ESPN Radio and "SportsCenter" host Scott Van Pelt is among some of the most recognizable graduates of this university thanks to his prominent presence on the sports landscape. And he's making a return to the College Park area Monday to host his radio show in Washington ahead of the NFL season's first edition of Monday Night Football.
Diamondback sports editor Daniel Gallen had the privilege of speaking with Van Pelt on Wednesday about the NFL, Terrapins football and men's basketball and the move to the Big Ten. Here's part of their exchange.
DBK: Are you more of an NFL guy or a college football guy?
SVP: You know, it’s funny. I was having this conversation with Rusillo off-air and he does radio GameDay for college. He said for him, he likes college football so much more than the pros and I’d say it’s a slight edge for me with college, but I really enjoy the National Football League, and I grew up a Redskin fan, growing up in the area, and so, like anybody, I’m excited to watch it. You probably put it best: football’s football, but if you gave me a choice, like my TV only worked on one day of the weekend — Saturday or Sunday — I’d pick Saturday.
DBK: It's an exciting time to be a football fan in the Baltimore-Washington area. What are your thoughts on the Redskins and Ravens?
SVP: I always get a kick out of how they’ll try to lump the two together like Baltimore-Washington. … I think that people make this presumption that they’re lumped together. They’re certainly not. You’re one or the other. It hurts Maryland frankly, that the Terps have to share the geography with two passionate pro teams. People have choices to make and you don’t always have the time or the money to support both a college and a pro team. But as for the question you asked, I think the Ravens are the reigning champs and their organization is such that you always expect them to be good and I do think they’ll survive the losses of a lot of different players just fine. And for the Redskins, they took a giant step forward with Griffin. I’m just happy I don’t have to hear anymore about the “Operation Patience” bit. Let’s play the game. Let’s play the games, man. I never knew a guy that had to put a name to his offseason regiment. But whatever the case may be, I think both teams will be playoff teams I would think. And if I was going to guess who would go deeper into the playoffs, my guess would be the Ravens. But they both feel like playoff teams.
DBK: What are your thoughts on the Terps so far?
Well, C.J. Brown — and listen, this is not an insult to [inside linebacker Shawn] Petty because God bless him, he did what he had to do last year — but it’s a nice reminder that it’s good to have C.J. Brown under center. This is a guy that’s very, very capable. He’s dynamic. He’s a true dual-threat. And [wide receivers Stefon] Diggs and [Deon] Long, you’ve got a tandem of receivers that’s going to cause real problems for the opposition. I’ve been telling people all offseason, ‘I hope you’ve got your jokes in on Maryland these last two years,’ and admittedly, it’s been tough sledding. But Maryland’s got the talent this year to be a bowl team, and I know they have hopes beyond just winning enough to be in a bowl. So I was just really happy for C.J., who’s a really good guy who’s worked very hard to get back on the field. And then selfishly, I was just happy that he played so well because he looked awesome.
DBK: Is there anything else you can say about Stefon Diggs?
SVP: Just that he’s one of the top — I don’t want to put a number on it because who knows — he’s one of the most electrifying talents in college football. We actually taped some segments with Kirk Herbstreit and David Pollack, and it was a name that people would know by October. They named whoever they named and I just said, ‘You all are the experts, but I’m just going to go ahead and throw Stefon Diggs name out there.’ And Herbstreit said he’s probably one of the top two or three most explosive and electrifying players in the game, so that’s Herbie essentially just echoing what I said. But put it this way: I’m a Maryland homer and unapologetically so, and you obviously get a chance to see him play as well, so Terp fans know him, but I think nationally, people are going to get to know his name because he really is one of those special talents. He could have played anywhere and he chose to stick around and stay at home, which was a big deal.
DBK: You're very vocal on student attendance at Terps sporting events. What were your thoughts on the student section for the football season opener?
SVP: I did. It was awesome, awesome, awesome early and then I know it was hot, but it’s a 60-minute proposition. It’s a four-quarter proposition. The thing about Maryland students — and look, I went there. I remember leaving at halftime to tailgate. I lived in Ellicott, so I walked out across the street to my dorm. I thought they were great. It was awesome to see them there early, and it was a bummer to see the second half. I know it was a hot, we were ahead by 100 — I get it. There’s going to come a time the team could use you there in the third and fourth quarter and I would hope that folks would stick around for that, and I‘ve been vocal about the basketball as well. It’s not just the Duke game. The Duke crowd last year was really cool. That video, that viral video — I saw it on YouTube yesterday. It’s got like 8 million hits. It saw how good Maryland could be when everybody’s like, ‘this is what we’re doing.’ That was really, really well done. The bummer for me is that Maryland basketball isn’t the Duke game. It’s the Maryland game against whoever they’re playing. It would be nice to see more support along those lines more than just ‘Hey I’m going to scan so I get enough points to see the Duke game’ because guess what, this year the ACC decided there’s no Duke game. I would just say from what I saw the other day, I was impressed. It was great, great, great early and then it was crickets in the second half because everybody split, but that’s just kind of seems like how it goes.
DBK: With where the football and basketball teams are right now, how excited would you be to be a student right now?
SVP: I’d be psyched. The difficult time has passed for both. I think Randy’s getting his fingerprints on the program. They’re recruiting at a nice clip, and this move to the Big Ten is odd, but if you’re a student, especially if you’re one who didn’t grow up in the area, you didn’t grow up the way I did, so it probably won’t be as weird for you. I’d be excited about the future for football. And then basketball, given the recruits they’ve got for next year, and given the guys that Turgeon and his staff brought in last year, Maryland’s going to go back — I think — to what they became during Gary’s heyday which is a fixture in the tournament and a team that’s capable of getting on a run. I think each team obviously with not being in bowl games and not going to tournaments, it’s been a struggle, especially during your time, but hopefully you and anybody that’s in their latter part of their years at Maryland is going to go out on a high note because I think the future looks bright on both fronts.
DBK: What was your initial reaction to the Big Ten move?
SVP: It was very odd because I was there last year. I come every year and speak on [Shirley Povich panel] there. I was out to dinner with some folks. I’ll leave their names out of it — suffice to say, they’re some folks that were aware of the situation. I’d heard on Twitter some rumors and I brought it up at dinner and I expected it to be dismissed. The reaction from those I was with let me know, ‘Oh, this is real.’ I couldn’t believe it at the time and emotionally I was adamantly against it. But I took inventory of what it meant and what the future would mean in that conference and, let’s be honest, the money that would come into the school’s athletic department as a result, and I thought, ‘Well, you see the benefits.’ And I did a big almost soliloquy about it on the radio and I said mourning the loss of the ACC is having a funeral for something that died a long time ago because the league that I grew up with isn’t anymore. They told Maryland moving forward that their rival was going to be Pittsburgh, a school that Maryland has nothing in common with and vice versa. And if we’re going to get some new rival, then we might as well get paid a bunch of money to get it, and that’s what’s going to happen. Our rivalries in the Big Ten will reveal themselves over time. The benefits financially are unmistakable. And by the way, the Big Ten television comes up two years from now and it’s only going to be worth more because there are more networks out there now fighting for those rights. So someone’s going to overpay to get it, which means more money for Maryland, Penn State, Michigan, etc. So I have a reasonable less emotional answer now than I did then because then I was pissed. Maryland was an ACC school. I grew up with that. But I see the reality of the landscape now and I see how it benefits Maryland, and they coveted Maryland, which is something Maryland never felt from the ACC. They never felt truly — I don’t think — they never felt like they were truly wanted. And the Big Ten and Delaney wanted them for a million different reasons, all of which are positive. And in the end, that’s going to be our future.
DBK: Have you already thought of Maryland as a Big Ten team or will that take some getting used to?
SVP: I am a loser. Late, late, late at night, post SportsCenter and before I go to sleep on the EA Sports 2014 video game, which is the one game I play year in and year out, Maryland, we’ve already played our ACC schedule and at the end of the year, you can put Maryland into the Big Ten. So I’ve done that and played a season where you played Big Ten schools. Is it odd to not see Clemson and N.C. State and whoever else on your schedule? Yeah, but I think folks will get very used to the idea that Ohio State or Michigan or Penn State or whomever’s coming to town. I don’t think of it that way yet. I’ll enjoy the last lap around the block and I’m sure I’ll feel nostalgic when it ends, but when the time comes to stuff that has a ‘B,’ a ‘1’ and a ‘G,’ on it, that’s what I suppose I’ll do.
DBK: Are we going to be seeing you at any games this year?
SVP: I’m sure there will. At the moment, I’m not sure when it will be. I always made plans to go to the Duke game if I could just because the atmosphere was so much fun. This year, I think maybe Syracuse just because it’s Mike Tirico, who’s a good buddy that I work with will be calling the game for Big Monday, and I think that atmosphere will be pretty hyped for them coming in for the one visit they have. So maybe for the Orange’s visit to Comcast. But to be honest, my schedule is pretty random and I don’t know from week to week where I’ll be, but I’m definitely going to try to map out a football game hopefully and certainly somewhere along the way a basketball game. I always send out a tweet when I’m coming to town. It’s not that I need to announce myself, I’m just excited to get back whenever I can.