- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 27, 2011

ANALYSIS/OPINION

Apparently Randy Edsall, who remains unbeaten heading into his first season as Maryland’s football coach, believes there is strength only in numbers. He says the Terrapins’ new uniforms will not have the players’ names on the back because “to me it’s all about the name on the front … Maryland. It’s a team sport we’re playing.”

Thanks for clearing that up, Coach. For a minute there, we thought the upcoming season was only about sophomore quarterback Danny O’Brien, the ACC’s 2010 Rookie of the Year. After all, the Terps are picked to finish fifth in the six-team Atlantic Division.

Fans had better remember, therefore, that O’Brien wears No. 5. Otherwise. people in the nosebleed sections of Byrd Stadium might think the guy under center is, say, freshman Tyler Smith.

Spectator in Row 95 of the upper deck: “Hey, which ant is that at QB for our Terps?”

I suppose the first time Davin Meggett, Da’Rel Scott or some other Maryland player scores two touchdowns in a game, we sportswriters can make like Wordsworth and describe it as “his little nameless, unremembered acts.”

Now, I don’t want to get on Edsall’s bad side before he loses a game, but his passion for individual anonymity is the sheerest kind of coaching bullspit. Doesn’t he have anything more important to do, like lining the practice field or cleaning up the locker room?

What is this, 1954? Besides going nameless, the Terps might as well enter combat with leather helmets and without facemasks.

Wherever legendary Maryland coach Jim Tatum is these days, I imagine he’s smiling. Hey, let those darn guys on the other side of the ball guess who’s who - heh, heh!

“Not having the names on uniforms isn’t good for the fans,” says former sports information director Jack Zane, who has been around Terptown longer than Edsall has been alive. “It’s all about selling programs, that’s all.”

There was a time, of course, when nobody had names on uniforms, meaning before television invaded and conquered sports. In MLB, the New York Yankees remain sartorially unidentified at home and on the road, which is odd since they introduced player numbers to baseball in 1929.

Former Chicago White Sox owner Bill Veeck, one of the game’s all-time innovators and promoters, was the first to stick names on the back of baseball shirts, in 1960. Pretty soon most other pro clubs followed suit (pun intended), including the AFL at its birth in 1960, and NBA teams in the same decade. But, the real pioneers in this regard were the New York Americans of the NHL in 1926.

Nowadays, nearly all pro and major college teams identify their athletes this way. I hope Mark Turgeon, Maryland’s new men’s basketball coach, doesn’t take a hint from Edsall. He and his roundball troops figure to be anonymous enough next winter even with names.

The guy I really feel sorry for is Johnny Holliday, Maryland’s longtime radio play-by-play man. Imagine how many times Johnny and his spotters will need to consult the football roster this season before calling a guy’s name. Heck, Johnny might still be describing first-half action in the fourth quarter.

Even though I’m on record as saying Ralph Friedgen should still be pacing the Maryland sideline, I’d like to see Edsall do well this fall. OK, so Randy’s first idea seems totally wacky. But what the heck, he’s a football coach.

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