The abrupt firing of Maryland football coach Ralph Friedgen has garnered plenty of negative reaction from those connected to the program on a variety of levels.
So it was surprising to hear Ravens cornerback and former Terrapin Josh Wilson’s comments supporting the decision to remove the man with whom he shares a special bond and even invited — along with Friedgen’s wife Gloria — to his wedding.
“Whatever the decision is that [athletic director Kevin Anderson and the university] made, I think they made it in the best interest of Maryland football,” Wilson said. “Whenever they make a decision like that, they’re looking out for the future and what’s best for the team. If they felt that was the best thing to do, then so be it and I support them.”
Wilson’s bond with Friedgen runs much deeper than his four years in College Park from 2003 to 2006. Working as a graduate assistant at Maryland in the early 1970s, Friedgen briefly coached Wilson’s father Tim, who went on to play eight years as a fullback in the NFL. Tim passed away due to a heart attack in 1996 when his son was only 11 years old, but Josh would eventually follow in his father’s footsteps to the University of Maryland where Friedgen had coached the Terps to a 21-5 record in his first two seasons as the head man.
The DeMatha product’s time in College Park was an accurate representation of the inconsistency plaguing the program following Friedgen’s first three seasons. Wilson appeared in 11 games as a freshman in 2003 when the Terps finished with a 10-3 mark that included a Gator Bowl win over West Virginia. However, Wilson’s sophomore and junior seasons saw the Terps suffer back-to-back 5-6 seasons before rebounding with a 9-4 record and a Champs Sports Bowl win to complete his collegiate career in 2006.
That senior season saw Wilson blossom into an honorable mention All-America choice and earn honorable mention all-ACC honors. Several months later, the Seattle Seahawks selected Wilson in the second round of the 2007 NFL Draft. It was an impressive feat by Wilson who — along with fellow Ravens teammate Domonique Foxworth a couple years earlier — Friedgen awarded the opportunity to play as a true freshman despite his slight frame (5-foot-9, 187 pounds as a senior).
“My time at Maryland came in with a bang and left with a bang,” Wilson said. “Two good years [in 2003 and 2006], and I’m glad I had an opportunity to play under coach Friedgen and his staff. I enjoyed everything.”
Despite his loyalty to his college coach, Wilson understands the big picture and the financial motivation behind the change. During his time at Maryland, Wilson was a two-time Academic All-ACC selection and earned a degree in marketing in December 2006.
His brief NFL career has further taught him the business side of football, himself traded by the Seahawks to Baltimore less than two weeks before the start of the 2010 season. Despite starting 12 games in 2009, the fourth-year cornerback did not fit into new coach Pete Carroll’s plans in Seattle and soon found himself back in Maryland, this time with the Ravens.
The 25-year-old flashed his passion for the alma mater recently on a nationally-televised game in primetime, proclaiming he was from the “University of Maryland Dirty Terps,” the “dirty” nickname coined for the Maryland secondary during his time in college. Wilson, however, acknowledged the lack of interest in the program is a result of the inability to recapture the early success of Friedgen’s tenure.
“Ticket sales go up when you’re winning,” said Wilson, who was aware that season ticket sales have dropped five straight seasons. “If we get back to competing and winning more games, and we’re winning consistently — not every other year — next thing you know, ticket sales will be right back. I’m not worried about selling out the stadium. When we get those [wins], people will show up.”
Wilson has talked to former Maryland teammates about the announcement but is waiting until the appropriate time to reach out to the man who labeled the cornerback as a “gamer” and “hard-nosed” at the collegiate level. Friedgen is currently preparing to coach his last game as Maryland coach against East Carolina in the Military Bowl at RFK Stadium on December 29.
“Right now, there’s a lot of stuff going on, and it’s hectic right now,” Wilson said. “I’m going to give him his time, give him his space. I would, of course, want the same and [then I’ll] reach out to him and see how things are.”
While preparing for the Ravens’ upcoming playoff run, Wilson can only wait to see how the coaching search plays out and how it affects a few of his former assistant coaches whose futures remain in limbo. It’s the part of the business Wilson dislikes, but he offered a similar mantra to the one proclaimed by Anderson when Friedgen’s departure became official on Monday.
“It’s a new day in Terrapin Nation. We just hope that we take this program, which we’ve been good the last couple years, and turn it into a great program.”