- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 3, 2006

Now that major college football teams can play 12 games a season, the number of B.S. skirmishes — meaning, of course, Basically Senseless — figures to increase apace.

Everybody wants to go bowling, and nearly everybody just might considering there seem to be about 68 postseason “classics” these days. So just like in hoops, a lot of major schools are scheduling minor opponents in order to reach the more or less magic six victories that guarantee “bowl eligibility,” whatever that means.

A legitimate case can be made that a 6-6 team doesn’t belong in any bowl, except possibly the toilet, but that’s an issue for another day.

At any rate, early September in football has become the equivalent of December in college basketball, offering too many games that not even a mother could love. So it was yesterday at Byrd Stadium, where Maryland’s Terrapins dispatched Division I-AA William & Mary 27-14 before 49,763 eyewitnesses who probably wished they were somewhere else.

With all respect to respected longtime coach Jimmye Laycock, the Tribe aren’t in Maryland’s class. This figured to be a breeze for Maryland, and it was after Dan Ennis’ 39-yard field goal fetched the Terps a 17-0 lead early in the second quarter.

The visitors from Williamsburg made matters a tad more interesting after trailing 27-7 by scoring a fourth-quarter TD and then driving to the Maryland 24 in the final minutes before faltering. Overall, however, the proceedings were about as thrilling as watching Lawrence Welk re-runs.

Undoubtedly, Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen found many encouraging signs in the victory, as well as a few disheartening ones. Coaches are like that, grateful for small blessings, but the paying customers must have been less entranced.

So seemingly interminable was this largely one-sided exercise that an alternative sporting exercise — Nationals vs. Diamondbacks at RFK — almost seemed preferable.

Almost.

If nothing else, the spectators could say they were on hand for the first combat ever at Chevy Chase Bank Field at Byrd Stadium. Funny thing, the 56-year-old facility didn’t look much different despite the $20 million it will cost the local financial institution to have its name thusly attached over the next quarter-century. And naturally everybody will continue to call the place merely Byrd Stadium.

Hmm. Do you suppose Maryland athletic director Debbie Yow would be willing to handle my finances?

You have to wonder at the common sense of whatever Chevy Chase Bank executives determine the company’s athletic playmates. Last year, you will recall, Nats outfielder Brad Wilkerson was shown ad nauseam in smarmy TV ads for the bank. After striking out an inordinate number of times, Wilkerson was traded during the offseason to the Texas Rangers, where he continues to bat the breeze more than any major leaguer should.

But back to the issue at hand, whether these Terps will turn into the sort of mini-powerhouse Friedgen fielded during his first three seasons or another humdrum 5-7, 6-6 or 7-5 outfit that excites nobody except those diehards who sport turtles on every article of clothing and even bathroom seats.

At this point, your guess is as good as mine — or the Fridge’s, for that matter.

Trouble is, easy victories against overmatched foes tell coaches almost nothing about their team. The Terps have two more likely laughers due, against Middle Tennessee next Saturday and Florida International on Sept. 23, and when this spell is over, Friedgen might want to re-evaluate future scheduling practices with Yow. Such games will do nothing to help Maryland prepare for legitimate foes like presumptive BCS candidate West Virginia on Sept. 14 in Morgantown and ACC meanies to follow.

Maybe I should apologize to Gary Williams, and a lot of other roundball coaches, for writing that most pre-holiday college basketball games are as pointless as eggnog without a wee drop of hooch added. Too many college football games before Labor Day, and some immediately after, are equally phony. And with the NFL season about to open and pennant races heating up in some precincts, who really gives a rodent’s rump?

Then again, some might have enjoyed being at Byrd last night — enjoying a sudden taste of fall weather and relishing what the TV blatherers used to call the color and pageantry of college football.

I just wish a really competitive game had been part of the program. But pigskin partisans can’t have everything on the first weekend of September, it seems, so maybe we should save our passion and excitement for subsequent struggles that mean something — assuming that any football game really does.

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