- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 1, 2011

BALTIMORE | To keep “Beat Duke” week from turning violent at the University of Maryland, police are adding extra officers and the school is planning structured events including a postgame bonfire.

Before Wednesday’s basketball game, team members will appear at a pep rally to remind students to observe good sportsmanship and avoid profanity in cheers.

“We are an intense fan base and we’d like to keep that intensity. We want to be known as a tough place to play,” said student body President Steve Glickman. “But there are a lot of things that are offensive to even our own fans.”

Beating Duke on Wednesday night would be major coup for the Terps, who are seeking their fourth straight win. Duke is currently ranked fifth in the nation after losing to St. John’s on Sunday, its second loss of the season. Maryland is on the bubble in its quest to return to the NCAA tournament and looking for a signature victory.

The university’s student government is planning a bonfire after the game to channel fans’ postgame excitement, part of a student-led “Beat Duke Week” initiative that Glickman has been organizing since last summer to give people a more positive way to end the night.

“Students feel that storming Route 1 is a tradition after a game,” Glickman said. “It’s never meant to be a destructive act. Although at some point it turns that way.”

During last year’s rowdy celebration of a victory over Duke, Prince George’s County police arrested 28 students and a video later surfaced showing officers in riot gear beating a student. Three officers were suspended and federal authorities are investigating. Charges were later dropped against many of those arrested that night, including the student in the video.

Prince George’s County Police will have an extra 100 officers on hand to handle the crowds and the department has been working with the town of College Park, Maryland State Police and campus police to avoid a repeat of last year, said spokeswoman Lt. Tammy Sparkman. Trash bins are being emptied and newspaper dispensers and outdoor furniture are being removed from the downtown area so they don’t become ammunition for rioters, she said.

After the allegations of abuse at the hands of county officers last year, the department is stressing professionalism.

“The department had been working diligently to spread message to employees that no matter what happens we are professionals,” Sparkman said.

University police spokesman Lt. Ken Leonard was a student himself when the fans started rioting after games a decade ago and remembers the crowds of students rushing to Route 1, the main drag through College Park to celebrate.

In 2001, mobs started fires causing $500,000 in damage after a Final Four loss to Duke and when the team won the national championship the following year, crowds flooded Fraternity Row and Route 1 setting fires and breaking shop windows.

Now he is one of the officers facing those rowdy students.

“As a police officer, it is definitely a scary situation,” he said. “The crowd is hostile toward police and you have to prepare for things being thrown at you. It’s not a fun place to be.”