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UMD MLAX Notebook: John Tillman’s legacy

By: Charlie Wright

Maryland has been the favorite in four National Championship games under John Tillman, but has failed to end their title drought that has now reached 41 years.

Maryland has been the favorite in four National Championship games under John Tillman, but has failed to end their title drought that has now reached 41 years.

North Carolina defeated Maryland for their first national championship since 1991. Chris Cloutier scored five goals, including the game winner in overtime for a 14-13 victory.

Maryland’s championship drought stretches to 41 years, and coach John Tillman’s tenure with the program remains heartbreaking. His team falls in the title match for the second consecutive season and the fourth time in his six seasons at the University. Tillman has guided the Terps to five Final Four appearances in those six years. Maryland’s worst record under Tillman was 12-6 in 2012, and they went to the championship that season.

Maryland is one of the most storied programs in the sport, and their standard for excellence is higher than that of just about every other school. Tillman’s success is remarkable on its face, but his biggest accomplishments begin with the word “almost.” Reaching the finals would be a major achievement for any other university, but for Maryland it’s just further reinforcement that they can’t win the big one. Tillman has worked marvels at Maryland, but right now his legacy requires an asterisk because of the lack of a championship ring.

Taking the title: Strictly viewing this outcome as a failure by Maryland would be ignoring the fact that North Carolina went out and took the title. The Tar Heels went pound-for-pound with the top seed and earned the championship trophy. The overtime period was indicative of the heart and tenacity North Carolina displayed for the entire game. They stifled the Terps during a man-up opportunity, and then cashed in when the tables turned and they themselves had an extra guy.

A champion is not necessarily the most talented team. The Maryland roster is littered with all-conference and All-American players, but the Tar Heels made plays at crucial moments. They slowed down the Terps enough to give themselves a chance, and got the ball to their unconscious stud to seal the deal. North Carolina simply made championship plays when they needed to, and that was the difference in the game.

Rambo’s team: Matt Rambo finished with three goals and three assists. His six points tied for the game-high with Henry West. Rambo was the catalyst throughout the game, finding open teammates and overmatching defenders when North Carolina didn’t double-team him. He shined amongst the myriad of Maryland stars, and led the offense for the entire season.

The program will lose several key players next year, including Bryan Cole, Matt Dunn and Kyle Bernlohr. This are not just talented players, but great leaders as well. Rambo will be back next season, and he remains The Guy. Every great team needs a physical beast that can take control of a game, and for Maryland that will continue to be Rambo. The question will be whether he can evolve into the leader that next year’s team will need. Rambo’s talent provides hope for another trip to the Final Four, but it will be his mettle and his guidance that dictates the future of the program.

Quote of the Game: “You know, it’s been such a good group on so many levels that I’m so proud of them. I wanted those guys to enjoy the moment and obviously see them smiling, that’s the hardest part as a coach. It’s not — it’s never about us. It’s always about them.” – John Tillman, Maryland Head Coach

Stat of the Game: North Carolina is the first unseeded team to win the national championship. They came in as the eighth unseeded team to reach the title game.

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Charlie Wright

Staff Writer
Charlie is a lifelong sports fan who grew up cheering for hometown teams. He developed a passion for writing in high school and chose to pursue the profession in college. Charlie followed most of his family to the University of Maryland, where he is pursuing a degree in journalism. He plans to enter the sports journalism field after graduation, hopefully covering a local team.
One Response to “UMD MLAX Notebook: John Tillman’s legacy”
  1. Scrapple says:

    It was his fourth final loss at Maryland, not third. The numbers are staggering. 0-for-19 in Final Fours without a title since ’75, and the 0-9 title game results defy odds. You would think once, if only just once, in that span the other team would fall apart or match up poorly against Maryland.

    Expanding the stats, Terps have since 1975:

    Qualified for 80% of NCAA tournaments
    Reached 73% of NCAA quarterfinals* (*yes, some of these overlap with “qualifying” as there were only 8.
    Reached 46% of Final Fours (insane)
    Reached 22% of championship games

    Won 0% of titles.

    I would like someone to comb the world over and find something even remotely similar to this in sports.