Terp Teams Invite Faculty, Staff Members to Be Guest Coaches on Game Day
Photos courtesy of Maryland Athletics
Although Eric Johnson, assistant dean and director in the Office of Letters and Sciences, calls himself a “triple Terp” after earning two degrees at the University of Maryland and now working on campus, he never imagined his fan status adding up to football Head Coach Michael Locksley approaching him about the game plan.
But at the team’s pregame meal before putting up an admirable fight against powerhouse Ohio State last month, Locksley did just that, jokingly asking Johnson and Letters and Sciences colleagues Devyn Sturdavant and Ashleigh Brown if they had any advice for beating the Buckeyes.
Triple Terp or no, Johnson knew he’d reached the limits of his football expertise.
“I definitely dared not tread down that road,” Johnson said with a laugh. “We like to say that our presence there is what made it such a close game.”
He and his colleagues are among the nearly 20 faculty and staff members who have donned proverbial coach’s caps for different Terp teams as part of Maryland Athletics’ guest coaching program. Though Locksley didn’t actually hand off the playbook, the initiative put into play last fall offers employees from across campus a front-row seat to all the prep and pep that go into game day.
“We wanted to provide a peek over the fence at what student-athletes experience,” said Brady W. Rourke, associate athletic director for academics and director of the Gossett Student-Athlete Center for Academic and Personal Excellence. “If they see the time management and the organization that’s required to successfully manage the rigors of college athletics and academics at Maryland, it provides a different perspective and appreciation.”
The guests’ days start bright and early with the team. A typical itinerary includes the pregame team meal, position meetings, the bus ride to the stadium, Terp Walk (where fans can cheer on student-athletes as they strut in style to the field), facility tours and warmups before taking in the game itself.
“Just having that police escort up Route 1 was just a great sensation to watch all the fans wave at the bus,” Johnson said. “Being there, that close to the action, really was wonderful.”
To find its coaching candidates, Athletics reached out to members of the Athletic Council, a faculty-led group that ensures ethical conduct and institutional control of the athletic department, and its Academics and Compliance Committee, which prioritizes student-athletes’ performance in the classroom. It then expanded to units across campus that work with the Gossett Student-Athlete Center to help Terps develop into well-rounded leaders.
Whether the guest coaches come from physical education or physics, kinesiology or classics, no sports experience is required.
“When I was asked to participate with football, I had actually never been to a Maryland football game,” said Associate Director of International Student and Scholar Services Jody Heckman-Bose, who’s worked at UMD for 23 years. She’s since been to several more football games, and even guest-coached again at a men’s soccer match. “(The experience) made me more aware of what Athletics brings to our campus in terms of spirit and how it can create traditions for the university. It’s a great way, especially for individuals who might not be sports fans, to really get a view of that and also create empathy and understanding for athletes.”
So far, coaches have ranged from professors and advisers to directors and vice presidents, including Senior Vice President and Provost Jennifer King Rice and Vice President for Research Gregory F. Ball. Besides football and men’s soccer, women’s basketball and volleyball have also welcomed the guests. Athletics hopes to get all sports involved, Rourke said, and perhaps even expand the experience to road games.
“We’re trying to bridge a relationship,” he said. “Sport and what happens in the classrooms aren’t completely separate things. They can work together.”
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