nearly a fifth owned a T-shirt bearing a vulgar slogan, and 58.1 percent said they would refuse to trade it in under a university-funded exchange.

The behavior of fans at Maryland basketball games at Comcast Center became an issue Jan. 21, when students directed an obscene chant at Duke guard J.J. Redick.

The chant by several hundred fans was clearly audible by viewers of an ESPN broadcast, embarrassing and angering some university officials and alumni.

The loud crowd at Comcast Center gives the Terrapins one of the strongest homecourt advantages in the nation.

However, the use of profanity by students has increased since Terps games were moved from Cole Field House in 2002. The 4,000-seat student section at Comcast Center rings the court. At Cole, students were seated in specific sections, with many students higher in the arena.

In the wake of the Duke chant, Williams held a courtside talk before the next game to encourage fans to behave better, and there were no more incidents the rest of the season.

The university also requested a review by the state’s attorney general. Assistant attorney general John Anderson declared Maryland was within its right to limit vulgar behavior because the university could suffer financial harm or a damaged reputation.

The school’s new policy will require coaches to speak to incoming freshmen during orientation. Williams likely will talk to fans about sportsmanship during a practice before the Terps’ home game against Duke in January or February.

The policies apply to alumni and all campus sporting events.

“It takes time to change a culture,” said David Krieger, a Student Government Association representative and task force member. “But it is clear that most Maryland students do not want to see the kinds of behavior that have haunted the university in the past, and they don’t want to see restrictive policies in place, either.”

“It’s a matter of common decency. It’s one last chance to learn from rebukes.”

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