- The Washington Times - Friday, March 29, 2002

ATLANTA The Maryland Terrapins spent all season working to get back to the Final Four. Now that they've made it, they can focus on nothing but basketball, and for that they can thank Page and Susan Remillard.

The Remillards are an Atlanta couple that will serve as the Terps' hosts, their "eyes and ears" of the weekend. From directing the team bus through the less-trafficked streets of Atlanta to recommending and making reservations for restaurants, they are a veritable concierge for the team this weekend much like the three other couples that are assigned to Indiana, Kansas and Oklahoma.

Page Remillard, the athletic director at Agnes Scott College in nearby Decatur, and his wife are on call 24 hours a day for the Terps, though it is at Maryland's and each team's discretion how much they will use the service. More than anything, they are there to troubleshoot, to make sure nothing goes wrong and, if something does, to rectify it. Teams are assigned couples like the Remillards for earlier rounds, but at the Final Four, every need is magnified.

"They've been wonderful. They know we're here to make the trip easier," Susan Remillard said. "There's enough on them, they don't need to worry about details."

Said Rob Mullens, Maryland's senior associate athletic director: "It's a nice touch, it's very helpful to have somebody around this weekend that's familiar with the city. It becomes more of a necessity than earlier rounds."

The host couples are just one of the upgrades Final Four teams receive, as the NCAA and Atlanta Local Organizing Committee, the group that works with the NCAA in readying the city and venue for the event, take organizing to a new level.

Months of planning will culminate in the national semifinals tomorrow and the championship game Monday night. Much as the stakes have been raised for the Maryland basketball team, the pressure is on for the organizers of the Final Four, one of the two biggest sports weekends in the United States along with the Super Bowl.

In the basement of an Atlanta hotel, D.J. Mackovets, the executive director of the ALOC, coordinates the responsibilities of the 1,100-plus volunteers for the tournament and ensures operations are running smoothly. Mackovets, who specializes in project management for special events, is familiar with such tasks, having been the senior vice president for the 2000 Super Bowl in Atlanta and worked in the 1996 Summer Olympics.

"We try to plan things as best as possible, then it's just doing observations," Mackovets said.

On the wall in a basement room of the hotel that the ALOC uses as headquarters, there is a poster listing 108 names, descriptions and times in chronological order of events that the committees must carry out in the next two days, leading up to just after the semifinals. The schedule is a result of more than a year of planning, mainly by Mackovets.

As ideal as Mackovets is for the top organizational position, if any city is prepared to handle the requirements the NCAA sets for its Final Four host sites, it is Atlanta, which will have hosted the Summer Olympics, the World Series, the Super Bowl and the men's and women's NCAA finals in a seven-year span. It plays host to the women's Final Four next year.

"Atlanta is very fortunate to host those events in such a short time period. It's got tremendous infrastructure," Mackovets said. "We've tried to handle [the NCAAs] specifications, make suggestions, and upgrade them." For example, Mackovets took the suggested 11 shuttle-bus routes from the airport to downtown Atlanta to the Georgia Dome to hotels and consolidated them to four using the plan devised for the Olympics.

Mackovets has started recent mornings with general planning meetings at 7:30, then has a conference call with the host couples at 8:30 to go over prospective schedules.

The Remillards attended the round of 16 and round of eight games last weekend in Syracuse to act as a "transition team" for the squad that had advanced to the semifinals. Shortly after the Terps defeated Connecticut to reach their second consecutive Final Four, Chris Wilcox's mother Debra Brown had a message for her son, which Susan Remillard dutifully passed along, adding to the list of the things for which she is responsible.

"Make sure you tell him I love him and I'll see him on Friday," Brown told Remillard.

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