The Maryland Terrapins is the common name associated with the University of Maryland campus located in College Park, Maryland. While many similar collegiate programs have mascots and nicknames that reference fast and strong creatures like bears and tigers the University of Maryland has college sports fans scratching their heads as a to why a big time college athletic program would liken their squads to the qualities of turtles.
The specific turtle that the University of Maryland boasts as its proud mascot is known as the diamondback terrapin. While this particular species occupations the many swamps along coastal Massachusetts down through Florida they are especially plentiful in the Maryland area. So abundant is this particular turtle in Maryland that back in the 1700s slaves living in the area are on record as having revolted in part due to the mundane nature of their meals which consistently were made up of the prolific turtle on a daily basis. Interestingly, Maryland turtle soup would eventually grow to be known as a delicacy in upscale restaurants in places like New York City – a strange turn of events for a food once sadly thought to be barely usable slaves.
The year was 1932 when the Terrapin became the official mascot at the University of Maryland, College Park. The mascot before the Terrapin was something called "The Old Liners." Eventual University of Maryland President Curley Byrd proposed the idea of the diamondback terrapin as the school's new mascot while serving as the Vice President of the university. After successfully coaching the University of Maryland varsity football team to a winning record over twenty three seasons as their head coach Mr. Byrd became the school's president in July of 1835 – three years after recommending the nickname change that remains in place to this day.
The diamondback terrapins have an unquestionably unique relationship with human beings. In addition to strangely being recognized by the state of Maryland as legally being the official state reptile the turtles have even disrupted aviation, an equally surprising circumstance. As recently as July, 2009 in a post Sully Sullenberger (Sully famously landed a plane stricken by geese in the Hudson river) world flights at New York City airport JFK were delayed for over an hour when close to eighty diamondback terrapins swamped the runway in what was believed to be an egg laying excursion by the female turtles on the runway.
At first glance most casual fans find the ending mascot that former University of Maryland President and head football coach Curley Bird selected to be a bit odd to say the least. When interested individuals dig deeper into the Maryland culture and uniqueness of the diamondback terrapin most people agree that the students and faculty at the University of Maryland have good reason to frequently shout their rallying cry, "fear the turtle."