George Solomon: Remembering the Life of Jack Zane

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George Solomon: Remembering the Life of Jack Zane
Sep 20, 2018

The voice on the other end of the telephone was familiar. Booming, distinctive and not at all PR-smooth.

“George, we’ve got a problem,” said the voice from the Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas. It was Jack Zane, Maryland’s sports information director, calling The Washington Post to complain about two Washington reporters he said were “clowning it up” during the first half of a 1978 bowl game in which Texas was dominating Zane’s Terrapins.

“They’re not acting professionally,” Zane said of the reporters.

“What do you want me to do?” I asked, reminding him the Terrapins were down by five touchdowns.

“Tell them to cut it out,” Zane said.

“Put them on the phone,” I responded, then asked the reporters to, “cut it out.”

Recently, I reminded Zane of the incident. He smiled and said he didn’t remember it — knowing slights and insults in his world were quickly forgotten, even when they concerned his beloved Terrapins. He, more than anyone, knew there was always a tomorrow and another game to sell.

On Tuesday, Jack Zane, a graduate of the college of journalism and veteran of 40 years working at the University of Maryland, died. He was 87.

Zane, who enlisted in the Navy after graduating from Southern High School in Maryland in 1953, enrolled at Maryland four years later and began working in the sports information office. He also was executive sports editor of the school’s Diamondback newspaper. After a short stint as an assistant to Joe Blair in the SID’s office after graduation, Zane became the sports information director at George Washington University before returning as the SID at Maryland in 1969.

That year happened to be the year Hall of Fame coach Lefty Driesell became the basketball coach at Maryland, promising to make “Maryland the UCLA of the East.” Driesell, with Zane’s help, began selling out Cole Field House, turning the school into a basketball powerhouse.

“Jack did a great job,” Driesell said in a telephone interview. “He did all the marketing and sports information work, and we started filling the place up. He was very valuable to what we were trying to do.”

Zane was Maryland’s SID for 20 years, followed by another 10 years as the athletic department’s ticket manager. He was one of the few staff members of who worked with both Driesell and Gary Williams, Maryland’s other Hall of Fame basketball coach.

“Jack was my friend and also my source for Maryland basketball history,” Williams said. “And when things weren’t going well, Jack had a calming effect and knew how to get me to see the light at the end of the tunnel.”

Zane was president of the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA) in 1985 and 1986, and he won a lifetime achievement award from that organization in 2000. In 1986, he was inducted into University of Maryland’s Athletic Hall of Fame. He and his wife of 47 years, Judy Zane, were active members of the Terrapin Club and in retirement attended many events.

More than anything, Zane knew the roles of the journalist, the coach and player. Often when they were at odds, Zane attempted to create a working relationship that tried to satisfy all the parties.

“Once, at N.C. State, they tried to keep Lefty from talking to the press after a game,” Zane told me. “Lefty wasn’t going to have that; and neither would I.”

Lefty talked.

Homepage image: Jack Zane (right) is shown interviewing former Maryland men’s basketball player Len Elmore. (Courtesy of Maryland Athletics)

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