Maryland Should Play Game At Cole Field House


Mark Turgeon probably wants a game at Cole Field House, bad.

Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Last night I had a nice discussion with a long-time friend of mine about the whole “selling beer at sporting events” thing, and how Maryland should strongly consider a lot of different possibilities to generate revenue. You know, outside-the-box ideas that don’t come up too often because some schools don’t have to get as unconventional about making money.

My friend told me about how attended the Big Ten Q&A Symposium in College Park earlier this year, where he got to quiz some of the higher-ups about the conference move and how it could affect the university. If you were attending, he was the one who got laughed out of the building for suggesting that Maryland could potentially play “a heritage game in Cole Field House against a former ACC opponent.”

That Maryland officials would snicker at anyone’s suggestion, given that this is the same administration that left Maryland in dire straits financially stemming from mismanagement and crippling debt, is what shows that some people just don’t “get it.”

I mean, why wouldn’t you want to explore the possibility of reopening Cole Field House, the hallowed ground that gave Maryland their beloved 2002 national championship? The place that, when it was retired a little over ten years ago, was reminisced by every major news outlet from D.C. to San Diego for it’s legendary status. The place that is still home to the most upsets of #1 ranked opponents in NCAA history, even after a game hasn’t been played there in a decade.

The media would eat it up.

TV Ratings

Playing a game at Cole Field House against a former ACC opponent is an event that a nationally televised audience would enjoy seeing. So many teams have played there, so many older fans around the country (remember, it was open for almost fifty years) have fond memories of that place. ESPN wouldn’t even have to try and get people to tune into this one, it’s an automatic ratings grab.

It’s something that would put Maryland on blast in a very similar manner to the way that the Barclay’s game versus Kentucky did last year. More than likely, it’d be on an even bigger scale because of the amount of fan bases that would tune in. This place hosted the Final Four at one point in time, when there were still all-white and all-black teams. Folks from that generation would watch simply because of the euphoria they might get from being reminded of huge moments that took place in Cole.

If we’re talking about ratings grabs, which is the name of the game, then this is something ESPN would be foolish to pass up. It’d be just as big, if not bigger, than playing on an aircraft carrier. Yeah, playing UNC or Duke (best case scenario) at Cole Field House would probably get some people to pay attention. Hell, playing Virginia would get fans salivating and at full alert.

Schedule Issues

A lot of people who might not favor the idea could bring up the fact that Maryland would have to convince an ACC opponent, whom they “abandoned”, to come in and play at one of the formerly toughest venues in America. I mean, when Gary Williams was hesitant to even play at Comcast because of how much home-court advantage Cole brought to the table, you get the idea that it’s almost an automatic loss for the opponent.

While that’s true, there is one fortunate coincidence that occurred when Maryland left the ACC for the Big Ten: they already have an ACC opponent on their home schedule every other year because of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. No, they won’t be at home every time, but in the years that they are, it wouldn’t be nearly as difficult to convince a team to come play at Cole Field House instead of Comcast.

During the years that they aren’t at home, I still fail to see why Mark Turgeon wouldn’t want to schedule an ACC opponent anyway, because of the potential RPI-boost it brings. Theoretically it’s not a neutral site yet, but it certainly could be considered that in the future. I think the TV ratings and exposure alone that would result in a “Heritage Game” for an ACC opponent would be more than enough reason, anyway.

The scheduling aspect isn’t nearly as big an issue as you would think.

It’s a cash cow

Others might argue that, because Cole Field House no longer has a basketball court (it’s a turf field now), that the logistics involved in revamping the place to get it game-ready isn’t worth the hassle. Too much cost, too much planning for a small-ish payout. Plus, delaying classes and rescheduling events already planned there would make it a nightmarish task.

Well sometimes you have to face your nightmares head-on, because playing at Cole is something that’d be worth it. Think of preparing a heritage game at Cole Field House as an investment. The up front costs might make you blink a few times, knowing that Comcast is an already huge arena that’s ready now, but the future payoff would more than recoup the costs.

Cole’s capacity when it closed was about 14,600 seats. Now, before you can factor in standard ticket pricing, you have to subtract about 2,000 to 3,000 seats at Cole that would go directly to the students for “free” (even though they already pay for them via student fees). That leaves, let’s say, 11,600 seats that Maryland can charge for attendance.

Personally, I think people would pay $45 for the worst ticket in the house at an event like this, so let’s just go with that as the the set price. That alone generates $522,000 in raw cash. A half-million dollars when every seating price is equal is nothing to scoff at. If you factor in that a lot of those seats would be top-dollar courtside tickets, the price rises astronomically when you think about how much some fans would be willing to pay for a chance to see the first game played at Cole in over a decade.

And that rudimentary analysis ignores entirely concessions and parking revenue that could be had for the crowd Maryland could bring to a game like that. And money from a TV deal. It’d bring in at least a million dollars once every year, as a near certainty. Maryland would make their operating costs back and then some, easily.

It would heal a lot of bad blood with alumni and fans

That Maryland left years and years of ACC tradition behind in the move to the Big Ten without much concern for their fans was something that rubbed a lot of alumni the wrong way. And for those not keeping track, alumni donate a lot of money to the school. They’re an integral cog to the Maryland budget, and keeping them happy/not pissing them off is something you don’t want to do. I for one know plenty of alumni who simply said “Screw this school,” after the move.

Playing a heritage game like this could serve as a peace offering of sorts to those who felt justifiably wronged with President Loh’s decision (even if it was a good one). That’s something the administration should get behind for their own butts to convey a message of unity at the school. It’s away of still shedding the past, but maintaining a connection to the past that was founded by these alumni.

It’d make plenty of people happier about the university, and happiness tends to have tangible and intangible effects.

So if Maryland is looking for ways to get some more money, play a darn game at Cole Field House.