When George Mason stunned the nation by making the men’s basketball Final Four in 2006, the entire area celebrated.
When Maryland reached its first men’s Final Four in 2001 and won national titles (men’s) in 2002 and (women’s) in 2006, College Park partied hearty.
But when the Terps’ football team played in the Orange Bowl 10 years ago, there just wasn’t that much buzz even though it was the program’s first New Year’s Day game in a quarter century.
That this isn’t a college football town was evident again over the weekend as fewer than 10,000 hardy souls hung in there in horrible weather to witness the second half of Maryland’s latest embarrassing defeat at Byrd Stadium.
Football was born in American colleges, but Washingtonians greatly prefer the pro variety, no matter how lousy the Redskins are.
This Saturday in College Park, Maryland and Virginia will renew acquaintances for the 54th straight year and the 76th time overall. The states are political and economic rivals, but not so much when it comes to sports although they’ve been competing against each other throughout the ACC’s six decades.
Terps-Cavaliers is no Backyard Brawl (Pitt-West Virginia), Red River Rivalry (Texas-Oklahoma) or Border War (Kansas-Missouri). They don’t play for the Axe (Stanford-Cal), Keg of Nails (Cincinnati-Louisville) or even the Old Oaken Bucket (Purdue-Indiana). The winner of the Maryland-Virginia game no longer even claims possession of the Tydings Trophy, named for the gentlemanly Free State politician Millard Tydings.
Of course, a major reason for that lack of passion is that the Terps, now 2-6, and the Cavs, now 5-3, haven’t been good in the same year very often. Despite the ridiculous proliferation of bowls, they both went bowling in just three of the past 20 seasons: 2002, 2003 and 2007. And UVa only went to four bowls before 1990, none before 1984.
The Potomac River rivalry has also been one-sided lately with the Cavs winning 14 of the last 19 meetings although the Terps did prevail last year in coach Ralph Friedgen’s final season.
While tailgating in the parking lots surrounding Byrd has next to no charm, a game at Scott Stadium in Charlottesville is considerably more scenic. However, many UVa students wear sportscoats and ties which just doesn’t jibe with the hatred that fuel games at such college football hotbeds as Ohio State, LSU, Southern Cal and Nebraska. Surely, the fans at Penn State, Alabama, Michigan and Texas A&M would sneer at those of the Terps and Cavs.
Since Oregon-Oregon State has claimed the Civil War nickname that should belong to the game between the states where much of that conflict was fought, let’s call Maryland-Virginia the Civil Struggle. After all, their football rivalry doesn’t rise to the level of a war.
David Elfin has covered sports since he was a junior at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School in 1975. He is the Washington representative on the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee and is the author of the new book: “Washington Redskins: The Complete Illustrated History.” A pre-game regular on 106.7-The Fan during the 2010 Redskins season, he returned to the station as its blogger in March.