May 24, 2004 COLLEGE PARK Maryland could find itself without a true backup point guard for the second straight season if junior college signee Sterling Ledbetter doesn't recover fully from injuries sustained in a serious auto accident in May. Ledbetter apparently fell asleep at the wheel during a May 10 morning drive on Interstate 70, while returning to Allegany Community College in Cumberland, Md., from his home in Laurel. He had to be cut from the car and was flown by helicopter to Washington County Hospital. He suffered a dislocated hip that was placed back in joint by doctors, and he sustained severe facial injuries that required oral surgery. The 6-4, 195-pound combination guard spent about a week in the hospital before returning home, and early reports have varied regarding how long of a recovery is expected. Allegany head coach Bob Kirk told reporters in late May it still was far too early to speculate when Ledbetter might resume playing basketball. If Ledbetter is not up to the task of backing up starting point guard John Gilchrist, the job once again would fall by default to either D.J. Strawberry or Chris McCray, neither of whom was comfortable in the role last season. Many fans still are scratching their heads over the course of events that led Maryland to sign a junior college point guard this year. For still-unknown reasons, coach Gary Williams did not resolve the Andre Collins situation during the summer of 2003, and the diminutive guard's midseason decision to transfer worked out poorly for both parties. Had Collins transferred during the previous offseason, Maryland may have been able to recruit a high school point guard who could have been groomed to eventually replace Gilchrist. Collins, meanwhile, wasted half a season of eligibility while figuring out what even the most casual fan already knew that a 5-6 shooting guard was never going to be an impact player in the ACC. Collins, who briefly considered re-joining the Maryland program late last season, later announced his intention to enroll at Loyola (Md.) College and play for newly hired head coach and former Terps assistant Jimmy Patsos. Collins' abrupt departure came long after any quality prep point guards were still on the board, leaving the Terps no other option than to go the juco route. In the meantime, the team was left short last season, and things got ugly whenever Gilchrist needed a rest or was in foul trouble. Remember McCray's meltdown during the Duke game? That came on the heels of a first-half sequence in which he committed two straight turnovers while trying to bring the ball up the court under pressure. Things may work out OK in the long run, however, as early indications are that the Terps lead for New Jersey point guard Sean McCurdy, a rising senior who reminds many of former Maryland star Steve Blake. If Gilchrist turns pro following his junior season, as many expect he will, a high school signee (most likely McCurdy) would battle Ledbetter for the starting point guard spot in 2005-06. Local Newspaper Battles Continue Don't ever let it be said that coaches and athletic directors don't hold grudges and play favorites with the media. Over the years, Maryland coaches and administrators often have taken issue with the coverage provided by the Washington Post. Under former sports editor George Solomon, the Post aggressively reported negative stories about Maryland football and basketball. A common feeling around Cole Field House in those days was that the Post always was trying to dig up dirt on the program and turn every unfortunate incident into a scandal. Maryland officials haven't forgotten how the Post told the story of "Parking-Gate," with its arguably overzealous investigative reporting of campus tickets racked up by then-basketball player Duane Simpkins. There was some backlash from Williams back then, just as football coach Ralph Friedgen went a while without speaking with a Post reporter in retaliation for the way the newspaper pursued the drunk-driving arrest of star linebacker E.J. Henderson in 2001. (The charges later were dropped when the arresting officers failed to appear in court.) A postscript: Henderson, who missed only one play of one regular-season game as his on-the-field punishment for that incident, clearly did not learn his lesson. He recently was arrested and charged with driving while intoxicated on I-95 near his mother's home in Aberdeen. The Baltimore Sun has endured similar treatment from Maryland over the years, although not nearly to the extent of the Post. Williams refused to speak to a Sun writer for a couple of months in 2002 because of the way the newspaper (again, accurately) handled an article about Chris Wilcox turning pro early. For the most part, though, friction between Maryland and the Sun has been far less than that between Maryland and the Post. That dichotomy changed recently when the Sun angered school officials with its persistent pursuit of detailed contract terms for Friedgen and Williams. The Sun went so far as to file suit over the matter, and the Maryland Court of Appeals ruled that as a public university Maryland had to release the complete pay packages for its two highest-profile coaches and, presumably, all others on the state payroll. The Sun deservedly touted its big victory, and the newspaper's follow-ups included an article and subsequent editorial about how the public deserved to know the contract details for Friedgen and Williams, essentially because the coaches' salaries come from taxpayer money. Maryland quickly issued a press release stating that funding for compensation of all its head coaches was "raised by the athletic department or through third-party agreements" meaning via the Terrapin Club, radio/TV deals, Nike, Under Armour, etc. but even that clarification couldn't trump the public's right to know. It took much longer than it should have, but Maryland finally revealed the pay packages for Williams and Friedgen in April, and the Sun ran them in both graphic and article formats. There was nothing earth-shattering about the information, as the contracts showed Williams receiving about $1.3 million in guaranteed annual pay and Friedgen assured of earning about $1.1 million each year. Williams has about $500,000 in academic and competitive incentives in his contract. Friedgen has $350,000 worth of such incentives, and it is notable that the payout for good citizenship ($50,000) is far less than that offered for on-field success ($225,000). The bottom line: By meeting all incentives, Williams can earn almost $1.9 million in a given year, while Friedgen can get up to $1.47 million. Most fans already knew that Maryland's two head coaches were paid more than $1 million a year articles by the ACC Sports Journal and others reported as much long before the university's disclosures although they may have been surprised by the way the contracts are broken down. Interestingly, the Post ran a lengthy article about the coaching contracts but didn't mention the Sun's role with the Freedom of Information Act lawsuit until the next-to-last paragraph. That rather important factoid received only an "oh, by the way" reference when it clearly should have been noted near the top of the article, which probably never would have been written without the Sun's legal challenge leading the way. In the end, Maryland officials weren't very happy about having to give up information they wanted to keep secret, and it didn't take long for them to retaliate. Within a week of the Sun's victory in court, Maryland unveiled its new football uniforms made by Under Armour. The Post was invited to a sneak preview of the uniforms and ran a picture of some players modeling the new duds in its sports section the following day. The Sun was not afforded the same photo opportunity, and some at the paper felt certain the slight was intentional.