It became official today, three days later than necessary, but official nonetheless.
The Ralph Friedgen era is over at the University of Maryland.
Strip away the wordsmithing attempts by Athletic Director Kevin Anderson and it came down to this: The school didn’t want Friedgen to coach the team anymore. Since they were locked into a deal through 2011, they sorta-kinda had to keep him around unless something or someone made it financially viable for them to part company with the 10-year coach.
Enter Vanderbilt — and James Franklin.
When Franklin took the job at Vanderbilt late last week, that absolved the Terps of a possible one million dollar payout to Franklin through the terms of his coach-in-waiting contract originally produced by former A.D. Debbie Yow.
And when Franklin started plucking coaches away from the Terps over the weekend, it made Anderson’s decision all that much easier. With little confidence that the school wanted Friedgen to run their football program after his contract expired in 2011, the decision to oust him was expedited by the mass exodus that included Franklin.
It’s big business, I suppose, and it’s not really that “dirty” to fire a head coach, even when he just guided his team to a rather surprising 8-4 campaign and was named the ACC Coach of the Year in doing so. There’s certainly an argument that Maryland – as a football program – has fallen off the fall/winter sports radar in the DC/Baltimore corridor over the last few years. Some of that is due to the fact that the team hasn’t been very successful on the field, not forgetting this season’s success, of course. Some of that is due to the fact that Maryland’s non-conference schedule hasn’t been highly attractive. And some of that is due to the fact that Maryland’s football PROGRAM, in general, is just not that marketable — and that includes, frankly, the guy who is now formerly the head coach.
Firing Ralph Friedgen wasn’t that big of a deal. The team would have been good-to-very-good next season with him — or without him. It’s that Anderson tried to force Friedgen’s hand and make him do something — retire, gracefully or not — that he had no intention of doing just to ease the pain of having to dismiss the coach that just produced an 8-4 season.
This isn’t a great way for Kevin Anderson to start his tenure at Maryland. It might, for a while anyway, make it hard to root for the football team at College Park until the stink of Friedgen’s firing goes away in a year or two.
But there’s a more important decision looming at Maryland now.
Who gets the head coaching job?
Most people in the know are saying it’s already a done deal and that Mike Leach is a step away from getting his parking pass and painting his new office a different color just because he can.
Kevin Anderson is saying all the right things because there’s a process that needs to play out and committees have to be formed and “independent advisors” have to be retained to ensure that Maryland follows the hiring letter-of-the-law.
If Mike Leach isn’t the next coach, I’d be shocked.
But SHOULD he be the next coach?
That’s a fair question.
And despite the fact that most people close to the situation are hinting that a certain sports apparel entrepreneur is the guy calling (continued)