- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 4, 2002

Sports Biz

Maryland football coach Ralph Friedgen is feverishly losing pounds, nearly 40 to date, but the schools athletic department is still enjoying the rich spoils of success.
With less than four weeks to go before the Terrapins begin their 2002 campaign and defense of their ACC title, the school is on track to post its highest levels of both season ticket sales and average attendance since the mid-1980s. And thanks to a potent combination of Januarys Orange Bowl appearance and a new relationship with sales agent Viacom Outdoor Sports Marketing, corporate involvement in the program stands at an all-time high.
Last year 304,953 fans passed through the gates of Byrd Stadium, the programs best overall showing ever, and a 28 percent increase in per-game average from 2000 that ranked second best in Division I-A football.
With the school still in the midst of the preseason ticket push, single-game sales for Marylands home game against Florida State on Sept. 14 have been suspended, and only new season-ticket purchasers can buy seats to the game. A sellout game is certain because any remaining tickets will be released back to single-game buyers several days before the contest.
The Kickoff Classic at Giants Stadium against Notre Dame on Aug. 31 is sold out, and the N.C. State clash on Nov. 3 (also the Terps homecoming) looks to be a likely sellout as well.
Season ticket sales have surged 62 percent to 21,000.
Marylands football sales effort, both among ticket purchasers and corporate sponsors, received a sizable push last week when the Terps were ranked 20th nationally in the ESPN/USA Today preseason poll. Another boost is expected later this week when a similar ranking should arrive in the Associated Press poll. The preseason nods are Marylands first since 1985.
"Were obviously up and doing well," said Rob Mullens, Maryland senior associate athletic director. "Were defending conference champions and have a schedule with a number of strong, attractive games at home: Florida State obviously, N.C. State, Georgia Tech. Anytime you come off a season like we did, you know there is going to be increased interest."
On the secondary ticket markets, face values of $26 to $32 are being beat by as much as tenfold for prime locations.
Byrd Stadium also will see several improvements this season reflecting the increased attention and dollars funneling into the football program. New video and auxiliary scoreboards have been installed at a total cost of nearly $2 million, paid for mostly by Viacom, as well as a new sound system. The stadiums previous speakers predate the 1995 installation of the upper deck on the facilitys north side.
"The sound and video in particular are going to make a huge, huge difference," Mullens said. "Were back to some current standards. Its really going to make for a whole new atmosphere. Its obviously a benefit for the fans, but it also gives us some additional [advertising] inventory."
The machine being built up, of course, requires immediate and continued winning. Unlike the basketball program, local fans have not historically shown themselves to steadfastly support the football team through good times and bad. Friedgen even had to implore fans to buy the final remaining seats to last seasons final home game against Clemson. The football team does not have a state-of-the-art new facility to move into this fall like Gary Williams and his basketball troops do, though Friedgens weight loss is tied to intended donations for further improvements to Byrd and related football facilities.
And then theres the challenge of Florida State, poised to regain its annual conference crown after a subpar 8-4 record last year.
"I dont pay attention to [preseason projections]," Friedgen said. "It doesnt matter. Its where you end up, not where you start, so I dont get involved in all of that."

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