Published 4/22/21 in the Baltimore Sun

The Cole Field House Performance Center.
The Cole Field House Performance Center.

The University of Maryland is renaming Cole Field House, the legendary site of Terps basketball games for nearly five decades and now the site of the football team’s new indoor practice facility, after the first Black men to integrate basketball and football at the university and in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

University President Darryll Pines made the announcement during his inauguration ceremony Thursday that the facility would be named the Jones-Hill House to honor Darryl Hill, who broke the color barrier in football for the university in 1963, as well as Billy Jones, who made history in 1965 as the Terps’ first Black basketball player.

“I’m totally gratified for this great honor,” Hill said Tuesday during a virtual news conference with Jones. “I think it’s important that not only the Maryland student body and Maryland citizens know what the university did in regard to taking down racial barriers in college sports but that the rest of the nation knows that Maryland was the first to offer a scholarship to an African American athlete anywhere below the Mason-Dixon Line in a Division I school, which was a tremendous honor.”

Hill, 77, who transferred to Maryland from Navy in 1962, set then-Maryland single-game records for receptions with 10 against Clemson, along with a then-ACC season record for touchdown catches with seven. As he recalled then-assistant coach Lee Corso asking him to come to College Park to integrate the football team, the first thought that raced through Hill’s mind was, “How can I?”

“I said to him, ‘Hey, Coach, I ain’t trying to be Jackie Robinson here. I just want to play some football,’” Hill said, referencing the player who integrated Major League Baseball.[More from sports] Five storylines to watch for the 2021 Kentucky Derby »

Corso still pleaded with Hill and finally told him, “‘You must be scared.’ And that was the magic button,” Hill joked.

Jones, 74, made his debut in December 1965 against Penn State, and he was a team captain as a senior during the 1967-68 season. While Hill was reluctant at first to come to College Park, Jones, who played basketball and lacrosse at Towson High and watched droves of his peers attend Maryland, wondered, “Why can’t I?”

The East Towson native said he had visited Maryland’s campus multiple times and so he declined multiple opportunities from coach Bud Millikan to tour the school.

“I have a saying I’ve used for years: ‘Happy are those who dream dreams and are willing to pay the price to make them come true,’” Jones said. “So, I can deal with what would come my way in the ACC and I wanted to go to College Park.

“You can tear up a photo, it can crack up, you can break a trophy, whatever the case may be,” Jones continued. “But that building’s there for a long, long time. Even if you don’t know the history, you might ask the question, ‘Who are those people?’ and in doing so learn something about us. But it’s important that the University of Mayland gets due credit for what they’re doing. I’ve always admired Darryl and the things that he did prior to my coming there. So, I just want the story to be told. It’s not necessarily about me, but it’s a story that needs to be told. And for that, I’m forever grateful.”

The renaming of Cole Field House is the latest move in what is now a nearly six-year project to renovate the revered building into not only a state-of-the-art indoor practice facility for football, but also a research center through a partnership with the University of Maryland, Baltimore.

The university officially opened the indoor practice facility in 2017, and The Baltimore Sun reported in 2019 that the price tag for the project had increased to $196 million. According to a university spokesman, construction will be completed in June.