Merry Christmas Fridge – You’re Fired

January 04, 2011 | Tom Federline

I am still reeling about this one. What in the world is going on down in Terpland? There’s a new University President, there is a new Athletic Director, the new AD publicly states Ralph Friedgen (Fridge) will be back for his final year as head coach, Fridge is awarded ACC Coach of the Year, new AD and head coach go out for a holiday dinner, Fridge is fired shortly thereafter. Mike Leach (controversial former head coach at Texas Tech), is talk of town. Happy(?) New Year 2011- new AD announces……..Randy Edsall, “recently” resigned head football coach of the Univ. of Connecticut to take the helm at UMCP. And when I say “recently”, we are talking less than 48 hours from a loss to the Oklahoma Sooners on New Years Day. The guy does have a nice track record, but did they really interview that guy?

What the heck happened at that dinner? Did Ralph not offer to pick up the tab? Fridge will be receiving 2 mill next year from his buy-out, which is about 4x what Kevin Anderson, new UMCP AD from West Point, receives as an annual salary. Did Fridge over-play his hand, by asking for a contract extension? Maybe. Did the new AD at Terpland expose himself and the University by speaking prior to thinking in November. Absolutely. Did the University disgrace itself in the eyes of alums and the sporting media? Absolutely. Did they handle the “firing” poorly? Absolutely. Did the University disrespect one of the top 5 prominent representatives from the University over the past 10 years? Absolutely. Maybe it was time for the Terp football coach to go. But man, the new “Sheriffs in town” blew this one.

I am a fan of Ralph Friedgen. I had the pleasure meeting and conversing with the man, discussing the renovations at Byrd. My kind of “old school” man. What you see is what you get. He was passionate about the football team, program and the UMCP. His overall record was 75 – 50, during his 10 year stay. 5 -2 in Bowl games. Reminder – Bowl games = cash. Where was Maryland football prior to Ralph (1990)? Were his hands tied due to supposed higher academic standards at U of M? Did he recruit “by the book”? Did he lose his recruiting edge with the loss of the supposed “coach in waiting”, James Franklin? I never quite understood that whole deal either. The University designates a successor with years remaining on the current coaches contract? It appears the man that put University of Maryland football back on the map, never had a chance.

Fridge – (not verbatim) – “I believe this team has the chance to be great. That is what I was hoping for. The powers at be do not feel I am good enough to do that.” Ouch…..give me my 2 million dollars and good luck… go Ralph Friedgen!

Ralph is a big man and had big expectations. Were some of those goals met? You betcha. How about an ACC Championship in football? How about getting back to Bowl games? How about at least 1/2 of a respectable renovated stadium? Yes, the Tyser Tower side, a new facility equipped with suites and a Club Level atmosphere. I still do not like that monstrosity on the north side. Ralph did bring respect back to the program.

A buddy of mine asked – Name the Terp football coaches since around 1978 (without going thru the Internet). I gave it a shot – Jerry Claiborne, Bobby Ross, Joe Krivak……….lost it……… and Ralph Friedgen. Can you all name the “fill-ins”? In the time of win, win, win, money, money, money, new, new, new…..Ralph’s time was over. And that’s a shame. “With change you may find purpose.” I hope that’s the case for all involved.

So what were some of the first words out of the chairman of the search committee’s mouth upon the new hire of Randy Edsall – (not verbatim) – “Edsall is going to recruit young men that are good citizens, good students and good athletes.” Sounds to me, like Mr. UConn is behind the eight-ball already. If there had to be a change at all, I was leaning toward the Mike Leach, character. Mr. Fridge, on behalf of all Terp alumni who follow Terp sports – “Thanks for the Memories” – (Bob Hope). You deserved a better send off. Oh and thanks for digging that dagger in a little deeper with that convincing win at the Military Bowl, so close to home.