Kehoe had the splintered wooden benches covered in plastic and aluminum, and he had the stadium painted to make it a bright place to sit and enjoy. Byrd looks like a college football stadium now, curled in a hollow below Ellicott Hall, where the football players live. To say that Byrd looks like a college football stadium means that it does not brutalize the campus. At the Universities of Texas and Nebraska, and many others, the football plants stand like factories above company towns. Byrd fits in with the red brick and white trim of the older buildings. But it will hold 59,000 people, and there are only two open dates on the Maryland home schedule until 1990.
Below the stadium and off to one side are the football building and the practice fields. On a portable tower 50 feet above the practice fields you can find Jerry Claiborne on weekday afternoons. He will be wearing a red outfit and will have a bullhorn at his lips. He will be watching practices on at least two of the fields. Every few minutes the bullhorn will blare words of advice. Claiborne is up on that five-story-high tower by himself. Watching.
Claiborne keeps a good Baptist eye on the players. On Wednesday nights at about nine, he appears at Ellicott Hall. He goes straight to the top two floors. On the lower floors a resident may entertain a visitor of a different sex. None of that business on the top two floors. Except for the very few that are married, the football players live in isolation. On Wednesday nights at about eight they scrape the debris out of their rooms and load it up for the dump. They don't want Claiborne to see any trash. Claiborne does not come in with white gloves and a Marine master sergeant but he does come in looking around. His theory is if you've got a trashy room you've probably got a trashy life. And if you're trashy, you won't be on the first team.
The same thing goes for face and head hairs. You can look like a werewolf from January until the end of August. But there will be no werewolves on the first team come September. The players don't complain about it much. They buy Claiborne's rules because his teams have been winners. "I guess he's trying to make all of us a little like himself," says Defensive Back Ken Roy. "He's a Southern gentleman and he's happy being one. He must figure we can be as happy as he is if we do the same things."
Claiborne is 48, keeps his sideburns clipped to the tops of his ears, meticulously follows printed schedules, has been seen watching game films at 4:30 a.m. Sunday and confesses to being a workaholic. During the season he tries to have dinner with his wife Faye at home on Wednesdays and at a restaurant on Thursdays, A couple of years ago Claiborne was quoted as complaining that Faye left her shoes lying around the bedroom in a disorderly fashion. When he got home that night, Faye and their youngest daughter, Eileen, had strewn the house with shoes.
Claiborne's success at Maryland is based on the confidence he has instilled. "The winning attitude was the main thing I brought," he says. "There were some good athletes here. But they were worried that a mistake might beat them, rather than thinking they were going to make something good happen that would win. If we'd really had the winning attitude, we'd have beaten Alabama, Florida, Penn State. Then we did beat Florida in the Gator Bowl [13-0] last December, and I think that got us over the hump."
Since he has been at Maryland, Claiborne has passed out to each freshman football player a copy of the book Psycho-Cybernetics by Dr. Maxwell Maltz. Blanton Collier used to urge the Cleveland Browns to read that book. If you were a guard you would picture in your mind wheeling smartly out, churning past the tackle and wiping out the cornerback. Then you would do it in real life just as you imagined it. Some of the Maryland players have never read the book, but others claim it has power. "It's uncanny," says Fullback Tim Wilson. "You visualize throwing a block. Then in the game you throw it. It's like a dream."
Claiborne picked up his notion that football players ought to lift weights from Alvin Roy, who started doing weight programs for Louisiana high schools and went on to introduce them in the pros. The prime living example of what a weight program can do is Randy White, who was a No. 1 draft choice of the Dallas Cowboys. White came to Maryland as a fairly ordinary 212-pound freshman who could bench-press no more than 260 pounds and could run the 40 in 4.9. When he graduated as everybody's All-America and the Outland Trophy winner, White was 251, could bench-press 460, could whistle the 40 in 4.6 and seldom faced a team that would venture a ballcarrier in his direction.
Many of the Maryland players now hang around the weight room for hours, huffing, grunting, pushing, lifting, doing "curls for the girls." The pervading opinion is that a first-teamer who does not lift all the weights he can will discover himself muscled aside, perhaps even falling so low that he must take part in the "Alamo," a Wednesday scrimmage for players who are not up to playing in the Saturday game.
Claiborne was a defensive back for Bear Bryant at Kentucky and an assistant coach for Bryant at Kentucky, Texas A&M and Alabama, as well as working for Frank Broyles at Missouri and Eddie Crowder at Colorado. For 10 years he was head coach at Virginia Tech. "There's really no comparison in the strength of football players now, with the weight programs, and 20 years ago," Claiborne says. "Players are much stronger. That's one reason for all the injuries. You take a big powerful fast guy with his muscles hard from weights, and put him running full speed on artificial turf, and have him hit a guy like himself, and you truly have a blow passed."