Meet the Turgeonites: Maryland's superfans who dress up as coach Mark Turgeon
Just five rows behind the Maryland bench, in section 102, there's a handful of students dressed up as Maryland coach Mark Turgeon, cheering on their beloved Terrapins. This group of students not only dance and cheer for the Terps each game, but also join the cheerleaders and dance squads in their routines during commercial breaks. For every in-game promotion, they are actively trying to win the prize or get on the monitor above the court.
These one-of-a-kind fans are Turgeonites.
The tradition started in 2011, during Turgeon's first season as Maryland's coach. Turgeon had the difficult job of replacing Hall of Fame coach Gary Williams, whose 22-year tenure included two Final Four appearances and the program's only National Championship. Turgeon struggled in his first season in College Park, posting a 17-15 record and missing the NCAA tournament. But two students, Cory Frontin and Jamie Morris, believed in the Terps and thought the new coach had a bright vision for the program. That year, Frontin got a new suit for the holidays and wanted an excuse to wear it, so, like normal college students, him and Morris wore suits to a basketball game in the student section to try and impersonate the coach.
"We weren't sure if people would get what we were doing," said Morris.
The simple idea evolved from just the pair wearing suits into a small group wearing the full ensemble of Turgeon, including putting a grey gob in their hair to resemble the coach. Currently, there are six to eight Turgeonites who attend every game.
"We are just a small part of the best fan base in college basketball," said Justin Sawyer, a Maryland graduate and former Turgeonite who sometimes fills in.
The current leader of the Turgeonites, Nick Riddlesberger, said the group has not thought about expanding to other sports yet, but he was intrigued by the idea.
But for now, they have become one of the most notorious groups in college basketball, and Maryland fans, as well as the Turgeon family, loves their devotion. Occasionally Turgeon's two sons join the Turgeonites and dress up like their father as well. And whenever the coach is asked about his fanatics, he laughs and says, "They put too much grey in their hair."
The Turgeonites have not only become an icon in College Park, but have also earned numerous television appearances over the years. The peaks of their fame include former NBA player and sportscaster Len Elmore giving the Turgeonites their title, an entire Big 10 Network segment, numerous conversations with Terp alum Scott Van Pelt and becoming a part of SportsCenter's opening sequence.
"It got to the point where family members would stop calling me," said Sawyer. "We kinda realize we are goofy and we are willing to make fools of ourselves on television."
Since the original Turgeonites graduated years ago, the tradition gets passed on only to their friends, but that has not stopped people from asking about trying out.
In fact, the group still gets asked somewhat frequently.
Liam Beatus is SI's campus correspondent for the University of Maryland. Follow him on Twitter.