David Elfin On Sports: Area Colleges Struggling With Poor Sports Year
Three months after it began, the sports year for area colleges is rivaling the Redskins and the economy as a failure. Only the gridlocked Congress definitely has Maryland, Navy, et al beat.
Maryland, thankfully, winds up what will likely be its second 2-10 football season in three years on Saturday at N.C. State. This after the Terps returned 12 starters from a team that went 9-4 and won a bowl game under since-ousted coach Ralph Friedgen in 2010.
The popular Friedgen’s replacement, Randy Edsall, hasn’t helped his cause by criticizing virtually everything about the program he inherited while losing to each foe except Towson since surprising Miami in the opener although the Terps, bowl participants in seven of the previous 10 seasons, returned 12 starters.
Navy still can salvage some pride by beating archrival Army a week from Saturday, but the 4-7 Midshipmen aren’t going bowling for the first time since 2002. Coach Ken Niumatalolo, who had 10 starters back from a 9-4 team, had to cringe when Navy lost its chance to regain the Commander’s in Chief Trophy thanks largely to an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on the decisive play against Air Force.
The Terps and Mids have been so reliably strong of late that their combined 6-16 record is their worst since 2000, a dreary mark that was matched in 1993 and 1998 but that hasn’t been topped (?) in 40 years.
While Maryland and Navy are the only major college football programs in the neighborhood, American, George Mason, George Washington, Georgetown and Howard all join them in playing Division I basketball.
So how are things going on that front?
AU, which missed a second straight NCAA Tournament berth last year by losing in overtime in the Patriot League championship game, has already fallen to ever-lowly Maryland-Eastern Shore.
George Mason, which reached the second round of the NCAAs last seasons, five years after enthralling the nation by making the Final Four, has begun the coach Paul Hewitt era by losing to both Florida Atlantic and Florida International, which isn’t exactly like coming up short against Florida and Florida State.
George Washington is 2-1, but could well be below .500 after visits to Austin Peay and Bowling Green the next two nights. And the Colonials’ 27-point drubbing at No. 24 Cal showed that new coach Mike Lonergan’s guys aren’t ready to play with the big boys yet.
After pushing No. 14 Kansas to the wall before losing 67-63 last night in Maui, Georgetown proved it can hang with the best despite losing Austin Freeman and Chris Wright to graduation. So the Hoyas are a rare bright spot although they’re no sure thing for the NCAAs considering they have 10 dates with powerhouses Connecticut, Syracuse, Pitt, Marquette, Notre Dame, Louisville, Cincinnati and West Virginia in the always-rugged Big East as well as games against formidable Memphis and Alabama.
Howard trailed Division II Washington Adventist (formerly Columbia Union) at home with less than 17 minutes remaining before rallying for its only victory in four games.
Maryland is 2-2, but Sunday’s 89-63 devastation by Iona in Puerto Rico was a major indication that coach Mark Turgeon might not end his debut season with as many victories as he has players on scholarships (eight) given the grind to come in the ACC.
Navy is also 2-2, but was crushed 78-54 by Qunnipiac on Saturday, a result that doesn’t bode well for new coach Ed Chellis. Of course no matter how the season goes, Chellis is surely still glad that he left Penn State where he would be working under a microscope thanks to the football program’s child abuse scandal.
Georgetown and George Mason might just get back to the NCAAs, but if no area team qualifies, it will be the first such local wipeout since 1978 when the tournament consisted of just 32 teams (instead of this year’s 68) and the Patriots were still a Division II program.
And that would make 2011-12 a very ugly year indeed.
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.