While growing up in Rockville, Ben Warnquist often heard his father gush over the greatness of Cole Field House, the former home of the Terrapins men’s and women’s basketball teams. But the Terps moved into Comcast Center in 2002, so the junior communication major hasn’t been able to watch a game in the historic arena during his time as a Terps fan.
“My dad went to Maryland, and I’ve been hearing that Cole Field House was the best place to be to watch a game for a long time,” Warnquist said. “I’d be thrilled if they would be doing anything in there.”
This season, Warnquist will finally get the chance to measure his father’s words against his own experience, as the men’s and women’s basketball teams will hold the annual Maryland Madness event in Cole on Oct. 18.
The event will mark the first official university basketball event in the building since the men’s team beat Virginia, 112-92, in the final regular-season game of their national championship run in 2002.
“Cole Field House represented many of the most iconic and memorable moments in Maryland basketball program history,” coach Mark Turgeon said in a press release. “Cole was host to multiple Hall of Fame coaches and countless All-Americans that helped make Maryland basketball what it is today.”
Cole Field House is now known as Cole Student Activities Building and hosts small concerts, comedy shows and indoor soccer matches. But from 1955 to 2002, it was home to the men’s basketball team, and in 1971, the women began playing there as well.
The two teams combined to compile a record of 774-246 at Cole, and at the time of its closing, the building had hosted seven upsets of the nation’s No. 1 men’s basketball team — more than any other arena in the country.
Sixteen Terps men’s and women’s All-Americans played their college basketball in Cole Field House, including John Lucas, Len Bias and Juan Dixon.
“I think having some part of the basketball team in there is great,” senior education major Nick Sevilla said. “I think bringing it back to Cole Field House for just one night will help tie in the tradition of the history for everyone to get ready for this season.”
Maryland Madness typically kicks off the Terps’ practice schedule, but new NCAA rules allow coaches to start practice two weeks earlier than in the past. So the Terps will begin practicing this week, but Maryland Madness will still be the first chance for students and fans to see the teams in action.
“It’s a great chance for this generation to get a glimpse of what Maryland basketball was like and to honor our history,” said women’s coach Brenda Frese, who arrived in College Park for the 2002-03 season, the year the teams began playing in Comcast Center.
Maryland Madness might not be the only look students get at Cole Field House, though. In an ESPN podcast with Andy Katz and Seth Greenberg yesterday, Turgeon mentioned he hopes to play one regular-season game each year at Cole.
“It’s something that I’ve wanted to do since taking the job here,” Turgeon said. “I’ve wanted to get back into Cole. I know our fans are really enthusiastic about it.”
Turgeon hopes to hold the game during winter break, when the team struggles to attract fans to Comcast Center with school out of session. Still, he understands there are some logistical issues.
“We’re going to have to put some money, scoreboard, court, fix up the seating for us to do that,” the third-year coach said. “I think we’d fill it up and fans would be pumped up for it.”
Perhaps Turgeon will get his wish and the Terps will play a meaningful game in Cole sometime in the near future. But there are no plans in place for that just yet, so it seems students will have to take advantage of Maryland Madness if they want to witness basketball in the Terps’ former home.
Warnquist will attend the event, and he’ll bring his friend Alex Hoffman, another junior communication major, with him.
Hoffman, a Frederick native, said he attended several games at Cole before the Terps moved into Comcast. And though he was too young then to remember much, he’s itching to go back.
“I remember it being a big deal when they moved out of Cole to Comcast, so it’s really cool,” Hoffman said. “I’m really excited for it, and I think most students are, too.”