A brief history of Cole Field House

A brief history of Cole Field House

(James Levin/The Diamondback)

Published on November 25, 2014

The University System of Maryland Finance Committee endorsed a plan to repurpose Cole Field House into a $155 million facility including an indoor practice field, public health research clinic and center for entrepreneurship.

Under Armour CEO and university alumnus Kevin Plank has promised a $25 million gift for the renovations, and the plans must now be approved by the Board of Regents on Dec.12.

From an Elvis concert to Richard Nixon’s “ping-pong diplomacy” and more upsets of No. 1 teams than any other location, Cole Field House has played a part in some of transcendent athletic events.

Take a look at the history of Cole Field House below:

(Photo courtesy of University of Maryland Archives)


Construction of the Cole Field House:

June 3, 1954


What is now known as Cole Field House was initially dubbed the Student Activities Building upon its completion. The project cost $3.3 million, the equivalent of about $29 million today.

In 1956, the facility was renamed William J. Cole Jr. Student Activities Center after Judge William J. Cole Jr., who was chairman of the Maryland Board of Regents from 1944 to 1956.



(Photo courtesy of University of Maryland Archives)


First basketball game:

December 2, 1955


The first game at Cole Field House was held December 2, 1955, featuring the Terrapins and the Virginia Cavaliers. The Terps came out on top 67-55 behind Coach Bud Millikan.



Source: Dematha Catholic High School | Youtube


Dematha vs. Power Memorial:

January 30, 1965

In front of a sold-out Cole Field House, local high school DeMatha Catholic defeated Power Memorial Academy in one of the most famous high school basketball games.

Riding a 71-game winning streak, Power Memorial was led by the 7-foot-2 Lew Alcindor, known today as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. The DeMatha Stags won 46-43 on Jan. 30, 1965, behind Morgan Wootten, the only high school coach to be inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.



Testudo mascot at a basketball game (Photo courtesy of University of Maryland Archives)




1966 NCAA men's basketball Final Four:

March 19, 1966


Cole Field House was the venue for the 1966 NCAA men’s basketball Final Four, featuring Duke University, University of Kentucky, University of Utah and Texas Western University. In the final, Texas Western, now Texas-El Paso, started five black players against Kentucky’s all-white starting lineup and won, 72-65.




Maryland Madness begins:

October 15, 1973


What started in 1971 by coach Charles “Lefty” Driesell as a midnight one-mile run for the men’s basketball team morphed into an intrasquad scrimmage in 1973. The brainchild of freshman forward Mo Howard, the scrimmage tipped off at Cole at midnight on October 15, 1973, in front of more than 8,000 fans.



Elvis visits:

September 27-28, 1974

Elvis Presley, dubbed the “King of Rock and Roll,” opened his 1974 tour with two shows in College Park, Sept. 27 and 28 at Cole Field House. The concert, known as ”Chaos in College Park,” was, according to fans, one of the worst concerts in Presley’s career. Nonetheless, Presley saved students some money, demanding tickets not exceed $10.


(Photo courtesy of University of Maryland Archives)


Pingpong diplomacy:

April 17, 1972

More than 12,000 were on hand to watch President Richard Nixon’s “ping-pong diplomacy” in action when the Chinese national team visited Cole Field House. The match, played on April 17, 1972, was not only one of the largest events to be held in Cole, but also the most attended ping-pong match in American history.



First televised women's basketball game:

January 27,1975

Cole Field House was the site for the first nationally televised women’s basketball as the Terps took on then-defending champions Immaculata. The game, on Jan. 27, 1975, carries some confusion into the present day. Despite the fact that Immaculata was the winner, the final score is contested. Immaculata says it was 86-65, but the Terps women’s basketball media guide reads 80-48.



Len Bias vs. Michael Jordan:

January 12, 1984

On Jan. 12, 1984, Len Bias went against Michael Jordan and the University of North Carolina Tarheels when they came to College Park. Despite losing, 74-62, Bias outscored Jordan 24-21.



Source: Tugboat Wake | Youtube



Terps upset Duke in final Cole showdown:

February 17, 2002

Cole Field House is famous for hosting the most upsets of top-ranked teams in college basketball history (7). The final upset came in Cole’s last season hosting the Terps when the team took on Duke University on Feb. 17, 2002. Chris Wilcox led the Terps with 23 points, and Steve Blake’s iconic steal sealed the 87-73 victory.



Final game in Cole - Maryland vs. UVA:

March 3, 2002

The Terps knocked off Virginia, 112-92, to cap the best home record in school history (15-0) on March 3, 2002. Juan Dixon, the program’s leading male scorer, led all players with 23 points and cut down the net, re-tying a knot so then-coach Gary Williams could make the final snip. Williams, a university alumnus, said in a recap from ESPN.com his fondest memory of Cole was “sitting in Section Q and passing two exams to get out of here.”


To contact the author, please email jeisenbergdbk@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter at @JakeEisenberg.


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