COLLEGE PARK, Md. - On a crisp October day 125 years ago, the dream of a Maryland football program came to fruition when the Maryland “Aggies,” as they were formally known, hosted St. John’s College in the inaugural football game on the campus of the University of Maryland.
The inaugural game ignited an annual display of pride and tradition on the gridiron in College Park that has resulted in 634 victories, a national title and countless memories that have transcended generations.
After a winless opening season in which the Aggies took their fair share of bumps and bruises, the program fought back in their sophomore campaign to earn the nod as “D.C. Champions” with a perfect 6-0 record.
But just as quickly as the program found success, it was nearly dismantled forever during the lost season of 1895, when the new Commander of Cadets, Lieutenant Overton, made it known that he did not believe football had any place within a college curriculum at a military academy. He was described as a “football hater.” In retaliation against the newly formed football team, Overton purposefully scheduled the daily supper formation to take place during the football practice time.
Refusing to budge an inch, even after pleads from the players and an angry college town, Overton still demanded the players follow the supper formation guidelines. With little practice time available for the team, the team captain made a difficult decision and decided to disband in 1895. With a strong love for the game, the team immediately reformed the following year and has played ever since. The 2017 season will mark the 122nd straight year of Maryland football and 125th overall.
The official mascot of Maryland changed from the Aggies to the beloved Terrapins around 1923. Since the introduction of the new mascot, multiple terrapin statues have been placed around campus. During Maryland football’s 100th year, an additional Testudo shrine, which is supposed to offer good luck if you rub its nose, was placed on the field outside of the Gossett Football Team House. As the team runs out of the tunnel on game days, each student-athlete makes sure to rub Testudo’s nose.
Maryland Stadium (formerly known as Byrd Stadium) was officially completed in 1950 and held a capacity of 34,680 people. Just three years later, Maryland won the National Championship during the Terps’ first year in the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC), after splitting from the Southern Conference. Under Head Coach Jim Tatum, Maryland was the only major college team to finish the 1953 regular season unbeaten.
In 1957, Maryland Football welcomed English royalty to College Park for what would become known as the “Queen’s Game.” Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip wished to attend a “typical American sport” and witnessed Maryland take on North Carolina, sitting amongst a crowd of 45,000 red, black, and gold-clad Terp fans at Byrd Stadium. Historians believe Maryland’s participation in “the greatest game of the decade” against UCLA two years prior may have drawn the Queen to Maryland.
After the royal couple watched the Terps’ beat favored North Carolina, 21-7, it is safe to say they became Terp fans for life. We have a strong feeling that the Queen still sports a Maryland jersey for every game as she cheers us on from across the pond!
The Terps had some of their most successful seasons on the gridiron in th3 1970s and 1980s, claiming six ACC titles under head coaches Jerry Claiborne and Bobby Ross. Maryland participated in nine bowl games over the course of 11 seasons from 1973 to 1985.
In 1995, seating capacity was increased to 48,055 at Byrd Stadium following the completion of the upper deck. Located less than five miles outside of Washington, D.C., it is possible to see the tops of five historic landmarks from the top of Maryland Stadium, including the Washington Monument and the United States Capitol.
In addition to being able to see one of the nation’s most historic cities from its peak, Maryland Stadium is the home of two-time consensus All-American E.J. Henderson and his 2001 Orange Bowl team. And it’s also now the home of the 2017 Maryland Football team set to begin its fourth season in the Big Ten Conference.
On Saturday game days in the fall, Maryland Pride resonates throughout College Park. When the Terps emerged from the locker room prior to the 2011 home opener donning their “Pride” uniforms for the first time ever, a crowd of 52,875 was on hand to witness the embodiment of state pride (and watch as the team beat Miami, 32-24). That same Maryland Pride is as strong as ever today.
Maryland Football will participate in its 125th season in the fall of 2017. Beginning play in 1892, the program has accumulated 11 conference championships, celebrated 11 consensus All-Americans and 16 first-round draft picks, appeared in 26 bowl games and won the 1953 National Championship. From now until the conclusion of the 2017 season, we invite you to join us as we look back at the 124 Maryland Football seasons that guided us to where we are today.
Maryland Football… Steadfast in Loyalty for 125 Seasons