COLLEGE PARK – The 2016 University of Maryland football team will kick off next season under a new stadium name. The University of Maryland regents voted 12-to-5 in favor to change the 65-year-old home of the Terrapins from “Byrd Stadium” to “Maryland Stadium” after a petition called for the change from the racial stigma attached […]
COLLEGE PARK – The 2016 University of Maryland football team will kick off next season under a new stadium name.
The University of Maryland regents voted 12-to-5 in favor to change the 65-year-old home of the Terrapins from “Byrd Stadium” to “Maryland Stadium” after a petition called for the change from the racial stigma attached to Harry “Curley” Byrd’s name.
Since it was built in 1950, the Terrapins have always called Byrd Stadium home. The stadium was named after former university president Harry “Curley” Byrd, who was a prominent figure in the school’s history. It is also noted he was a supporter of racial segregation, which led to the current students’ decision to protest the name.
A former Maryland football player, Byrd became university president in 1935 after serving as an athletic director and a teacher. Byrd died in 1970 and was always opposed to admitting black students and other minorities into the university until a court order forced their acceptance.
Colin Byrd, a senior from Greenbelt who has no relation to Harry, led the effort for the name change, which started back in April.
“Because, quite frankly, if Curley Byrd had his way, I would not have attended this university, my father would not have attended this university,” Byrd said. “Every other black student, black athlete or black faculty member who has blessed this university and who has been blessed by this university would not have had the opportunity to call themselves Terrapins. And that’s powerful.”
This started the student-led petition, which urged university regents to address the issue as the petition garnered national attention shortly after it was started.
“The football stadium is the most prominent symbol of the university’s past segregation and causes a rift that some students continue to feel today,” Byrd told the regents. “It’s time to say ‘bye-bye, Curley,’ and do it in a hurry.”
Byrd said the name is tied in with other racial issues going on at campuses around the county.
“I think it sends a very strong and complicated message about how we should look back and reconsider who we honor, why and how,” Byrd said. “It also sends the message to some other campuses that are grappling with similar issues.”
Current University President Wallace Loh supported the name change in a recent statement.
“This is a difficult and an emotion-laden issue,” Loh said. “(Harry Byrd) earned his place in our university’s history. He was also an ardent proponent of racial segregation and discrimination. To many African-American alumni and students, Byrd Stadium – the ‘front porch’ of the institution, not the most important part of the educational house, but the most visible one – conveys a racial message hidden in plain sight.
“Our job as an educational institution is to educate the next generation. This is a generational issue. The values of the past are no longer the values of today. Those are not the values of the University of Maryland today.”
Congressman Steny Hoyer (D-MD) also released a statement after Loh made his position known and joined the cause for the renaming of the stadium.
“I join in the supporting calls from President Wallace Loh and student leaders to rename the University of Maryland’s football stadium. Given Harry “Curley” Byrd’s support for segregationist policies during his time as president of the University of Maryland, I believe the stadium’s name is not in line with the university’s mission and its commitment to diversity and inclusiveness.” Hoyer said.
And with uproar, action was taken by the Board of Regents in the form of a 12-to-5 vote to change the name after a two-hour debate on the matter on Dec. 11. Next year the stadium will be called Capital One Field at Maryland Stadium.
However, the name change will not be the last one hears of Byrd. His name will always be attached to the university, as Loh recommended Byrd be memorialized in other ways. Loh said he wants other tributes to Byrd to occur, such as awards given during commencements, and maybe even naming a library after him to retain his name in some capacity.
“The change was not intended to ‘purge history,’ but to find a ‘principled compromise,’” Loh said.
The board has also agreed to impose a five-year moratorium on naming any other buildings after individuals, also suggested by Loh.