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Goot Sports Then and Now

Story by Jessica L. Bizik
Illustrations by Jessica R. Koman

Do you remember nestling into one of those burgundy velvet seats in D.C.'s Uptown Theatre, waiting to see-not Katherine Hepburn or Spencer Tracy, but-Jack Scarbath, icon and classmate, in a newsreel of the Terps' Sugar Bowl victory? How about that night in Cole Field House, when you stood-fingers crossed, breath held-as Vicky Bullett or Billy Jones went for their first college lay-up? Were you the one Mark Coogan sprinted past, day in and day out, to make his afternoon econ class? Was four-sport Varsity letter-winner Laura LeMire your hero?

Some of the names in this article may sound familiar to you; others, not. But chances are all the stories will ring true. From the pioneers to the pros, these athletes have one thing in common-their glory days at the University of Maryland. So whether you're the biggest Terp fan in history-or you just love hearing about the people behind the plays-sit back and enjoy, as five former Terps talk about what makes them good sports then and now.

Idol Time: Jack Scarbath '54

Perhaps the "biggest name" on our list of Terps is Jack Scarbath, whose football legacy and B.M.O.C. reputation have passed from one generation to the next. When it came to making Maryland a better place, Scarbath wasn't afraid to get his hands dirty. In fact, his first job was helping to build Byrd Stadium.

Marilyn and Jack
Scarbath "When I was at the University of Maryland, freshmen were ineligible to play football," he says. "So, I worked for the contractor-actually pouring cement to make the tiers where the seats would go." Then, the season opened, and Scarbath scored the first touchdown Byrd Stadium ever saw.

During that first game, the scoreboard didn't work and the locker rooms were far from finished. Still, a record crowd of 43,836 fans cheered wildly in the stands. Almost overnight, Scarbath became a star, a role model, a "crush." He graced the cover of magazines and showed up in newsreels. They probably named hamburgers after his famous move-the "Split-T."

But, today, that same icon quarterback says, the hoopla never really sunk in. "We were just there to play football," he says.

Preparation enabled the players to keep cool during key games, says Scarbath, who led the Terps to a 24󖓇 record, including a victory over No. 1-ranked Tennessee in the 1951 Sugar Bowl.

"What you plan to do in the game becomes repetitious to the point where it's like 2 plus 2 always equals 4," he says. "So your emotions don't really factor into it as much as people on the outside might expect."

Still, the next season held a great disappointment for Scarbath. After 22 straight games without a single defeat, it happened. Mississippi beat Maryland, 21 to 14-a loss that, presumably, cost Scarbath the Heisman Trophy. The Terps fell again to Alabama the next week and finished the year with a 72 record and no bowl invitations. In many ways, Scarbath felt responsible.

But things turned around in 1953. Scarbath went off to play for the Redskins and the Terps, building on his foundation, won the NCAA championship. Scarbath later played pro ball for the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Ottawa Roughriders, and coached five years for the University of South Carolina. He has also been inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame and the University of Maryland Athletics Hall of Fame.

But eventually Scarbath decided, like many of his Terp teammates, that professional football wasn't the only dream going.

"From our team, I think five or six players became doctors, four became engineers, three became dentists, and several became CEOs...So I think what playing sports gives you, above everything else, is discipline. And that's a trait you carry through the rest of your life."

Looking back, Scarbath has made what people like to call a decent living. After that famous stadium-building summer, he took a job at a local foundry. It was a great way to keep in shape for football, and later, when combined with an industrial engineering degree, gave him the knowledge to start his own abrasive materials company-John C. Scarbath and Sons. Scarbath sold the business two years ago and, since then, has become increasingly active with the Maryland Education Foundation, helping to provide opportunities for scholar-athletes in financial need. He and his wife, Marilyn-a former Terp cheerleader-also love babysitting their grandkids. And Jack has a thing for carving.

By this, I don't mean carving out plays for the next football game. Instead, Scarbath carves wood-transforming solid building blocks into geese, ruddy ducks and other waterfowl. And he can tell you the exact number of hours it takes to create one of these beauties-about 220 for the larger, 40 to 45 for the little guys.

Occasionally, the quarterback-turned-carver shows the decoys in competitions. More often, he gives them to friends. As always, Scarbath knows-winning isn't everything. He says, it is in the process, in the preparation, that you become a winner.


A Second Homecoming: Vicky Bullett

Frances Bullet says the phone has been ringing off the hook. You see, her daughter Vicky has been a hot ticket for quite some time. First, she was the all-time leading scorer and rebounder for the University of Maryland women's basketball team. Next, two glorious trips to the Olympics. Third, a seven-year stint as a professional basketball player in Italy. And now, she's returned to the states to play (position) for the Charlotte Sting in the new Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA). So, if having Vicky back in the country means taking a few messages now and then, Mrs. Bullet is happy to oblige.

"Finally." The word floats from Vicky Bullett's lips with sweet satisfaction. "Finally," she says, "we have a professional team for women in this country."

Bullett believes the women's basketball league is headed for success, particularly because each of the women's teams is affiliated with its city's NBA team, and because their marketing will be done on the NBA-model. The Charlotte Sting, for example, will be operated by George Shin, owner of the Charlotte Hornets.

"I don't think Mr. Shin would put his time and money into a program, just to watch it fail," says Bullett.

Capitalism aside, the league could make a big difference in the lives of some American women. "If the women's league truly takes off and becomes an NBA kind of thing," says Bullett, "the ladies who are playing overseas will come home at the snap of a finger...It's such a transition for us over there. Think about being that 20-some-year-old woman going over to Italy and not knowing the language. You just know basketball."

Bringing our women back would also provide more athletic role models for American girls, says Bullett, who, as a child, had no women players to look up to. Basketball was simply in her blood and, with six brothers egging her on, it didn't take much to bring that out. Bullett began shooting hoops at age eight. She made the varsity team her freshman year in high school and, by her junior year, she was averaging 35 points a game. But Martinsburg, W.Va., was a small market, and no one outside of the state knew who she was.

Then, in came Don Bullett, Vicky's oldest brother who graduated from college just in time to coach his sister's basketball team. The two drove all around the country, making sure the big scouts saw Vicky play. After a few tournaments, the letters started pouring in.

Bullett's dad encouraged her to keep going strong. She already had two brothers in college and the money was getting tight. "So I worked and worked, and did everything I could to get a scholarship," she says. After several offers from other schools, Bullett chose Maryland.

"The great part about Maryland was that my family and friends lived close enough to come to all the games," says Bullett. And now, after nearly eight years, they are sitting on the edge of their seats, waiting to see her in action again.

Bullett has been taking her preparation seriously. For the last six months, she's been driving an hour and a half-each way, twice a week-to play ball with the Terps women's basketball team. It's great practice for her, and it gives the women a chance to tear up the court with a Maryland legend.

As the women run their drills, Bullett's retired jersey, No. 23, hangs above them in Cole Field House. It's a sign of her accomplishments, her history. This summer, when Bullett heads to North Carolina, she'll start a whole new era.

This move has people talking-mostly about how to prepare for Bullett's newest success. In honor of her gold medal performance in the '88 Olympics, the mayor of Martinsburg renamed the athlete's home-town street Vicky Bullett Street. He also posted signs at every entrance to the city saying, "Welcome to Martinsburg, W.Va.-the home of gold medalist, Vicky Bullett."

To all of this, Bullett just smiles and modestly replies, "Not a lot has really happened in Martinsburg so far."


Running Mates: Mark Coogan

Unlike Vicky Bullett and Jack Scarbath, Mark Coogan wasn't considered the No. 1 athlete at Maryland. He wasn't a huge media star. He didn't break a dozen track records. But one thing is certain-if Coogan came back to college today, plenty of athletes would be eating his dust.

Coogan is the No. 3 runner in the United States. He has finished in the Top 10 in four different long distance events, finished 10th in the 1992 steeplechase Olympic trails, and finished second in the 1996 Olympic marathon trials, which earned him a trip to Atlanta last summer. To put it simply, Mark Coogan just keeps getting better.

Maryland was a good place to start a running career, says Coogan, who describes the university's running program as solid. "Our cross-country team was always ranked in the Top 20, but we weren't the best," he says. Nevertheless, Coogan was named All American in 1987. That same year, he finished 5th in the ACC for track and 9th for cross country. Some might assume running is an individual sport, unrelated to the notion of teamwork. But Coogan disagrees. Maryland's runners actually developed a Musketeer-like attitude: "You're a lot less likely to let up," he says, "when the other guys are in the race."

Perhaps the living arrangements helped. "The first year I was at Maryland, we lived in Byrd Stadium-all the track guys on one side and all the soccer guys on the other," says Coogan. "For football games, we'd just bring lunches and sit on the hill-it was a blast."

These days, Coogan is enjoying the challenge of a different kind of team-marriage. His wife, Gwyn, joined a running club after college and, soon afterwards, met Coogan-perhaps the first man who could really keep up with her. Gwyn too is a distance runner and former Olympian. She is also the mother of their three-year-old daughter, Katrina, a part-time math teacher, and a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Colorado.

You can imagine the couple's schedule. Between training twice a day, taking turns caring for Katrina, photo shoots with sponsors like New Balance and Powerbar, and Gwyn's attempt at writing her dissertation, the two feel a bit harried at times. And, as if that isn't already enough, add this straw-competition.

While both Coogans have been to the Olympics, they've never gone together. Gwyn was invited to Barcelona in 1992, a year Mark sustained an injury and couldn't run. Then in 1996, Mark aced the trials and flew off to Atlanta, while Gwyn came in fourth for a three-seat team.

"It's tough because we both try so hard," he says. It's like you put four years into one race and either you make it or you don't."

The Olympic marathon is brutal-competitors run hard, the whole way. And with the combination of tough hills and record-breaking Georgia humidity, Coogan's internal odometer was reading 36 miles, when he'd really run "only" 26. Eventually, the heat cost him the race.

Of course, he's aching for another try.

If I make the team again in 2000," he says, "I'll be able to prepare better for the Olympics, and I'll be in a better frame of mind once I get there." And, if they get their timing right, Mark and Gwyn Coogan may both board that plane headed for Sydney, Australia.

In the interim, Coogan will continue to call former Terps coach, Charles Torpey, for his trusted running-tips-by-phone sessions. He will also take on his national races with a vengeance.

Occasionally, Coogan runs into a few Maryland track buddies at these meets across the country.

"I'm probably the only one who does this full-time," he says, "but all of us still run. It's just one of those things you're never going to give up."


The Super Natural: Laura LeMire

A few years ago, Nike ran an ad that went something like this: "Give a girl a ball, and you give her a chance."

To many, the message was clear-playing sports gives girls higher self-esteem. It encourages them to think strategically, provides them with a unique opportunity for camaraderie. For some, it offers a new dream. From discipline to imagination, sports can take both girls and boys to another world. And former Terp Laura LeMire says, it's been one of the best trips of her life.

On the surface, LeMire leads a pretty normal life. But after talking with her a while, you begin to wonder if, underneath that executive business suit, she's hiding a bright blue unitard with a big "S" stitched across the chest. You can't help but ask-does the former lacrosse and field hockey star have an alter ego?

No, LeMire does it all-and she likes it that way. After graduating from the University of Maryland with two engineering degrees and three varsity letters for track, field hockey and lacrosse, LeMire went on to get her M.B.A. from Loyola College. Later that year, she gave birth to her first child, Katie, and continued to climb the ranks at Baltimore Gas & Electric-from distribution to investor relations to site management.

Since then, she's had a second baby (a son named Will), launched a full-fledged membership drive for the M Club, coached her daughter's soccer league, established her own community residence association, attended every P.T.A. meeting, and chaired the fundraising committee for Engineers Week in Baltimore.

By the way, she still plays whatever sport is in season.

"My whole life has really been a balancing act," says LeMire, "between work and being a mom and trying to keep up with athletics, also finding time for friends and for having fun. It's a real challenge."

Luckily, the things LeMire loves to do come naturally for her. Take, for example, the sports thing. When she came to Maryland in 1976, LeMire was planning on running track and playing field hockey. After a bout with shin splints, she decided to give her legs a break and picked up a new spring sport-lacrosse. Three years later, she made the final assist that enabled the Terps to beat Penn State in the NCAA lacrosse championship.

"I was blessed with speed," says LeMire, "And having played so many other sports, you learn skills that can be easily carried over."

LeMire played that championship season with her younger sister, Andi, and the two of them are also credited with being the first All-American field hockey players at Maryland. LeMire attributes much of their success to then-coach Sue Tyler, who single-handedly transformed Maryland's field hockey and lacrosse teams into national powerhouses.

LeMire admired Tyler for her humor and insight, and says some of their best workouts took place on rainy days.

"When we couldn't play outside, we had a mental practice, where we would actually visualize ourselves executing different plays. It really made a difference, because, if you can see yourself doing something, then it improves your ability to do it in the game," she says.

Today LeMire's vision has a lot to do with family. She and husband Bill Rees are hyper-aware of letting their kids develop a natural interest in sports-never pushing them too hard, always searching for that perfect balance between work, play and simple relaxation. The couple has seen far too many families get burned out on what was supposed to be recreation, says LeMire.

"Luckily, our life really goes in ebbs and flows, one thing picks up where another thing leaves off," she says.

And with that, LeMire flies off to pick up the kids from school. You can almost visualize her Maryland-red cape flapping gracefully in the wind.


Boundless Talent: Billy Jones

Billy Jones didn't mean to make history at the University of Maryland, but that's exactly what he did. In 1965, Coach Bud Millikan took a risk and recruited Jones to play basketball for the Terps. In turn, Jones became the first African American player in the ACC.

"I think Coach Millikan researched his decision well," says Jones. "He knew a lot about my character-about what I could do and how I handled myself...But, still, you've got to give him a lot of credit. Because, in those days, you weren't even sure how your own campus would accept a black player."

Although the '60s were a revolutionary time, the world simply wasn't ready for certain things, says Jones. And, as a result, most blacks experienced a lack of fraternity and social life at Maryland. This may be one reason why Coach Millikan went on to recruit another outstanding African American guard, Julius "Pete" Johnson, who became Jones' roommate and best friend.

Still, Jones says the Terps were a team, period. And once he proved he belonged during the preseason, he never lacked for support.

"I never had any qualms about basketball," says Jones. "Gary Williams, Gary Ward, Joe Harrington, Mike DeCosbo-these were guys who specifically made sure that Pete and I were made to feel welcome and respected."

How did the other teams react to the first black ACC player? Jones says they didn't like him. But then again, they didn't like anybody who wasn't on their side.

"I think from the standpoint of just pure basketball, if you had Maryland red on, the opposing team disliked you. It didn't really matter what color your skin was," he says.

History suggests, however, that Millikan kept Jones on the bench during some early away games-primarily to shelter him from the crowds-while Jones was thinking just let me play.

"You have to understand," says Jones, "I came out of a high school where, of the 400 and some graduating students, there were only five 5 blacks. I had been in hostile gyms before. That was just part of growing up for me."

Once Jones got on the court, he was a show-stopper. In fact, he fondly remembers getting a standing ovation-from the crowd and the players-when he walked onto the floor to finish the last six minutes of an ACC tournament game against North Carolina.

"I think back on some of those times and, really, I was just out being me. But, now, from a historical standpoint, I can appreciate being the first black player in the conference," says Jones. "Now, I turn to any ACC game and 80 percent of the players are black."

Jones left the university with a clear picture of who he was-as a athlete and as a man. He carried this knowledge into the professional world, where he spent 16 years coaching for American University, Cal. State-Santa Barbara and UMBC. Then, last year, he made the switch. Now, instead of trying to recruit the next Magic Johnson, Jones recruits staff for Disney's Magic Kingdom.

Jones says his philosophy is simple-when it comes to making the right human resources decision, think sports and you can't go wrong. "Sports is one of the most honest arenas out there. Because, typically, if you can perform, you play. No politics involved...I hope someday all choices in the corporate and academic worlds will be handled that way," he says.

Like Jones, each of these former Terps has been an inspiration, a role model, a leader. They have taught us about the power of determination, about achieving balance and transcending boundaries. In many ways, they remind us how sports enriched our school days, as either an athlete or a fan. Most of all, they are a testament to staying in the game, and using the skills sports provide to achieve our goals-both on and off the field.

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