To Cole, With Love

For those who miss our dear Cole, this is a great read from the Diamondback:

To Cole, with love

You are the reason I fell in love with this university. As a child, I watched some of college basketball’s most historic games from your red seats. I remember watching the Terp-O-Meter rise to signal the increasing boisterousness of your passionate fans. I remember watching Steve Francis and Juan Dixon bring an arena to its feet. And I remember a legendary coach — a coach who gave you renewed life after painful sanctions signaled possible death — pump his fist to send an unequivocal message: Have pride in Maryland basketball.

You defined pride for almost 50 years. You hosted some of college basketball’s most memorable games. We upset six top-ranked teams on your court. You remain the only on-campus venue to host two NCAA Final Fours. You helped college basketball break the color barrier when in 1966, Texas Western, the first college basketball team to start an entirely black lineup, upset an all-white Kentucky team on your storied floor to win a national championship.

From the time of your birth, students filled your seats to cheer on their team, my team. They applauded some of the nation’s finest players and some of our country’s most legendary coaches. While I was not a student at the time, I was always there, cheering along with them. I routinely painted my face, I wiped your floor as a ball boy, and I joined thousands of others to make you the loudest stadium in the country.

Now, more than a decade after you closed your doors to basketball, the memories I made with you remain vivid. I still remember frequently making the short drive around the Capital Beltway to visit you. But it was not you I was really going to see — it was the team you hosted, the history you helped make.

My dad instilled in me a sense of this history from the time I was young. After all, he loved you, too. He met you when he was a student here. I cannot say how long ago that was, because I fear he might read this letter. But I am certain he was always the one who screamed loudest. Man, he had passion, and he passed that passion on to me. When you helped our beloved Terps reach their first Final Four in 2001, we immediately booked our tickets to Minneapolis. And while that year ended in heartbreak, the following year — fittingly, the final year of your life — ended with euphoria. We finally did it. That year, we were the best. We made history.

We celebrated our first national championship by inaugurating a new home on the other side of the campus. It was larger and fancier. It held more students, and more loyal alumni could pay to fill its seats. But it was not the same. It wasn’t you.

Now I am a student. I miss you, but I still yell and scream and carry the passion my dad passed on to me. But I fear others do not share my passion. I fear my peers do not appreciate the history you helped make, the program you helped create. I cringe when I see a roaring crowd pack Comcast Center to see us play Duke or North Carolina, because I know that is how it used to be at every game. You would not stand for an empty student section or for an emotionless crowd.

My classmates never knew you, but I did. This is me trying to tell them how it used to be. This is me hoping they will join me in making it that way again.

Ben Kramer is a sophomore government and politics and history major. He can be reached

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