Behind a glass case, six Maryland coaches’ names are immortalized in arguably the most popular hall of fame in College Park. Eager students visit it daily, biting at the chance to honor the coaches’ contributions.
Then again, they might just be hungry.
Regardless, if there’s one way to get the scoop on a coach’s clout on campus, check the Maryland Dairy menu. Right now, the Dairy dishes out flavors for basketball coaches Brenda Frese and Mark Turgeon, men’s soccer coach Sasho Cirovski, field hockey coach Missy Meharg, women’s lacrosse coach Cathy Reese and football coach Mike Locksley.
The culinary mastermind behind the coaches’ ice cream flavors is Maryland Dining Services Executive Pastry Chef Jeff Russo. He has run the operation since 2004, when dining services took over the Maryland Dairy from the College of Agriculture, who had been selling dairy products since 1924.
To Russo, the unique tradition of creating ice cream flavors for coaches is a point of pride.
“I think we probably have the most of any university as far as the coaches flavors,” Russo told Testudo Times. “Every school that does make ice cream — Wisconsin, Penn State — they may have one or two coaches, but not the list that we do.”
The tradition of creating coaches’ flavors began in 2004 when a dining services employee pitched the idea of making a flavor for the football coach, as other campus ice cream shops had done.
And thus, head football coach Ralph Friedgen’s flavor hit the freezer. “Fridge Fever,” vanilla ice cream with chocolate fudge and Myer’s rum honored the former Maryland offensive lineman, who by 2004 had coached the Terrapins to three 10-win seasons and an overall record of 31-8.
In 2010, Friedgen and his flavor were replaced by Randy Edsall and his. “Rockin’ Randy” went 22-34 overall from 2011-2015. After Edsall was fired six games into his last season at Maryland, the Maryland Dairy renamed the vanilla chocolate chip ice cream with Reese’s and Heath Bar pieces to “ODK Crunch,” after the school’s leadership honor society.
Meanwhile, the Maryland Dairy, like Maryland fans, looked elsewhere in athletic department for inspiration. Namely, the basketball court.
In the summer of 2015, Lori Dominick, a Maryland grad turned General Manager of the Stamp Food Court, proposed that the Dairy honor Frese.
“She’s been here, she’s got a championship,” Dominick recalled telling the Dairy. “If we’re going to give anybody an ice cream, it should be her.”
By 2014, Frese had led the Terrapins to the NCAA tournament 10 times and won it all in 2006 since assuming the head coaching position in 2002. That last name, perfect for an ice cream flavor, was just the cherry on top for “Brenda’s Peanut Butter Frese,” which consists of brownie batter ice cream with crushed peanut butter cups, brownie dough, chocolate liquor, and a peanut butter fluff swirl.
At the same time, Dining Services developed a flavor for Turgeon, after he coached the Terrapins to an NCAA tournament appearance during their first season in the Big 10 conference.
“I never imagined my name would be part of an ice cream flavor,” Turgeon told Testudo Times via email. “It was a fun experience going through the process and picking out which ingredients to include.”
Turgeon’s flavor, “Turge Turtle Crunch,” is vanilla-bean ice cream, crushed salted almonds and vanilla sandwich cookies, and a chocolate syrup swirl.
After Russo asks the coach to submit a list of his or her favorite flavors and mix-ins, his expertise comes into play.
“Some things that sound great on paper just taste wrong, so you have to test all those out first,” Russo said.
For example, when Locksley initially submitted ideas for his flavor released this August, he proposed that a fruit be incorporated. Russo said he eliminated that idea, because fruit would have not complemented the salted caramel in “Pop, #LOCKedIn, Drop It” — a vanilla ice cream with that also has caramelized graham cracker bits.
Russo said he must also consider how the mix-ins will affect the look of the cone and its freezing temperature. A higher sugar content causes the ice cream to melt faster, so he has to strike the perfect balance of aesthetics and scoop integrity, all while making sure the flavor is different than the other ones in the Dairy.
After narrowing the flavors down to one or two options, Russo and the Dining Services team make them and take them to the coaches and their teams for a tasting event.
“You always worry that they’re not gonna like it,” Russo said. “Luckily, we haven’t had that yet.”
Meharg said her flavor, “Terpresso,” originally had cookies and cream mixed in. But after the tasting, she decided that it would be better with just the cookie part, to give the ice cream a crisper crunch.
By her flavor’s release in September of 2018, Meharg had coached the Terrapins to seven national titles and 11 NCAA finals appearances. She tacked on one more finals appearance a month after her flavor was released.
The base of her flavor, double strength coffee ice cream, was a no-brainer for Meharg — as was taking the opportunity to create a namesake flavor.
“It was such a fun thing for Dining Services to take this on and really try to get the culture of the coaches through the flavors of ice cream,” Meharg told Testudo Times. “All of us are different in the way that we lead. And for me, I love espresso. So I was going to do something with coffee.”
After the chef and the coach agree on the final flavor, Dining Services runs the ice cream through production in the kitchen attached to the South Campus Dining Hall.
And contrary to popular belief, the production process does not include incorporating an amount of milkfat that exceeds FDA regulations and prohibits the Dairy from selling ice cream off campus. The Dairy can’t sell products off campus because it lacks a manufacturing license, the Stamp manager said.
“If it sells more, that’s wonderful, but just isn’t true,” Russo said about the rumor. “I’d love to know who came up with that years ago, because it’s been around for decades now.”
According to Russo, in order for a dairy product to be considered ice cream, it must be 10% milkfat. The Dairy’s ice cream is 14% milkfat. The highest percentage you would find commercially would be 18%, Russo said.
So if it isn’t the sweet, sweet milkfat that sets the Dairy’s scoops apart, then what does? Russo accredits the small-batch creation of the ice cream.
Russo said some campus ice cream stores use a continuous machine, which he likened to a cement truck, to make their product. Using that machine, inclusions are incorporated evenly throughout the mixture. Maryland Dining Services, on the other hand, uses a batch machine. As the product comes out of the machine, the ice cream makers layer the inclusions in by hand.
“The large schools that have the big dairy programs uses this continuous, huge machine, and it’s all calculated,” Russo said. “What we’re doing is essentially custom, homemade.”
After production, the Dairy invites the coach to serve the flavor to students and fans at Stamp.
Neither the Stamp manager nor the chef hinted at which coach would be honored through ice cream next. But whoever the Dairy does choose will join the campus’s sweetest legacy.
“It means a great deal to be a part of the ice cream tradition, just as it is every tradition here at Maryland,” Turgeon said. “This university has such a rich history and it is an honor to be a part of it.”
Editors note: Amelia Jarecke is on the Maryland softball team. This did not affect her reporting of this article in any way, but we wanted to inform readers in an effort of transparency.