A decade ago, when Ralph Friedgen was the head coach, the Maryland football team started what has since become an annual tradition: "blackout'" football games where the Terps wear all-dark uniforms and everyone in Byrd Stadium is urged to do the same. It looks kind of cool, because large swaths of humanity wearing the same color looks kind of cool. So do the Under Armour-driven uniforms, which have evolved from kind of ugly to absolutely stunning:
Debuting the newest addition to our collection of hand-painted helmets this weekend: #BlackOutByrd x @UAFootball pic.twitter.com/yulllAAU7z— Maryland Football (@MarylandPride) September 29, 2015
(Those are great uniforms, and if you think otherwise, you're likely helpless. Maryland wears them Saturday against Michigan.)
"Look good, play good" is a simple enough proposition, but it hasn't been true for Maryland. The Terrapins are an outrageous 1-9 in the 10 home games for which they've held blackouts. As a result, for today's generation of Maryland students, a "blackout" game has taken up a more traditional, R.J. Bentley's-centric sort of meaning.
(Here is where I must credit Ryan Garland, who did a bunch of legwork for a comprehensive post at Press Box before Maryland hosted a blackout game against Michigan State last year, then got blacked out, 37-15, to move to 1-9 in such events all-time. Thanks to Ryan for doing the research and Kermit for tracking it down.)
Anyway, per Ryan's long look back (which I urge you to read in full), here's an accounting of the games:
- 2005: No. 3 Virginia Tech 28, Maryland 9
- 2006: Maryland 27, Florida State 24
- 2007: No. 4 West Virginia 31, Maryland 14
- 2008: Florida State 37, No. 22 Maryland 3
- 2009: No. 21 Virginia Tech 36, Maryland 9
- 2010: Florida State 30, Maryland 16
- 2011: No. 18 West Virginia 37, Maryland 31
- 2012: No. 10 Florida State 41, Maryland 14
- 2013: Syracuse 20, Maryland 3.*
- 2014: No. 12 Michigan State 37, Maryland 15
*Maryland wore black Pride uniforms. The Terps debuted the current "Black Ops" look in 2012 and wore them in 2013 for a different game against Boston College.) They're 0-3 in Black Ops, according to Daniel Gallen of the Baltimore Sun Media Group.
Generally, Maryland, in an effort to maximize hype for big home games, has tended to schedule the blackouts for visits by high-profile, often ranked opponents. Maryland, of course, is terrible against ranked teams.
Michigan is a ranked team, and Michigan is very likely going to roll past Maryland while the Terps wear black uniforms this weekend. If that happens, it'll be because Michigan's football team is better than Maryland's football team, and not because Maryland's uniforms and crowd won't look excellent. Both are definitely going to be true.
Losing, by the way, is not a reason to shift the blackout's scheduling to coincide with weaker opposition, because, well, yeah.
On the flip side, Maryland's been a bit better in the aptly named "White Ops" look it debuted in 2012. The team is 2-3 in those, according to Gallen. That's including a 63-0 loss to Florida State in 2013 and also Randy Edsall's best win at Maryland, later that year against Virginia Tech.
If the Terps become good again, they'll beat teams in their black uniforms. If they stay bad and keep scheduling good teams, they'll keep losing in them. They're a unique look either way, and there's no reason to stop wearing them.