The Washington Times - December 22, 2008, 10:37AM

I was comfortably stationed in the student union yesterday afternoon, which was not nearly as busy as usual but still managed to have an unruly toddler or two yelling and screaming. I could relate, though: I never looked forward to graduation ceremonies, either.

While the kid didn’t have the option to pull a Stevens and go watch a Phillies game that afternoon, it did distract me enough from noticing Maryland leaving the practice field almost an hour early.


Ah, the old graduation ceremonies trap catches another victim. And it came as little surprise that coach Ralph Friedgen bemoaned his scheduling circumstances for about the 15th time this month.

“It’s just not the ideal schedule to prepare for a bowl game,” Friedgen said. “I think Nevada, they’ve been finished with exams for two weeks now and they’re sitting there practicing every day. We’ve had a week off and we’ve had two practices that have been time restricted by graduation.”

Friedgen went on to point out the Terps practice the next two days before taking two days off for Christmas. Then there’s a flight to Boise on the 26th, two days of practice following, and then a walkthrough on the 29th.

I’m going to parse Ralph a little bit here. First, Nevada finished finals last Wednesday, though the school actually had commencement before exams. So there’s a bit of help there for the Wolf Pack, but probably not as much as Friedgen believes.

Second, unless Maryland was playing on New Year’s (which it could have finagled had it not dropped its last two), the schedule would not be kind. A Music City Bowl invite would have yielded only an extra day. Playing in the Champs or Meineke bowls would have meant spending the holiday in a hotel.

Clearly, the big issue here is Maryland’s late final exams. But, in coachspeak, it is what it is, and chances are it won’t change anytime soon. There’s no reason to belabor it, even if it is inconvenient. Actually, it’s probably really inconvenient given the departures of the defensive and special teams coordinators this month.

It’s tough to shake the feeling that if the Terps lose to the Humanitarian Bowl, Friedgen will bring up the choppy schedule on his own during his postgame press conference. Legitimate excuses —- injuries, illness, distractions, a really good opponent, whatever —- are fine. But it almost seems like a safety net is being established now in case Maryland plays a lousy game in Boise.

That’s a tough sell when you have more than three weeks to prepare a game plan and (by my count) 12 practices heading into the bowl. There will be some lack of precision from any month-long layoff, but Nevada will face the same sorts of problems. Maryland could well lose to the Wolf Pack, but here’s guessing it won’t be because of an irregular practice schedule.

—- Patrick Stevens