Ralph Friedgen had a long ten-year run at the University of Maryland as their head coach, and during his decade-long term in College Park, he turned around a program that been on life support when it came to the football team.
Friedgen was 75-50 in those ten seasons and 5-2 during his time at Maryland in bowl games. His first year as coach for the Terps earned him ACC Coach of the Year and an outright ACC Title, the first outright ACC Championship other than Florida State since the Seminoles joined the ACC.
Nine years later later in 2010, Friedgen’s Terps finished 8-4 in the ACC and were in the hunt for another elusive ACC Title yet again-one year removed from a 2-10 campaign.
Friedgen did earn another ACC Coach of the Year award to add to his trophy case for the turnaround, but sadly with new administration in place behind the scenes at College Park wanting higher expectations out of the football program, the Maryland alum was shown the door by athletic director Kevin Anderson and replaced by ex-UConn coach Randy Edsall.
Friedgen was shocked to hear the news when word came down, because in a flash he went from talking about an extension to being ushered out of coaching for his alma mater.
Friedgen joined Drew Forrester on “The Morning Reaction” this week to not only draw out what went wrong, but to reflect on his time coaching hundreds of kids at College Park.
“To me, I really wanted an extension,” Friedgen told Forrester. “I really wanted to stay with these kids. I’ve been through the tough times with them, and we were really starting to get on a roll and really starting to gain confidence and grow.”
Friedgen said that going from the two-win season in 2009 to the eight-win plateau in 2010 put a smile back on his face, hope in his approach, as well as rejuvenating his players. His spirit was re-newed, and then in a flash to be relieved of his duties came as quite the letdown.
“It was really one of the most rewarding times of my career, and when he[AD Kevin Anderson] wasn’t willing to give me an extension even after we had won the seven games and we only had to win one more game to go to Charlotte and play for the championship…it seemed like a forgone conclusion to me.”
Friedgen felt like his resume at the University of Maryland should have granted him the benefit of the doubt.
In the ten years before Friedgen took over in 2001, the Terps had only had one winning season and no bowl games.
Friedgen has a .600 winning percentage as coach of the Terps. He went to seven bowl games in ten years, and won eight or more games six times.
“I mean, if you’re looking at the whole body of work, there’s only been 14 teams in 117 years of Maryland football that won nine games or more, and I did it five times,” Friedgen said, “and been to more bowl games than any coach in the history of Maryland. I won five of those games, and when I got here it wasn’t quite that way.”
“I ended up 75-50… I think that’s a good job. So, if we’re looking at the whole body of work, I think that’s what you have to take a look at.”
But Friedgen’s record alone may have not have the determining factor in his dismissal. AD Kevin Anderson and many other experts out there noted the drop in ticket sales, attendance, and the need to energize the fanbase.
Friedgen felt like that wasn’t fair to lump those issues on him.
“When I got there, we were only selling 10,000 season tickets and now we are averaging 20,000,” Friedgen told Forrester. “I think the worst crowd we had this year was 30,000, and we were coming off a bad season, and we had built that up. If you looked at that record, I think of the top 20 largest crowds at Byrd Stadium, probably 15 came during my tenure.”
Friedgen said the economy hit the College Park area badly, and he thinks that even with a younger, enthusiastic coach in Randy Edsall coming in, it’s still going to take some time to get butts back in the seats.
“The economy’s bad too,” Friedgen noted. “If you go to Clemson, West Virginia…there are empty seats. A lot of these places are not selling out. It’s a tough time right now. The Redskins fans used to have to wait to get tickets, now you can buy them. It’s just a tough economy.”
Friedgen was asked what he thinks Maryland needs to fix their issues, and now he felt like he could offer a fair perspective on how to solve some of the problems at College Park.
But Friedgen didn’t answer Forrester’s question because he still had respect for a lot of people still in the administration at Maryland.
“I’m not going to answer because I don’t want it to be sour grapes,” Friedgen said. “I know Randy Edsall. I think he’s a good person for the job and I think he’s a lot like me. I think we have the same high standards for our kids, and the biggest thing that helped me is I went to Maryland. I coached there in the 1980’s, and I kind of knew what it was all about. But it’s definitely different than other places, that’s all I’m going to say.”
But now, Friedgen doesn’t have to worry about those things. Right now, he is taking some much needed time off, and enjoying every minute of it despite the sorrow of losing his “dream job”.
And he is eagerly awaiting his next one.
“Right now, I’m chilling as the kids say-moving a lot of stuff from my house in Maryland to my homes in South Carolina and in Georgia. I’ve had a couple opportunites [come my way]. If something excites me and if I think I can make a difference, then I probably will go back to work. If not, I’ll just wait for that opportunity.”
WNST thanks Ralph Friedgen for joining us and wishes him the best in his future endeavors! Be sure to follow WNST as We Never Stop Talking Baltimore Sports!