By Duncan Irvine
The Jones-Hill Field House opened its newly renovated doors on June 4, 2021. Since then, it has been the home of Maryland football, but for the facility’s namesakes and key donors, it represents so much more.
“I’m dumbfounded, I’m just dumbfounded that this [happened],” former Maryland basketball player Billy Jones said.
The practice facility is named after Darryl Hill, the first African American football player in the ACC, who played at Maryland in 1963, and Jones, the first African American basketball player in the ACC who played for the Terps from 1965 to 1968.
It was almost named after primary donor Kevin Plank, founder of Under Armour and Maryland grad, but after having dinner with legendary basketball coach Gary Williams, Plank decided it would be better to honor other legendary Terps.
“We just started talking about game changers and people that have broken barriers. Gary thought back to his personal experience and playing with Billy,” Plank said. “Billy was the first black athlete on the basketball team.”
The lunch took place in the summer of 2020, in the midst of tensions regarding race in America reaching a new high. Plank saw an opportunity to pay homage to a pair of important Black Terps.
When asked about naming the facility after him, Jones said that he was “blown away,” by the honor. He hopes that for those who enter its doors, it will come to mean something to them, other than serving as a state-of-the-art practice facility for Maryland football.
He wants it to be a symbol for all, showing how welcoming and progressive the university is to all who look for it. All involved parties want the Field House to be a project with reach providing a long-standing impact that stretches far beyond just football.
“Hopefully people identify with it, it becomes a beacon for a lot of people, well beyond sport, but for life. And that’s a tribute,” Jones said.
Jones knows what Maryland football did for him, and wants it to do the same for others. It was named after two groundbreaking athletes, and will certainly be a sanctuary for many more to come.
As far as actual amenities, the newly renovated Field House contains a 24,000 square foot weight room with 22 custom weight racks, a video wall visible from the stadium, and multiple fueling stations. The locker room has 126 player lockers, each complete with their own recliner, phone charger, and storage space. There is also a top-notch sports medicine area holding everything necessary for players to recover and rehab from injury.
In addition to a 10,000 square foot dining area, a 196 seat auditorium, and a players’ lounge with a recording studio in it, the facility pays homage to the history of Maryland football.
Inside are displays containing the names of every All-American, All-Conference, and academically honored players throughout Maryland football history. There is also a wall displaying every helmet worn since the 1940s. Jones sees the facility as a great opportunity for everyone to learn about the history of not just football, but the university.
Darryl Hill also noted that the upgraded facility speaks to the future of the university, and that he is proud to have been a student.
Furthermore, Hill wants this opportunity to be used for honoring other trailblazers as well and doesn’t want to take away from anyone else’s accomplishments.
When the university’s Black student union suggested putting his name on the football stadium, Hill declined. He didn’t want to replace the accomplishments of someone else with his own. He sees the upgraded football facility as a way for he and Jones to leave their own mark on the university and the world.
“A lot of big things have happened here. I’m proud to be associated. It’s great history and it’s a tribute to the University of Maryland,” Jones said as a reminder that the building stands for more than just he and Hill.
Plank saw naming the facility after two iconic players as a key opportunity to start new conversations as well as flipping the old ones on their heads.
“It felt like an opportunity to really change the conversation. These topics of race and equality, these are difficult topics, and they’re not easy, they never are,” Plank said. “This doesn’t make it easier, it just makes it honest. I think we’re all really proud that we can add something to a world class building like that.”
Clearly, the building was meant to represent much more than just a place for players to train, relax, and recover. By naming it after two groundbreaking players in not just Maryland, but college sports history, the university is taking major steps to open up dialogue about race in America.
As Plank pointed out, this will not make that dialogue any easier but does make it more transparent and approachable. Jones spoke on similar topics, noting that it holds the history of Maryland football.
“The building stands for a lot of things. It’s beyond Darryl and I,” Jones said. “If someone goes into the building and starts reading the dedications, the plaque cards, et cetera, they’ll start to understand that.”
Jones wants people to appreciate the history and the barriers that had to be broken in order for the Field House to be what it is today. The building stands for so much more than just he and Hill though, and Jones knows that when people walk through the doors, they too will understand that.
While history is important, Kevin Plank wants to build for the future. Maryland, which hasn’t had a winning season since 2014, is now primed to make the jump to the upper echelon of college football, in terms of facilities.
“When you walk in that building one thing you feel is excellence. I think I’m most excited about us creating this continuous, just commitment in a sense, culture of excellence. Excellence means we expect to win.”
So, as Maryland students stroll past the Jones-Hill Field House, Maryland football’s message is clear— “the best is ahead.”
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