University of Maryland President C. D. Mote, Jr. inspired consternation and criticism throughout Virginia recently when he declared the University's top ranking "ridiculous." In an article published in The Diamondback, Maryland's student newspaper, Mote is quoted calling into question the University's number one placement in the U.S. News & World Report rankings of the nation's public institutions. "I agree they are highly overrated these days, but U.S. News & World Report places them at the top of the pile with Berkeley, which is ridiculous," Mote was quoted as saying in the Oct. 20 issue of The Diamondback. His comment was made in a meeting of the University System of Maryland Board of Regents. The article also reported, "Mote said students who pay a higher out-of-state tuition to attend Virginia 'don't know any better.'" Although Mote could not be reached for comment yesterday, University System of Maryland Regent Patricia S. Florestano said she didn't believe his comments were "serious" or a "big deal." Ellen Qualls, spokesperson for Virginia Gov. Mark R. Warner, noted that "despite President Mote's assertions, U.Va. continues to see an increase in applicants from out of state, even from Maryland." Calling the University "a good bargain and a great school," Qualls said she doubted Mote's comments boosted Maryland's standing in the eyes of potential students. A spokesperson for Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich, Jr. could not be reached for comment yesterday. University Rector Gordon F. Rainey, Jr. said the Board of Visitors would not ask for an apology from Mote. "These are difficult times in higher public education," Rainey said. "I would say we have a lot of respect for our colleagues at the University of Maryland and Mr. Mote is entitled to his opinion, with which we respectfully disagree." Student member of the Board John Rodney, howeer, said while Mote is entitled to his opinion, his criticism of the University is unjustified. "I think the school speaks for itself -- we have outstanding departments, outstanding schools -- I don't understand why he would even make such a comment," Rodney said. Board member William H. Goodwin, Jr., chair of the Board finance committee, said it sounded like Mote was motivated by jealousy. Citing the University's consistently high ranking among public institutions in the past seven or eight years, Goodwin said there was no merit to Mote's claims. "I certainly think a college president should have more class, but you have to expect that from Maryland," he said. Florestano would not comment on whether Mote acted appropriately, but said college presidents currently are under a lot of pressure due to the need to cut costs and raise tuition. "You have to give them a little leeway if their frustration leaks out once in a while," Florestano said. University President John T. Casteen, III declined to specifically comment on Mote's statement, saying such remarks "often turn out to be partial or taken out of context"