- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 21, 2012


For the record, like other hard-core hoops fans in the D.C. metro area, I would love to watch Georgetown and Maryland play each other annually in men’s basketball. Two power-conference schools with rich traditions, title aspirations, national profiles and distinct local flavor: Who wouldn’t want to see that?

Maybe the respective coaches, who at the very least might not be crazy about the idea. Nonconference home games are precious, usually reserved for padding against utterly beatable teams. It’s much more tempting to continue scheduling those games, instead of forsaking one every other year to face a formidable, nearby rival and potential repercussions in recruiting.

But after weighing the various factors in the risk-reward equation, Georgetown’s John Thompson III and Maryland’s Mark Turgeon could agree to take their chances with the series and thereby serve the area’s greater good. Then we’d have our own version of the “Crosstown Shootout,” which has pitted Cincinnati and four-miles-away Xavier every year since 1945.

However, prospects for our “Capital Clash” appear to be a bit dimmer, thanks to Maryland athletic director Kevin Anderson trying to force the issue.

“From what I’ve heard and what we were told through [Anderson], we will not play Georgetown in any sports in the future until we get a basketball agreement done,” Turgeon told reporters Monday. “We’ll see. JT and I will handle that differently than it’s being handled right now.”

The way it’s being handled right now makes no sense, especially since Maryland is the desperate party. Anderson, facing huge shortfalls in the athletic budget, is in the process of cutting eight varsity sports. Adding Georgetown to the men’s basketball schedule would help Maryland’s bottom line, which is much more important than bragging rights.

They play each other in women’s basketball, lacrosse and a few other sports, but Anderson told The Washington Post that’s not good enough. If the Hoyas won’t face the Terrapins in men’s basketball, they won’t face the Terrapins in anything.

Sounds like one kid whining to another: “Unless I can play with your favorite toy, I’m not playing with any of your toys!”

And if Georgetown says, “Suit yourself,” then what?

Anderson is punishing his student-athletes with this ham-handed policy. The men’s basketball schedule should have no bearing on the women’s team schedule, unless it involves sharing Comcast Center. The Terrapins’ lacrosse team shouldn’t need Turgeon and Thompson to reach an agreement before facing its Georgetown counterpart.

Maryland’s student-athletes in nonrevenue sports have enough challenges without being dragged into a men’s basketball dispute. Forcing them to forgo contests against Georgetown — a great local opponent — doesn’t help them (or their fans) in the least.

Worse, it might be for naught. Thompson could decide that the status quo is in his team’s best interests. Then Anderson wouldn’t receive the ransom, after essentially taking the Terps’ nonrevenue programs hostage. Awkward.

It’s understandable if Thompson doesn’t appreciate the edict. Anderson has been in town for a year-and-a-half, Turgeon for nine months. How about getting to know each other a little better before issuing threats and ultimatums?

We’re talking about two basketball programs that, for whatever reason, haven’t been on the friendliest terms since the days of John Thompson Jr. and Lefty Driesell. The schools’ most-recent scheduled regular-season game was in 1993; the one before that was in 1979.

But diplomacy and goodwill gestures have helped many a new administration, and that would’ve been the best approach for the College Park regime. Anderson’s first mistake was going public with his desires in May. “Lee Reed, the athletic director at Georgetown, is a very good friend of mine,” Anderson told my colleague, Patrick Stevens. “We’ve talked about renewing that series and doing a home-and-home series.”

The “problem” is that coaches determine the schedule, not their athletic directors. It was inappropriate for Anderson to suggest otherwise and drag in Reed, who quickly backed away.

Now Anderson has big-footed the process again, instead of allowing Turgeon and Thompson time to feel each other out and perhaps work something out.

“I hope there’s a game between us in the future when we get a little bit better, and I think it would be great for everybody,” Turgeon said Monday. “John Thompson and I have to be on the same page for that to happen, and that’s really what’s most important.”

Anderson didn’t make Turgeon’s job any easier by trying to bully Thompson into the series. If anything, the pressure tactic might make Thompson more reluctant to agree, not wanting to reward such antics.

If that’s childish behavior, Anderson started it.

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