Saturday, December 09, 2006

Cole Field House

I have four tickets to the Maryland-Mount St. Mary's basketball game at the end of this month. This game will be played at Comcast Center, which opened up in the Fall of 2002. Don't get me wrong, this is a beautiful facility to watch a basketball game in but sentimentally, it's just not up there with old Cole Field House in terms of tradition and memories. Cole Field House opened up in 1955 shortly before my Dad arrived at Maryland. Currently an intramural indoor soccer practice field has replaced the basketball court, and spaces along the perimeter have been reconfigured into classrooms and temporary office spaces.

Take a trip back to the glory of old Cole Field House, which hosted it's last Maryland basketball game in March 2002.

I have two pieces of the Cole floor here in my rec room. One autographed by current Head Coach Gary Williams and one autographed by the ol' Lefthander, former coach Lefty Driesell. The first game I ever saw at Cole did not involve the Terps but the then Capital Bullets, who played some games there in the early '70's. Cole hosted the 1966 NCAA Final Four, which Texas Western started an all black lineup and beat heavily favored Kentucky, which started an all white line up. Cole Field House also hosted the 1970 NCAA Final Four as well as several NCAA regional games including a thriller in 1991 where the first ever upset of a 2-seed at the hands of a 15-seed took place. Richmond defeated Syracuse, 73-69. Of course there were several thrilling ACC contests there, too numerous to list here and a great, great game in 1982 in which Maryland upset third ranked UCLA in double OT.

Whenever Lefty Driesell used to walk out on the court the band used to play "Hail to the Chief" and the crowd would just go crazy. Also, the band would play "Amen" when the Terps had the game just about wrapped up. When they would start that, the people would sing along with the band. That was a great Maryland basketball tradition.

When I met former Terp Lonny Baxter two years ago at my office one of his best memories was beating #1 Duke at Cole in 2002. That win was the first time they had beaten them at Cole during his four years there.

Other big events:
1972: A ping-pong match between the United States and the People's Republic of China is played at Cole, the first sporting event between the two countries.

1972: An exhibition of the Soviet gymnastics team, including gold medalist Olga Korbut, sells out the arena and is televised locally.

1974: Elvis Presley in concert.

1975: The first televised women's basketball game is played at Cole. Maryland loses to the defending national champions Immaculata 80-48.

Overall, 13 men's basketball All-Americans and 4 women's All-Americans have played there. Best one I ever saw: Len Bias, with a close second to Juan Dixon.

I went to a lot of games there but the one most important to me was February 19, 1989. This was my last day drinking and part of this day was spent at Cole Field House watching the Terps lose to North Carolina. I still keep that ticket stub from that day.

So why did I write about an old building? About two hours before the Maryland-Wake Forest football game two weeks ago, I'm pulling into the Terrapin Trail Garage when my cell phone rings. My buddy BC is calling me from inside Cole and yelling "Maryland basket by Lennnny Ellllmoreeeee!" That was pretty cool.

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