One of the hot topics on this site over the past few weeks has been the developing rivalry between Duke and Maryland. I want to thank the folks at the DBR for publishing a response from a proud Maryland alumnus-yours truly, The CourtMaster.
There was no series of games between any two teams in the nation that provided more excitement and drama this past season than those between Duke and Maryland. It was the Blue Devils' miraculous comeback at Cole Field House in January that sent the Terps' season into a death spiral, and Maryland's convincing win at Cameron Indoor Stadium that announced to the world that the Terps had turned things back around.
In the ACC semifinals, Duke's stirring last-second win over Maryland after blowing a large second half lead reminded everyone that the Blue Devils were still a team to be reckoned with in the post-season even without the injured Carlos Boozer. Duke's comeback from a 22-point first-half deficit against the Terps in the Final Four showed the nation the mental toughness and poise of the Blue Devils. In their three losses to Duke, Maryland showed they had the talent to play any team in the nation straight up.
From a Duke fan's perspective, Maryland games have grown in importance, but they are not a holy war like the contests against North Carolina. This is a fact that is extremely unlikely to change in our lifetimes.
From a Maryland fan's perspective, however, Duke is THE team to beat. Sure, the games against North Carolina and Virginia are important, but to Terp fans, the Blue Devils are aptly named. Simply put, folks on the College Park campus consider Duke to be the embodiment of pure evil.
Over the past few seasons, Maryland has had success against every team in the ACC except one; Duke. Let's face it; Coach K's teams have beaten Gary Williams' teams like a rented mule. The Blue Devils have defeated the Terps 23 times in 29 games since Williams took the helm at Maryland, including 4 out of 5 in the post-season. The Terps did not prevail over Duke until Williams' seventh season, snapping a 15-game losing streak to the Devils.
Maryland broke a 6-game losing streak to Duke with their win at Cameron last season. This win also broke Duke's 31 game ACC winning streak, and Maryland fans celebrated by tearing down the goalposts from the football stadium and dragging them across campus.
When any team beats yours on a regular basis, it is only natural to develop a hatred towards them. Just ask a Clemson fan how they feel about North Carolina. Even better, ask Tigers' coach Larry Shyatt. I'm sure he'll be only too happy to tell you.
Fan conduct has become a major issue in this series. The DBR has given Maryland fans considerable attention recently, focusing on violent actions tied in with Duke games. As a Maryland alumnus, I was both disturbed and embarrassed when a group of Terp "fans" hit Carlos Boozer's mother with a bottle and set bonfires after the Final Four loss, which melted a cable television wire (owned by the sponsor of Maryland's new arena, no less).
There is another side to Terp fans that I want to focus attention on, however. Maryland fans are not as organized or creative as those at Cameron Indoor Stadium, but who is? It is not always easy to be a Terp fan, but thousands of people have stuck with the team through thick and thin. Before this year, the post-season has led to little but pain for those following Maryland basketball. Agonizing losses by Lefty Driesell's teams in the '70's and early 80's were followed by the frequent under-achieving of Gary Williams' teams in the '90's. Terps' fans were usually left to rationalize the season ending loss and look forward to next season.
In addition, few schools have had to deal with the devastation of their basketball program like that at Maryland following Len Bias' tragic death in 1986. Maryland fans hung in there with the team through the misguided coaching tenure of Bob Wade and the rebuilding process the of the subsequent NCAA probation. True, many of the games did not sell out, but I remember an awful lot of empty seats at Cameron in the early and mid '70's when Duke's basketball program went through some lean years.
Duke enjoys exceptional support from their students and fans, but Maryland is also supported well for a team that had never made a Final Four trip before this year. The actions of a small group or vandals, while they should be reported and condemned, should not overshadow that fact.
Ultimately, there is one driving force behind Maryland fans' hatred of Duke, the desire to be just like them. Terps fans are extremely tired of watching their team lose the BIG games. They have also grown tired of the Blue Devils winning them. There is also the smug, "our poop doesn't stink" attitude of many Duke fans and at times, the program itself to deal with. Let me emphasize the fact that if roles were reversed, Maryland fans would have that same attitude, and Duke fans would probably hate them.
Maryland has narrowed the gap between its program and Duke's in recent seasons, but they still cannot claim equal footing with the Blue Devils. Until that happens and is sustained over a period of years, the Duke-Maryland rivalry with be very one sided. That does not mean it will not be exciting and competitive. Most experts (including yours truly) have Duke and Maryland ranked 1-2 in the ACC for next year. How does a rematch in the Final Four sound?