Oct. 1, 2004
By Justin Fenton The Diamondback
COLLEGE PARK, Md. (U-WIRE) - Hey, it's gone!
Coach Gary Williams requested yesterday that the band not play the controversial "Rock and Roll, Part II" cheer at men's basketball home games this season, following the surprise reversal of a ban on the song by a committee Wednesday that sparked a brief moment of hope for university students.
Athletics Director Debbie Yow said Wednesday that although the 13-member Sportsmanship Committee had reversed its decision on the tune, she would wait to hear Williams' opinion before officially reinstating the song.
In an afternoon meeting yesterday with Yow and Vice President for Student Affairs Linda Clement, Williams stood by his previous public comments that the song did not aid his team during games, and there are other, less controversial ways for students and fans to become involved in creating a lively atmosphere at Comcast Center.
"We appreciate the support of the students at our games, and we made sure the students received the best seats at Comcast Center when it was built," he said in a written statement. "Hopefully, they will understand the situation with 'Rock and Roll, Part II' but it's as simple as this - we don't want to win and have some of our fans walk away upset with their experience at the game."
Williams, who is entering his 16th season with the Terps, admitted in a phone interview late yesterday afternoon that he likes the song but he ultimately concluded the song was too controversial.
"Because I like the song doesn't mean it's best for everybody," Williams said. "The deciding factor there was a large group of fans, especially those who bring kids and grandkids to the game, who don't like the song. It's not appropriate for that type of audience."
Yow referred comment to a press release, in which she said she "appreciated the candor of Coach Williams" and agreed with him.
"His perspective is consistent with that of many others who love Maryland Athletics, and we want him to be comfortable with the atmosphere in Comcast Center," she said.
Kelaine Conochan, a member of the committee and a senior government and politics major, said she was disappointed with the decision.
"It's something the students own, and it's being taken away from us," she said. "I just think that it was maybe a mistake that the committee shouldn't have made with football to begin with. When all the trends are forced in one direction, it's tough for one person to take the brunt of it."
Williams' decision represents the latest development for the flip-flopping Sportsmanship Committee, which has had to deal with numerous clashing interests - among them, an administration that wants to clean up sporting events, a student body yearning for a sense of identity and a split among alumni, a fan base and a critical media.
In twice banning the song this month, the committee had only three voting members present for football and did not even offer members a chance to vote on men's basketball before distributing a press release last Wednesday announcing the decision.
That's when Athletics Department Liaison Lauren Spates took the floor at a Student Government Association meeting to announce Williams' - and the Athletics Department's - decision that the song no longer be played at men's basketball home games.
But the rest of the Sportsmanship Committee took offense to the premature announcement, rallying at a students-only meeting on Sunday and deciding they would put the song's fate in the hands of the administrators.
"If they want the song gone, they can't use the students as a front," SGA President and sportsmanship committee member Aaron Kraus told legislators Wednesday night.
Buoyed by private conversations with Williams and the belief that he indeed supported the song but felt pressured to follow the lead of football coach Ralph Friedgen - who asked the song be banned from football games - the committee ambushed administrators at an already-scheduled Wednesday morning meeting and put the song's use at men's basketball to a vote for the first time.
The result: 6-3, with women's basketball coach Brenda Frese and track and field coach Andrew Valmon among the dissenting.
Williams said he doesn't fault the students for attempting to bring the traditional song back.
"Part of going to college is being able to think for themselves," he said. "I would never hope that the students get censored from making their opinions known. That's what makes this country so great."
Though the students on the committee had said they would probably re-vote the ban of the song at football games to reflect the students' position, yesterday's decision makes that less likely.
"We had momentum, and we were confident that we had made the correct decision," Spates said. "We'll bring it to the meeting, but it'll be a tough sell."
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