- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 29, 2006

The Maryland Terrapins are in the Final Four of the NCAA tournament — and it may be the College Park campus’ best-kept secret.

The women’s basketball team returned to campus yesterday afternoon from Albuquerque, N.M., a day after defeating the University of Utah, 75-65, in overtime to advance to the Final Four for the first time in 17 years.

About 75 fans showed up at the Comcast Center loading dock to hail the victors and get a glimpse of the regional champion trophy the team earned Monday night. Natalie Ciccone, assistant media relations director, said some of the men’s practice squad showed up wearing surgical masks, jokingly referring to a virus that the players and coaches had to deal with during the tournament.

But “March Madness” has yet to hit the school or the student body. Save for a front-page spread in the school newspaper, the campus yesterday was nearly devoid of congratulatory banners or “Welcome Home” signs.

Some students said they were not even aware of the team’s tourney run.

“They are?” said Jessica Brown, 21, when told of the Terps’ success. “This is the first I’m actually hearing of it, but I think it’s great.”

Miss Brown, a senior from Atlanta, said the promotion of the team’s triumphs has been nonexistent.

“There should be more publicity on campus about it; there should be more of a buzz … I’m pretty sure if it was the men that made it to the Final Four, the campus would be shut down.”

The response to the women’s team’s win is a drastic departure from the well-documented rioting that came after important men’s basketball games in past years.

The most recent incident was in February 2005, when thousands flooded U.S. Route 1 in College Park after a regular-season win against rival Duke. Revelers reportedly tossed items from roofs, overturned newspaper boxes and set fire to trash cans and sofas. The roadway was closed for 90 minutes, and police had to disperse the rioters with pepper spray.

Yesterday the campus was as serene as a golf course.

At the Adele H. Stamp Student Union building, a campus hangout and eatery, a large banner hung outside, urging students to celebrate Women’s History Month. Ironically, there wasn’t a sign for the women’s basketball team anywhere on the building.

“They never get any publicity or any respect, but, hopefully, now they will,” said Brittany Garr, 20, of Upper Marlboro as she and friends stood outside the building. “They’re not really big on women’s basketball here, but they’re going to be bringing money in this year now that they made the Final Four.”

Richard Stewart, 19, a sophomore from Frederick and self-professed “non-sports guy,” said the men’s team still receives more attention than the women’s team, despite having less success in recent years.

The men’s team, which went 19-12 this year, missed the NCAA tournament for the second straight year and was eliminated in the first round of the National Invitational Tournament (NIT) despite being the top seed.

“The women’s team gets ignored, not really focused upon at all, but that’s the way it is with all sports,” Mr. Stewart said.

Rohan Mahadevan, 20, said he has been following the team and cheering it on, though he said he’s likely in the minority.

“It’s pretty spectacular that they made it this far,” Mr. Mahadevan said. “Right on to the women. I like women’s basketball; my sister played in high school. I think it’s much better than men’s basketball.

“The problem is that it’s women’s sports, and a lot of people think badly of women’s sports — …it’s kind of sexist.”

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