The Maryland Victory Song accompanied coach Mike Locksley as he approached the lectern at Big Ten Football Media Days — one of his first opportunities in more than a year to hold a press conference away from a computer screen.
Locksley quipped about following P.J. Fleck, the ever-enthusiastic Minnesota coach, at the event for the second time. He said it felt like “getting hazed.”
But after getting his jokes in and thanking his wife, Kia, Locksley laid out Maryland football’s 2021 season with a simple mantra to guide their next step: No BCEs.
No bitching, no complaining, no excuses.
“What I want our standard to be is, ‘You know what, we don’t make excuses,’” Locksley said later on Thursday. “We got to be all on the same page that there are no excuses this year, let’s figure out how to get it done.”
The mantra was born out of going through last year’s pandemic-riddled season. Battling their own COVID-19 issues and those of other Big Ten squads, the Terps only played five games, two of which were undermanned.
But for Locksley, that shouldn’t be used to justify results like Maryland’s 27-24 overtime loss to Rutgers, where he said third-string quarterback Eric Najarian gave the Terps every chance to come away with a win.
And it looks as though players are buying into his philosophy, something the veterans have wanted since they arrived at Maryland.
“Before there was no BCEs, no TBIAs [The Best Is Ahead], stuff like that,” wide receiver Dontay Demus Jr. said. “He has come from a winning culture over there at Alabama. I just follow in his footsteps just to help change me and my teammates’ careers.”
Demus, who was listed in the Biletnikoff Award Preseason Watch List on Thursday, has shown a lot of progress, Locksley said. He said he knew Demus could make plays from early on in his tenure, but his work ethic throughout the past year has demonstrated leadership.
As Taulia Tagovailoa enters his second year as the starting quarterback, he’s relying on the ideals of the adage to tighten up his performance on the field. Although he earned himself an All-Big Ten honorable mention, Tagovailoa is looking to become more consistent for the Terps and believes this new mindset helps him get there.
“He gets that motto from winning,” Tagovailoa said. “He always tells us, ‘Winning don’t care, you either win or lost, that’s really it.’ That’s the biggest thing for us, no BCEs.”
Locksley has placed an emphasis on building this mentality at Maryland, and he says they’re exactly where they need to be in that regard. In year three, Locksley believes they should focus on developing “the habits and the behaviors necessary to win championships.”
And the team is taking notice.
“We know how good we are, we know the type of talent we have,” defensive back Nick Cross said. “It’s just trying to prove to ourselves that we are who we think we are.”
The Terps open fall camp on Aug. 6 and will prepare for their season opener against rival West Virginia on Sept. 4. The first two openers under Locksley played to the extremes of what his teams have been capable of — a 79-0 win over Howard in 2019, and a 43-3 loss to Northwestern in 2020.
But now, Maryland needs to take the next step, he said. And that requires action from the Terps.
“It’s time for us to stop talking about potential and actually go out and do it,” Locksley said. “The key to the drill is for us to prove ourselves right and not worry about proving others wrong, and I feel like we have the team to do that.”
Senior staff writer Kevin F. McNulty contributed to this story from Indianapolis.