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Contending for ACC title, Maryland football needs one thing: more fans

By Eric Prisbell

Why aren’t fans getting behind this Maryland team?

I’m not from the D.C. area and have no connections to the D.C. area. When I came here from California (originally from Jersey) in 2003, it was immediately clear that this was a college basketball hotbed. It was also clear that this was not a college football hotbed.

A lot of factors have contributed to the fan apathy here. You suffer four losing seasons in six years, including a ghastly 2-10 campaign, empty seats are expected. You live amidst the worst economic climate in 75 years or so, empty seats are expected. You have two bustling cities nearby, two pro football franchises and a boatload of things to do on a typical gorgeous autumn Saturday, it makes filling stadiums more difficult. And when your team is playing directional schools from leagues that begin with Sun or Mid-, maybe it’s cheaper and more fun to stay home and follow on or Twitter.

But this is also true: Everyone loves a winner. This team is developing into one of the better stories around, and this team is improving almost on a weekly basis. This is a marquee opponent, Florida State, coming into Byrd Stadium on Saturday. This is a prime-time game, an elimination game for the home team. Let’s be honest, this is the biggest game Maryland has played in years. For those reasons, the attendance at this game will be a strong indicator of the potential long-term upside for this program. A good number of people will be awaiting that number with great interest and, for the pro-Maryland folks, some anxiety.

"That's what we wanted here, isn't it?” Coach Ralph Friedgen said of the Florida State division showdown. “We need to support it. I don't know how much better it can get. We're in this thing, we have to win Saturday night to stay in it, and we're playing a very good football team on prime-time on ABC. I hope they want to be a part of this game” and not stay home to watch.

Maryland has great fans, passionate as any I've encountered across the country. But why aren't they getting behind this year's team? Is there one reason or a combination of reasons?

If the fan showing is poor, it should not surprise anyone to see Maryland fall as far as it is technically allowed to fall by ACC rules in the bowl selection process. If the team struggles to fill its stadium during a resurgent season when everything is on the line against a nationally recognized team, well, it sends a clear message to bowl officials from Shreveport, La., to El Paso, Texas. It leads back to a question I posed a few weeks ago: If this team wins the ACC title, how many “fans” will actually notice?

By Eric Prisbell  | November 16, 2010; 8:25 AM ET
Categories:  Football, Ralph Friedgen  
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The fact that fans have only been able to watch this team online for half of their games cannot help. No one enjoys watching the Terps play on ESPN3. The feed sucks, the commentators are worse. It's hard to get behind a team that fans can't watch on TV due to lack of TV exposure. I also think that a lack of quality opponents at home doesn't help as well. These last two games will show a lot towards the fans of this team. And some fans are just not sold on this team yet, plain and simple.

Posted by: asparrow | November 16, 2010 8:53 AM | Report abuse

I don't think it's anything unique to this year's team. A lot has to do with opponent. Back in 2001 Maryland was undefeated at 6-0 and ranked and was playing winless Duke. I'd say about 1/4 of the seats were empty for a top 15 Maryland team. After they lost to FSU that year I don't think they even had 40,000 when they played Troy State. Maryland's biggest home crowds are almost always against Va Tech, FSU, and WVU. They have had very weak opponents at home this year (from a draw perspective and record-wise) but I would expect at least 50,000 at Saturday's game and at least 45,000 to 50,000 at the NC State game. If they had played Clemson, Miami and WVU at home this year attendance would have been much better this year.

Posted by: ferraridoug | November 16, 2010 8:59 AM | Report abuse

Terps getting some recognition on ESPN

Posted by: SirPelleas | November 16, 2010 9:07 AM | Report abuse

I am not sure I understand the TV argument. Every season, the ability to watch college teams increases due to the extra ESPN channels plus ESPN3. Only a few seasons ago, there were some games that I had to listen to on the radio because there was no other access. Watching on the internet does suck, but the Terps don't choose that. One can argue that there has never been this much exposure for the team since every single game has been on TV or the internet and there are tons of insider websites and coverage.

My biggest problem with our TV coverage is the lack of time commitment until 6/12 days before games. This probably hurts the Terps more than other ACC schools because people in the DC area live hectic lives and don't always block off an entire day for a game. Especially next weekend with the holiday. It is going to be hard to fill the stadium with the students gone and no time slot until Sunday.

Posted by: garrett4 | November 16, 2010 9:11 AM | Report abuse

This is the biggest MD football game since the last FSU game in CP, two years ago (a very similar situation MD finds itself - hopefully with much-much milder weather this year). That year had some great Byrd Stadium crowds and away games were easily accesible on [mostly] HD TV. Don't understimate the TV issue. I watched last weeks game at Ventnor in Adams Morgan (they had a computer hooked up to a TV). All the while, the majority of the bar watched UNC and VaTech on ABC/ESPN. It was not a pleasant viewing perspective and I wouldn't rally my buds to spend my Saturday afternoon doing that anytime soon. That, added to last year's record, the ensuing Fridge/contract debacle that played out horribly in the media, and the fact that the ACC is not a power football conference - expansion a huge failure, all account for it. Fridge has done about as good a job as I think anyone could at Maryland, but to expect Happy Valley every saturday is just unrealistic.

Posted by: plawcas | November 16, 2010 9:44 AM | Report abuse

Semi-old-timer here.

Been attending Terps games since the early 70s and attendance has ALWAYS been an issue, save for the Bama game in the 70s, the Penn State and WVU series and an occasional big game (e.g., UNC in the early 80s and Clemson earlier this decade).

I think UMD will always be a basketball school, but the key is to keep/add regional teams (Navy and WVU) on the schedule who travel well and create some animosity and atmosphere.

Posted by: MerlinTerps | November 16, 2010 9:47 AM | Report abuse

I wish I was going, but being broke and living 755 miles away (door to door according to Google Maps) doesn't make it possible.

Posted by: Colm1 | November 16, 2010 9:50 AM | Report abuse


This is the Internet! Die hard fans that live out of State would love to attend, but simply can't do so as much as they'd like.

Go Terps!!

Posted by: RITerp | November 16, 2010 9:54 AM | Report abuse

Eric, Perhaps this question is supported by your comments above, but why has there been so little coverage of Maryland Basketball on this blog in the past couple of weeks? I know our football game with FSU this Saturday is huge, but we also have an important early season basketball game in the Garden against #4 Pitt on Friday night. Both games will get national attention, but the basketball game is getting none on this site. And there was nothing about the Maine game, a blow-out, but certainly worthy of discussion. Doesn't WaPo have enough resources to cover both sports on this blog? Cmon.

Posted by: petecard | November 16, 2010 10:52 AM | Report abuse

EP why is this a bigger game than FSU in '08 or Wake F in '06. FREDTERP

Posted by: FREDTERP44 | November 16, 2010 10:53 AM | Report abuse

I don't understand blaming ESPN3. People don't care about this team because they couldn't watch the Duke and Morgan State games on their regular TV sets? You'd have to care in the first place to be concerned about whether the game is on ESPN3 or ESPNU - most people don't care.

I think there are a large number of problems hurting the Terps ability to fill Byrd...

1. The team was really terrible last season, that always shows in the stands the next season.

2. The ACC has been a national joke since expansion. FSU and Miami are not adding the glamor they once were (and just look at their stadiums for home games - not full anymore. Heck, I'm even seeing empty seats at Clemson!).

3. College Park is terrible. People enjoy Saturdays in Oxford, Madison, Ann Arbor, Eugene, Auburn, Austin - College Park not so much (quick trips to Comcast Center on a weeknight are much different).

4. People in large Northern metropolitan areas just have other priorities. DC does not care about Maryland. Montgomery County cares about getting their kids to soccer games and SAT prep.

5. Only a tiny percentage of people in the DC area consider themselves Maryland fans. With the amount of transplants and overachievers around here, they're more likely following the schools around the country that they attended. Now, is there a problem attracting people who do align themselves with the Terps in the state outside of Montgomery and PG counties?

Posted by: Kev29 | November 16, 2010 10:59 AM | Report abuse

but I would expect at least 50,000 at Saturday's game and at least 45,000 to 50,000 at the NC State game.

Posted by: ferraridoug | November 16, 2010 8:59 AM

If they lose to FSU Saturday, Byrd will be half full for NC State. It's two days after Thanksgiving.

Posted by: Kev29 | November 16, 2010 11:01 AM | Report abuse

Let me make one thing clear: UMd football fans suck. I've been going to games since I was a baby. That's 30 plus years. The alumni section literally does not make any noise unless it's a crucial down. They just sit there and complain the entire game. Maybe it's the result of seeing so much crappy football over the past 30 years. I don't know really. Maybe it wasn't "cool" to cheer for your team back in the day. When I go, I'm as loud as I can be the entire game. But, for this you are oftentimes more ostracized than anything. I guess it's different from the SEC where it's the only game in town for most schools and your school represents your community and thus you and you are as loud as possible to support your team. Anyways, my point to the alumni is: You are there. You might as well cheer. Rant over.

Posted by: aviscardo | November 16, 2010 11:41 AM | Report abuse

In addition to the typical fair-weather-what-have-you-done-for-me-lately-behind-you-win-or-just-win fans that Maryland has to deal with, there is also the simple fact that many fans have already checked-out on Fridge and Franklin's leadership of this team. Quite frankly Maryland could win in convincing fashion on Saturday night and they still won't show up next week for the game against NC State.

It is a shame but the old saying of "nobody cares how you won, they just want to know why you lost" doesn't apply at Maryland. The attitude is "nobody cares that you won, they're too furious that you could have lost."

Posted by: CapsNut | November 16, 2010 11:54 AM | Report abuse

I think all of the factors mentioned are true. Maryland averaged 50K or more from 2003-2007. In the 2008 there was a slight drop off and then the wheels came off last year. The attendance this year is in response to the circumstances and the teams losing last year. A key reason this year is that MD has not had a marquee win yet and has not been recognized yet by the local and national media as a strong team. Lastly, I think the fridge went conservative and the play not to lose mentality produced a boring style of football being played. People got bored with it and bored with him.

Posted by: minhle1 | November 16, 2010 12:09 PM | Report abuse

We have theater tickets Saturday evening, so we unfortunately had to sell our tickets to the Florida State game. However, based on the response I received to my Craigslist posting, people are interested in attending this game!

Posted by: gburggal | November 16, 2010 12:10 PM | Report abuse

I want to go...but I'm stuck in F@#king Kuwait. If you are in CONUS get your butt to the game, they don't have college football here in the Middle East, and look how that's worked out for them.


Posted by: TurtleD | November 16, 2010 12:23 PM | Report abuse

We have theater tickets Saturday evening, so we unfortunately had to sell

Posted by: gburggal | November 16, 2010 12:10 PM

Something you probably won't hear in Baton Rouge, LA and College Station, TX ;-)

Posted by: Kev29 | November 16, 2010 12:33 PM | Report abuse

Something you probably won't hear in Baton Rouge, LA and College Station, TX ;-)

Posted by: Kev29 | November 16, 2010 12:33 PM | Report abuse

Well said. I can only echo this; when I moved to Texas in the 1990's the attention payed to college football was amazing (and welcome) to me.

Every weekend, every game from the old SWC was on radio, and trust me, the atmosphere at the University of Texas on game day is just amazing. (My son goes there, and I finally got to see a game in person last year and this year - just utterly fanatical and exciting)

In addition, here in Houston, I can go to Rice or the University of Houston to see games in fine old facilities that are fun to go to.

It's just a completely different perspective on football in Texas. The first year that I was here, I saw in the newspaper that the Orioles were going to be on the radio, for a late season game that had the O's battling for a playoff spot. I looked forward to it all day; (this was post cable, but pre-PPV or MLB channel) Imagine my shock and surprise when I tuned in the station and found that the O's game had been pre-empted by .... a HIGH SCHOOL football game. I had to is king here.

Posted by: JohnDinHouston | November 16, 2010 1:08 PM | Report abuse

Others have said this... but this season is eerily like the 2008 season. Same record, same potential, same team coming to town. That FSU game was easily the most dissappointing game I have been too, followed by the most dissappointing season I remember. I'll be at the game, but its hard to shake the feeling that its Deja Vu all over again.

Posted by: someguy100 | November 16, 2010 1:16 PM | Report abuse

Besides all that has been said lets add poor scheduling for home games this season. I realize that the ACC schedule is beyond Maryland's control but name one good team that has played at College Park this year so far. Florida State is the only won with a winning record so far. You wish people to attend bring back Penn State or Alabama. Heck I would like to see TCU or Boise state at College Park. Not the dumb down home schedule that we have now.

Posted by: MARKHAGNER | November 16, 2010 1:35 PM | Report abuse

I agree with Hagners comments...all losing/cheesy opponents and a home team with a conservative/boring offense that hasnt posted a quality win in over 2 years...the fridge just cant quite get it down years he loses to everybody and even during his so called good years, he drops a turkey on the field against huge underdogs.....0-3 so far this year against quality opponents...he has another chance on Saturday...lets see what he does....if his team comes out flat and unprepared again this week, dont expect a big crowd for NC State

Posted by: TerpfanMA | November 16, 2010 1:59 PM | Report abuse

And seriously, what gives with these starting times TBD? Who wants to buy season tix when you dont find out until the week before whether the game is going to be at Noon, 8pm or somewhere in between? Only those with nothing else to do on Saturdays between August and Dec.....

Posted by: TerpfanMA | November 16, 2010 2:03 PM | Report abuse

As a Maryland alum, I'm very down on Maryland football. I loved Friedgen, but now I'm kind of tired of him.
Maryland does not deserve a bowl game. They've won 7 games. Hooray. Who the heck did they beat, though? They beat a Navy team that is a little down and inconsistent this year. That was gift-wrapped for Maryland! Congratulations on not looking like a fool and beating Morgan State and Florida International! The other wins? Duke, Boston College, Wake Forest and Virginia. They're a combined 14-26! Only BC is 5-5! They also got their trash kicked by Clemson (5-5) and Miami (7-3)! The ACC sucks and does not deserve and automatic BCS bid.

Tell Maryland to actually schedule and beat someone. Maybe they should try their hand against Boise State and TCU. But I'm sure they're too scared to schedule them like every other major program because they know that they'll lose.

Posted by: JasonM1 | November 16, 2010 2:12 PM | Report abuse

And seriously, what gives with these starting times TBD? Who wants to buy season tix when you dont find out until the week before whether the game is going to be at Noon, 8pm or somewhere in between?

Posted by: TerpfanMA | November 16, 2010 2:03 PM

The same is true for pretty much every BCS school in the country. Game times are selected by TV partners one or two weeks ahead of time.

"Only those with nothing else to do on Saturdays between August and Dec....."

Yeah, that's pretty much the point. In college football towns/states - fans don't want to do anything else but go see their school on Saturdays. Kickoff times only affect the tailgates, not their attendance.

Posted by: Kev29 | November 16, 2010 2:30 PM | Report abuse

So, all the big news and hype about the 'Skins/Eagles last night turned into a 5-star debacle. Let's hope the Terps come to play on Saturday night and they don't let FSU get any big plays.

GO TERPS! I'll be rootin' from home!

Posted by: luv2bikva | November 16, 2010 2:40 PM | Report abuse

Me too Jason...I soured on the Fridge 4 or 5 years ago...the inconsistent teams, the whining in the press about recruiting disadvantages, bashing the players, the refs, all the general excuse making..the boring offense etc...hes up one year, down the next a yo-yo.....zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Dont get me wrong...I still root for the players to win, but its a good news/bad news message...the good news is they win, the bad news is were stuck with the fridge for another yo-yo season

Posted by: TerpfanMA | November 16, 2010 2:49 PM | Report abuse

On the scheduling - this year was quite weak, though I thought Navy in Baltimore was a nice way to start the season. Next year looks a bit better. Home/local games against Towson, Temple, West Virginia, Notre Dame (FedEx), BC, Clemson, Virginia and Miami. Towson is a slight upgrade over Morgan State - Temple is an upgrade over FIU and the rest is traditional or attractive. A lot more visiting fans next season too.

Posted by: Kev29 | November 16, 2010 2:49 PM | Report abuse

You are right, a lot of our fans do suck. I have been told many times that I need to sit down when I stand at games and even had fellow Terp fans try to get security to kick me and my group out for being loud and standing.

It has nothing to do with scheduling. I buy my season tickets because I want to watch MD play and I want them to win. This is not a story or play that requires conflict or drama. 62-14 or 10-7, I will take it.

Besides, it is always fun to get together on campus and tailgate with friends too.

Posted by: garrett4 | November 16, 2010 3:46 PM | Report abuse

I still pull for Maryland and hope they win. But losses to Middle Tennessee State and the like have built up the frustration over the last few years.

I never thought I would call for Fridge to leave, but that's kind of how I'm leaning. And I don't think Maryland should have signed up for that successor-in-waiting deal, either. I wonder if Maryland is regretting that now with the state of the program. And now that Debbie Yow is gone, they're kind of stuck. I say give him the $1 million to get out of that deal.

Posted by: JasonM1 | November 16, 2010 4:28 PM | Report abuse

The biggest mistake was made by expanding Byrd to 50k-plus. Just because we are a D-I program (I don't know the difference between FBS and FCS, and don't care) that doesn't mean we can or should be able to rival fanbases in southern and western parts of the country. Too many people, media and fans, assume that we are supposed to show up with the same intensity as those in Austin, TX and Gainesville, Fl every week. And just what is the logic behind these assumptions? The state of Maryland is simply not big enough to generate that kind of support. There is a reason that Columbus, OH and Happy Valley pack in 100K plus for every game. Because both states have huge populations and are chock full of outstanding high-school players. That is not the case in Maryland and as a result, conditions will be different. Maryland fans don't 'suck' in any greater ratio than at other schools, it's just that when you start with a small fanbase, in a large metro area with dozens of options every weekend, you're gonna have to win 9-10 EVERY season to remain consistently relevant. And that is a stat very few programs in the country achieve.

Posted by: Chuck98 | November 16, 2010 4:34 PM | Report abuse

Uh-oh, some of you all with your "anti-" Terps/Fridge talk are gonna bring on the wrath of super-fan #1, Gar-Know-One. He'll be on here soon enough scorning all of the "fakey-fans" for their attitude.

As for the post, I think the Terps have enough REAL fans. We don't need any more "fakey-fans." There's no room on the Terp/Fridge bandwagon for them. Not even with Fridge taking up 1/2 of the bandwagon himself.

Terps are gonna win big against FSU, book it. And if they don't it'll be all because of the refs (just ask super-fan #1, Gar-Know-One, who was blaming the refs for some of the Redskins foul-ups last night. Yeps the refs were the cause, not the 'Skins).

Speaking of fans, you all think super-fan #1, the face-painting, Captain Chaos, Gar-Know-One, stayed for the entire Redskins game yesterday? You think super fan #1 cursed at all the "fakey-fans" who up and left the game early instead of sitting in the cold and rain watching the Redskins play like a pee-wee team?

My money is on Gar-Know-One leaving early yesterday, not that he'd ever admit it. He's too much in love with giving Danny Snyder all of his money and being a guru in race-relations.

Maybe it's time for Captain Chaos to waddle down to the local pound and pick up a new friend so he doesn't have to constantly insult "non-believers" on here and constantly try to make everything about race.

Posted by: DixonTheDog | November 16, 2010 4:43 PM | Report abuse

The wait for the starting times is TV and $$$ driven.. Yes, it can be an inconvenience, but it's not the reason fans don't come..You know you have a game that day, PERIOD.. Time doesn't matter, be there..
Seriously, theater tickets, over the biggest game this year at Byrd.. Who's got the pants on?? If you have a wife, have her take a friend to the show, and you take a buddy to the game...C'Mon Man !!!
As much as the coaches, players and everyone would love to have a full house, it's these 5-10,000 fans that aren't fans of the program.. Just people hopping on a bandwagon...
Agree with prior comments, this game is soooo similar to the one a few years back.. Hope the outcome is different this year... Tailgate starts at 2PM Lot 9B... GO TERPS !!!!!

Posted by: frostanna | November 16, 2010 5:05 PM | Report abuse

Can't wait for Saturday! Tailgating, Cornhole, and football! I just installed lights on my Cornhole set specifically for the night tailgate this weekend.

Everyone keeps talking about 2008 and the disappointment that year against Florida State. Let's think positive... 2007 BC, 2006 FSU, 2004 FSU. All those were late season, late afternoon/evening games that turned out very well. I can't even imagine how awesome the scene will be if the Terps pull off the win. I think it's very possible, FSU has looked pretty bad at times this year. Let's do this.


Posted by: TerpFan2001 | November 16, 2010 6:36 PM | Report abuse

I've been a season ticket holder for twenty years and I am driving 600 miles to this game from my new home in GA.


Posted by: RFRBoy2 | November 16, 2010 6:41 PM | Report abuse

Re: Theater in College Station: The Theatre Company has been putting out marvelous regional theater since my father was "Prince Boyareyou Wayoff" in 1968.

I've been going to MD games since the early 70's, when the first "vuvuleza" was heard at Byrd Stadium, and I've been to probably 20 other football stadiums in my life. Byrd is lovely for sound except when it isn't full beyond about 80% AND the fans are amped about something. Byrd isn't bowl shaped enough to hold the sound in like, say Death Valley at Clemson, or Lane Stadium in Blacksburg. Too flat, like Carolina, NC State and Charlottesboil, which makes for polite fans but boring fan intensity without the turmoil amp set to "10."

I would posit that the fans "de-amped" after the great Fridge start of 2001 (top ten finish) and then two ten win years which were OMINOUSLY followed by 2005's NO BOWL year. And some up seasons (4-2 in Bolw games) crashing into last year. But still, a great win/loss ratio for almost every year of the Fridge.

Fridge is back to his usual good coaching, but I think fans are waiting for the "amp." A big win in front of a full house will send 50K amped fans to tell 200K of their amped fan friends why Maryland is worthwhile. This can easily be a ten win season. Rejoice; you aren't Wake or Duke fans waiting for ACC B-ball!

And did you forget the 5 Duffner years (20-35 record)? No dig to Mark (love ya bubba; miss playing with you as an Annandale Atom; hope Nancy is alright; always tought she was hot but afraid you'd can my asterisk for saying so)




Posted by: RogerRamjet2 | November 16, 2010 7:33 PM | Report abuse


Be Loud
Be Proud
Shout Terps
Until it Hurts

Posted by: RogerRamjet2 | November 16, 2010 7:38 PM | Report abuse

Driving from GA is dedication!!!

The times do not impact diehard fans such myself and lots of people here. It just hurts the casual fan. I have 4 season tickets, but I am usually able to convince another 5-6 people to buy single tickets for each game. It makes my sales pitch just a tad harder with TBA.

I think the tailgate needs to start earlier this week!

Posted by: garrett4 | November 16, 2010 8:53 PM | Report abuse

I watch on E360 or TV whenever available and have traveled back East to one home game every other year for the past 15 years. The cost of a ticket, parking and concessions has outpaced the quality of the product on the field and that gap has persisted for several years. MD needs to lower ticket prices and employ whatever gimmicks are needed to get butts in the seats.

Posted by: pjz123 | November 17, 2010 12:04 AM | Report abuse

Nice to hear from you Dixon. I had Vick in my FF league this weekend which is rather ironic. Now I will have him this weekend against my Giants... will be rooting for the Giants.

Posted by: petecard | November 17, 2010 8:42 AM | Report abuse

If anyone has noticed, ESPN3 and the ACC Network sucked terribly. I could see if we had our own version of the Big 10 Network which runs 24/7. Glad ESPN3 is viewable through XBOX Live so I can watch the picture on screen better.

Fans will pack the stands depending on wins and whose playing. Play decent well known teams (Penn St, Rutgers, WVU, Syracuse, Notre Dame) and win on a consistent basis. FANS will come.

Posted by: LargoD85 | November 17, 2010 3:04 PM | Report abuse

Call it lame if you must, but the recent changes to parking are terrible. I can afford tickets, I can afford parking, but to come at the last moment and have to park in a parking garage where you cannot tailgate takes away from the moment.

When they changed all the parking configuration is what keeps me away. Say what you want, but I believe this attributes to lower attendance.

Posted by: jscabis | November 17, 2010 7:42 PM | Report abuse

Virtually NONE of their games are televised--even marquee conference match-ups--and people wonder why there aren't more fans?

Fans are the result of one thing and one thing only--EXPOSURE. Brittany Spears sucks and she could get 100,000 people to a stadium. The Redskin have bit the begonia for DECADES and still sell out because they are relentlessly hyped.

No big mystery. The Washington Post and the other local media are as responsible as any other single item.

Posted by: peloponnesian | November 17, 2010 9:39 PM | Report abuse

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