Tag Archive | "todd"

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Dickson tells Luke and Glenn about life after Todd Heap

Posted on 30 October 2011 by WNST Staff

In case you missed our Monday Night Live show with Ed Dickson a few weeks ago, our Luke Jones and Glenn Clark had a chance to discuss Todd Heap’s contribution to the development of the young tight ends with the Ravens.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xPRwVVdLmJA&feature=channel_video_title[/youtube]

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Ravens sign former Texans FB Leach; Heap goes home to Arizona

Posted on 31 July 2011 by WNST Staff

On a day when the Ravens facility seemed quiet from a practice perspective, the fanbase was given two jolts of news during this active free agency period as Ozzie Newsome signed fullback Vonta Leach away from the Houston Texans and watched as Todd Heap signed with the Arizona Cardinals after flirting most of the morning with the New York Jets.

The action has been fast and furious and every signing signals the end or the beginning of a new era. It’s now apparent that Le’Ron McClain is finishes as a member of the Baltimore Ravens with the addition of Leach, who is big, bruising lead blocker who will create challenges for linebackers and safeties in the AFC North.

Heap, who is an Arizona native and an Arizona State grad, decided to go “home” despite many attempts by Rex Ryan to woe him to the Jets for another purple reunion.

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Monday Bloody Monday: Ravens set to part ways with Heap, Mason, Gregg and McGahee

Posted on 25 July 2011 by WNST Staff

The action came fast and furious and with shocking force on Monday afternoon as the Ravens — via many sources, agents, players and media — are set to part ways with a bevy of big-name stars as the 2011 free agent period comes like a tsunami. Veterans Todd Heap, Derrick Mason, Kelly Gregg and Willis McGahee were all informed of the termination of their contracts almost immediately following the NFLPA ratification of the new collective bargaining agreement.

Several sources inside Owings Mills said that Heap and Mason will be offered a chance to return to the team at a lower salary. Gregg could also be offered a reduced role and a lower salary. Many other teams around the NFL are expected to release veterans in an attempt to lower their 2011 salaries and free up cap space.

It promises to be an unprecedented week of news, information and free agent signings.

For full, unfolding coverage you can always follow us in real time on Twitter @WNST.

WNST will have full coverage of all of the information and pending changes in Owings Mills all day Tuesday at WNST.net and AM 1570.

Ravens players are expected to start appearing the Owings Mills headquarters as early as 10 a.m. on Tuesday.

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EXCLUSIVE: It was Peter Angelos vs. Steve Bisciotti in latest skirmish over MASN & Ravens TV rights

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EXCLUSIVE: It was Peter Angelos vs. Steve Bisciotti in latest skirmish over MASN & Ravens TV rights

Posted on 08 August 2010 by WNST Staff

In a city with two sports teams and a major regional sports TV network that’s owned by one of them, conflict is inevitable.

So, when the Ravens sat down at the negotiating table with the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network (MASN) last spring to hammer out the details of a new contract, the football team was prepared for a difficult negotation but maintained confidence a deal would get done for their pre-season games and weekly TV shows such as The John Harbaugh Show.

Instead, the Ravens abruptly lost their broadcast partner last week in an 11th-hour flip by MASN owner Peter Angelos, who also owns the rival sports franchise in Baltimore, the MLB Orioles.

The two parties, led by high ranking officials from the Ravens and MASN, reached a verbal agreement on a new four-year deal in April.  “It actually went more smoothly than we thought it might,” said a Ravens source.  “We went in asking that our old four-year deal just be renewed under the same terms and conditions and they (MASN) were agreeable.  The deal was beneficial for both of us.  MASN got winter programming exclusive to their network and we were able to bring the shows that comprised Rave TV to the Ravens fan base throughout the Mid Atlantic.”

There were a few new twists to the agreement, including more prominently placed signage for MASN at M&T Bank Stadium and the installation of permanent fiber-optic wiring in the press rooms at the stadium to give MASN the highest quality production capabilities.

“We put in an extensive amount of work and product in June and July,” said a Maryland Stadium Authority source, who was part of the team that supervised the installation. “And the Ravens paid for all of it.”

At stake now, are various forms of Ravens-exclusive programming that range from weekly shows to pre- and post-game specials for both home and away games.

“The deal is dead,” said a Ravens source. “Angelos killed it at the end of July when our staff was already on the street selling packages.”

A MASN source who spoke on the condition of anonymity said the change in the agreement occurred earlier in the summer when Orioles majority owner and MASN managing partner Peter Angelos got involved.  When the two parties consummated their first deal in 2006, the elder Angelos wasn’t involved in the final stages of the negotiation. It was more John Angelos and other officials, who were just launching the money-making regional network after the birth of Washington Nationals spawned the deal.

An insider on that initial deal said: “It was a perfect marriage. The Ravens didn’t want to deal with Comcast Sportsnet, which was featuring Washington Redskins programming and treated Baltimore and the Ravens like a second-class citizen. MASN was just getting started and needed fall and winter programming and credibility and market awareness. They had a presence and partnership with the best brand in Baltimore. Everyone was happy!”

This time around, though, citing changes in the upper management structure of MASN, Peter Angelos stepped in after a verbal agreement was made in April and the deal was ready to be signed in late spring.

“Peter didn’t like the deal once he read through it all and saw the terms,” said a MASN source. “He contended that a network should NEVER pay a team a rights fee for programming if it’s not all entirely live. So we had to go back to the Ravens and tell them we weren’t going to pay them the same fee we had provided in the past. We knew it was about to get ugly.”

A source familiar with the negotiations said MASN went to the Ravens with an offer that included a “greatly reduced rights fee” and the freedom for MASN to re-run the exclusive Ravens programming with no additional compensation to the football organization.

At first, it didn’t get ugly because the Ravens weren’t totally sure what the new offer or new terms were going to be. But, eschewing the history of how the Orioles and MASN conduct business under Angelos, they remained patient, hopeful and confident that a deal was sensible and reachable.

“We couldn’t really figure out what they wanted,” says a Ravens source.  “They would always talk in generalities like, ‘We need to re-work some things’ and they’d never be real specific about what they wanted changed or what the offer was.”

“We called in early June to remind them that the deal needed to be signed and we were told then that some parts of it hadn’t yet been approved by Mr. Angelos and that they’d get back to us with some revisions.”

As has been customary and legendary from those in the MLB world who’ve dealt with Angelos, those revisions sat on Angelos’ desk for weeks and the “official answer” never came.

Just after the July 4th holiday, the Ravens again contacted MASN and asked for the signed deal so they could continue selling advertising and sponsorships for the various MASN-aired programming.

“We were getting nervous by then,” a Ravens staffer said.  “We pressed them a little bit for a signed contract, and that’s when we were told the original deal wasn’t going to be honored,” explained a Ravens source. “We were told at that point that Peter wasn’t happy about paying a rights fee and that he wanted to speak directly with owner Steve Bisciotti.”

The MASN source explained it like this: “Peter never wants to talk to a mid-level or high-level employee. It’s the top of the ladder or nothing.”

That apparently was Ravens president Dick Cass, who allegedly met with Angelos.

MIAMI, FL - JANUARY 4:  Owner Steve Bisciotti of the Baltimore Ravens  and president Dick Cass watch warmups before play against the Miami Dolphins in an NFL Wildcard Playoff Game at Dolphins Stadium on January 4, 2009 in Miami, Florida.  (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)

“One of Steve’s fundamental beliefs is that he employs good people who understand his business and that’s what he pays them for – to conduct business on his behalf,” said the Ravens staffer.  “When Steve got wind of the Angelos request, he said, ‘I don’t need to talk with him about this.  You people know much more about this than I do.  Get the deal done!’ ”

So that became an issue that no one at either MASN or the Ravens could fix.  One person – Angelos – who didn’t want to talk to anyone BUT the owner and another person – Bisciotti – who felt it wasn’t his position to interfere with his people’s work.

“It’s not like Peter suddenly started operating like this,” said the MASN source.  “When the time comes for the deal to get done or not, he wants to look the other guy right in the eye or at the very least speak directly with the person on the other end who is his equivalent.  This time around, it backfired on us.”

It backfired when the Ravens made a final inquiry in late July and were told that MASN’s position wasn’t changing.  A reduction in the rights fee was now the only valid offer and Angelos was adamant that Bisciotti get involved during the final days of negotiation.

Bisciotti eventually did call Angelos, but he did so to simply tell the MASN head honcho, “My people say this deal is no good for us, so we’re going to pass.”

In the aftermath, the MASN public relations people tried to soft-peddle the break-up in early August by claiming the split was amicable.  MASN spokesman Todd Webster included a “we wish the Ravens nothing but success” throwaway line when commenting to the local media, most of whom who are on the payroll or in the profit chain of MASN or Angelos himself.

(A request to speak on the record with members of the MASN executive staff about this exclusive story at WNST.net was refused.)

But WNST.net is reporting that the “split” was anything but amicable.

“We’re basically six weeks from the start of the season with a sales package on the street and a handshake for a deal from April and an existing relationship and they pulled the rug out from under us,” says the Ravens source . “There’s no way that’s going to be amicable.”

The MASN source interviewed for this exclusive piece says the Ravens knew in early June there was a potential roadblock with the deal.

“They knew as soon as Peter (Angelos) got involved there was potentially going to be trouble.  They knew the deal was shaky at that point.”

When given that response, a Ravens staffer pointed to to the recent work done at M&T Bank Stadium.  “If we really thought the deal was in trouble, we wouldn’t have spent all that money to get the stadium ready for MASN.”

A Maryland Stadium Authority source said MASN remains a valuable working partner but they acknowledge it’s not always a bed of roses working with them.  “They’ve been involved in some battles with Comcast and WBAL at the baseball stadium that got very ugly.  It almost always relates to money and it always involves Peter.  And it’s always a last minute kind of thing.  That’s their M.O.  They wait until the last minute to start trying to get things done.”

And that’s how the deal with the Ravens eventually ended.  “We just ran out of time,” says a Ravens staffer.  “We had their (MASN) signage up, so that had to come down, and our people are out now trying to re-sell it.  We have shows to produce with sponsors lined up and there’s nowhere to air them.  We’re scrambling now.”

The break-up with MASN and loss of key programming doesn’t just hurt the Ravens financially – “we were nearly sold out of inventory” the Ravens source said – but it puts a crimp on their regional branding and marketing efforts.

“We count on that programming to satisfy our fans’ needs in the outlying areas that are important to us like Frederick, Hagerstown, York, Harrisburg and Lancaster,” said a Ravens official.  “That’s one of the reasons we like MASN so much.  They truly are regional for us.  And that’s important.”

One local media expert says the break-up was not only initiated by MASN, but might have come more as a result of sagging sales efforts.

“The real truth of the whole relationship with the Ravens is that MASN’s heart was never in it.  They just wanted to take something away from Comcast,” said the media source.  “They probably lost a lot of money over the last few years with their Ravens programming and they’re getting paid the same amount by a few million subscribers whether the Ravens are on the network or whether they’re airing Hawaiian League Baseball.”

So why enter into a business agreement with the Ravens?  What’s in it for MASN?

“They (MASN) owned inventory in each of those Ravens programs, anywhere from 1 to 2 minutes depending on the show and its length,” the media source explained.  “And MASN needs to sell that commercial inventory to make up for the rights fee they hand over to the Ravens.   If they can’t sell it, the whole relationship becomes a loser for MASN, except they have relevant programming to plug in during the winter months.”

“All you have to do is follow the Orioles broadcasts on MASN and you can pretty much figure out they’re having a tough time selling commercials in the baseball games.  I guess you have to ask yourself, ‘If we can’t sell all the ad space in the live programming we air 162 times a year with a Major League Baseball team, what are the odds we can sell ad space in the football season with taped shows?’ And if they were forking over $100,000 or so to the Ravens for the rights fee, that’s a lot of advertising to sell just to make that up, let alone make a profit out of it.”

A Ravens source would not confirm the amount of money MASN provided to the football team, saying only, “It was a six figure deal with our benefit being that we owned most of the time to sell to our corporate partners.”

The local media expert figures that MASN spent the early part of the spring and summer trying to sell their portion of advertising.  And when they couldn’t, they decided to go back to the Ravens and change the deal.

“That happens a lot,” says the media source.  “You’re on the hook for a lot of money and you figure you’ll sell enough to offset it.  When you initially go out and try to sell it and you can’t, you get nervous and try to change the fee structure.”

The Ravens continue to work hard to try and have their programming in place by Labor Day.  WNST has been told that Comcast SportsNet is not an option for them.

One less-appealing option is WBAL TV’s digital channel, which would serve as an olive branch from the Ravens since they’d likely make no revenue from the arrangement with WBAL.

“We’d be doing that because we want to help our broadcast partner out,” said a Ravens staffer.  “We clearly wouldn’t be involved in the same kind of rights fee deal we had with MASN, but the programming would air and that’s what’s most important at this point.”

The other obvious answer would be to air the unique programming of Rave TV on the team website, which could drive more traffic to their online hub.

The fallout of Steve Bisciotti vs. Peter Angelos and Orioles vs. Ravens will continue to be monitored at WNST.net.

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Ravens punch Indy ticket with easy beatdown of Patriots, 33-14

Posted on 10 January 2010 by Drew Forrester

Let me get this straight.

New England hadn’t lost a home playoff game in 31 years — and in that time they were 11-0 in Foxborough.

Tom Brady was 8-0 at home in his post-season career.

Baltimore’s pedestrian 9-7 regular season mark this year included a dismal 3-5 away record.

So with all of that statistical data overloaded against Baltimore, it made perfect sense that the Ravens would race out to a 24-0 first quarter lead and cruise to a 33-14 win in New England today.

Right?

If you say so.

What a crazy league the NFL has become.

And what a crazy season it’s been for the Ravens, who literally entered the 4th quarter of their final regular season game in Oakland with their playoff berth still very much in jeopardy.

7 days later, they’ve polished off the mystique of the New England Patriots and they’re on their way to Indianapolis for a Saturday evening showdown with Peyton Manning and the Colts.

The New England fans hung around until there were about 9 minutes to go in the game.

They put in more of an effort than Randy Moss, that’s for sure.

So how did it happen today?

In a way only the dreamer could possibly imagine, the Ravens scored on their first play from scrimmage and then parlayed two first quarter turnovers into a 24-0 lead before half the crowd could say, “Want another cup of chow-dahh?”

And with their star quarterback obviously in need of a spark-plug change and Moss mailing it in like a member of the Postal Service, the Patriots were left with nothing to do except entertain an afternoon of boos from their faithful and wonder to themselves how on earth they picked today to have their worst game of the season.

As for the Ravens, they picked a great time to produce their best 30 minutes of defensive football all season, that’s for sure.

With Ray Lewis providing yet another epic post-season performance and Domonique Foxworth leading an opportunistic secondary, Baltimore clamped down early and often on both Brady and the running game en-route to a comfortable 24-7 halftime lead.

And when Willis McGahee scampered in with 10:32 to play to make it 33-14, the stands started to empty.

So it’s now on to Indianapolis, where the Ravens will undoubtedly have January 13, 2007 on their minds.  Fresh off of a 13-3 regular season and a first-week playoff bye, Steve McNair had a game only Tom Brady could duplicate (today) and the Baltimore offense stalled in a 15-6 loss to Indy.

Next Saturday night in Indy, it’s payback time for Ray Lewis, Todd Heap, Ed Reed and the rest of the guys who were part of that disappointing home defeat.

It had to be this way, right?

Baltimore vs. Indianapolis.

Winner goes to the AFC Championship game.

Loser goes home.

One thing for sure:  Tom Brady won’t be making a trip to South Florida in early February to gun for his 4th ring.

The Ravens made sure of that today in New England.

Now if they can send next week’s opposing quarterback home early, we might really be on to something.

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Ravens sign former Eagles tight end L. J. Smith

Posted on 17 March 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

Several media outlets are reporting that the Ravens have signed veteran tight end L.J. Smith to a 1-year, $1.5 million deal to potentially join Todd Heap in the team’s corps. Read more here…

This might’ve been moved forward by John Harbaugh’s years with the Eagles. Strangely enough, Harbs hasn’t attemted to raid any of the Philadelphia roster over the past 13 months.

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Bozeman, not Gary, is 09′s best story in Maryland hoops

Posted on 16 March 2009 by Drew Forrester

Thursday night in Kansas City, a great story will play itself out in the first round of the NCAA tournament — it’s an amazing account of a man who was down and out but has bounced back better than ever.

It’s the best basketball story in the state of Maryland in 2009.

And, with all due respect to Gary Williams, this isn’t about the coach of the Terrapins.

When Todd Bozeman was suspended by the NCAA in 1996, it was a decent bet that his college coaching career was over.  The 8-year ban was intended to shove Bozeman so far out-of-sight-out-of-mind that no school would ever look him up again.

Booted from the college game for giving a recruit $30,000 so his parents could travel to see their son play, Bozeman spent the next ten years scouting for NBA teams and coaching amateur basketball.  The NCAA placed him in “show-cause” status, meaning no other school could hire him without providing the NCAA with reasonable cause for employing him — and then, still, the NCAA would have to approve the hiring before it could become official.

It was the NCAA’s way of giving Bozeman a lifetime ban…without actually doing it.

Bozeman’s story wasn’t just about the $30,000 cash payment he made to a University of California basketball player.  In the aftermath, he lied to the NCAA about it and became a symbol of the NCAA’s new crackdown on cheating coaches.  He was banished — for good, perhaps.

In 2006, Bozeman got his second chance.  Morgan State, fresh off of a 4-26 season and going nowhere fast in the world of college basketball, decided to ruffle a few NCAA feathers.  They explained it like this:  ”We want to improve our school and the athletic program by committing new energy and money to the basketball team.  To do that, we need a new coach.  We want to hire Todd Bozeman to get our program back on its feet.”

The NCAA complied, despite rumors that it wasn’t exactly a unanimous vote to reinstate Bozeman.

And then, Todd Bozeman did the right thing.

He came clean.

He showed up at Morgan State and faced the media.  He answered all the questions. 

“Yes, I cheated.”

“No, it wasn’t anyone else’s fault.”

“I’m here to turn my life around and show everyone that I can rebound from all of this.”

“I was punished accordingly and I’m moving on.”

There was no bitterness in Bozeman’s voice when he was announced as Morgan State’s new head coach on April 26, 2006.

A few years after his suspension, the NCAA asked Bozeman to testify at a hearing involving Jerry Tarkanian’s cheating scandal.   Bozeman, they assumed, could listen to the evidence and connect the dots.  After all, if you’re going to try and nab a cheater, why not bring one in and let him be the judge, right?

Bozeman refused.  “I’m not violating that code,” Bozeman said at the time.  “If they have evidence against Jerry, they need to bring that out themselves.  I don’t know anything about his situation.  I’m trying to get mine straightened out.”

Some basketball folks in the country pressured Bozeman to testify, reminding him this would be a great opportunity for the former Cal coach to do the NCAA a favor…and, perhaps, they’d do one for him in return.

Bozeman didn’t testify.

Morgan State then came along, took the gamble of all gambles – hiring a confessed cheater – and Todd Bozeman was back. 

He had done wrong, paid the price and was wanted again.

And, he did it all his way…which, turned out to be the right way.

It hasn’t been the smoothest of rides for Bozeman at Morgan State.  While the Bears and their fans have been enamored with his work on Hillen Rd., opposing schools have chided him over the last three seasons with chants of “Thirt-ee Thous-and” – clap, clap, clap-clap-clap – “Thirt-ee Thous-and”.  He’ll live with that forever, no matter what accomplishments he garners from here on in.

Still, he remains unfazed by it all and refuses to take shots at his detractors.  “I’ve moved on from that,” Bozeman stated.  “I’m trying to win basketball games and reward Morgan State for giving me a second chance.  I don’t have time to worry about what people are saying.”

In 1993, Bozeman’s Cal Bears beat 2nd seed Duke.  The 29-year old fresh-faced coach of Cal was the talk of the college hoops industry.  Six years later, he was the talk of the industry again — only this time, for the wrong reasons.

This Thursday in Kansas City, Bozeman will again be the talk of the industry when the Bears face Oklahoma in the opening round of the tournament.  He has done the unthinkable – Morgan State is going to the NCAA’s big dance.

Regardless of what happens in Kansas City, the Todd Bozeman comeback story is now complete.

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Baltimore BracketBusters and an Idea for a Baltimore College Hoops Triple-header

Posted on 04 February 2009 by Chris Bonetti

Morgan State @ Towson, Towson Center, Towson, MD – February 21
UMBC @ Rider, Alumni Gymnasium, Lawrenceville, NJ – February 21
Loyola College @ Drexel, Daskalakis Athletic Center, Philadelphia, PA – February 21

In case you missed it, earlier this week ESPNU announced the pairings for their seventh annual BracketBuster event.  The two-day slate of games featuring 51 games including teams from 17 different conferences is truly a celebration of mid-major college hoops.  The weekend of February 20th and 21st will be ruled by college basketball’s little guys and Baltimore will be right in the middle of the action.

It’s phenomenal that the folks at ESPN decided to match-up Todd Bozeman’s Bears and Pat Kennedy’s Tigers.  These two North Baltimore foes will lock-up for the 23rd time with the series tied at 11 games apiece.  Bragging rights are directly on the line

The reason why I think it’s so great is because it gives a team like Towson something else besides their conference tournament to look forward to.  It’s an impromptu late-season big-time backyard rivalry game.

While I love spontaneity as much as the next guy, I suggest taking this game and really running with the idea of a late year Baltimore-Baltimore match-up, sans the surprise.

Wouldn’t it be great to break up late season monotony with a battle for Baltimore bragging rights?

Imagine a triple-header of games at the 1st Mariner Arena in early February.  Take the five Division 1 schools around town, Coppin, Loyola, Morgan, Towson, and UMBC and that leaves you with one spot.  While this event would need great organizing to succeed, what would make it great would the participation of the big boys… the University of Maryland Terrapins.

I know, I know, what’s in it for Gary?  Why should he leave Comcast during his ACC conference schedule to play a “nothing good can come from this”-type game?  Well, I’ll simply offer, it might be good for Coach Williams to show his face around the Harbor a little bit more often.  Throughout his whole tumultuous January the center of discussion was recruiting, and more specifically, not recruiting the city well enough.  This would be a great event for kids from all over the greater Baltimore area to enjoy.  I don’t see how playing an in-state opponent in front of 11,000 people in his state’s largest city could possibly be a bad thing for a program attempting to re-grow some of those grassroots.

The benefit for the locals is obvious in exposure alone.  Any local media outlet would be crazy not to ant to put their name on the event and its content in their programming. Not everyone can go to the University of Maryland and play so this would be a great chance for young players to see the unique styles of our area’s coaches and become familiar with their distinct personalities.

You could even involve the high school teams in an All-Baltimore Basketball weekend.  The collegiate triple-header could be played on a Saturday or Sunday with varsity squads from all over Baltimore County going out of conference to play on the preceding Friday night.

I don’t know, just a thought…

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A Gary-departure would be costly – but so is losing…

Posted on 26 January 2009 by Drew Forrester

If the Gary Williams era at Maryland could be juxtaposed with a game of “horse”, Gary would have H-O-R-S at this point.

Make no mistake about it, the panic button is blinking and fans of the Terps basketball program have their fist in place, ready to pound on it.

Gary has been maligned for several years now at College Park, as his program has retreated from one of the best in the ACC to one of the most inconsistent.  Williams, naturally, doesn’t like to hear that kind of talk when folks around the Baltimore-DC corridor discuss his level of success and the condition of his program – but there’s no sense in running from the truth:  Maryland basketball is hurting.  Big time.  

Unless something dramatic happens in the next six weeks or so, Gary’s team is going to need a blazing run through the ACC tournament to make into the NCAA’s 65-team field for March Madness.  That’s not a pessimistic view – that’s the reality of a situation marked by three eye opening losses over the last four weeks.  The Terps blew a 14-point lead at home while losing to Morgan State – they squandered a 17-point lead at Miami in the second half and lost there – and last Saturday at Duke, Gary’s boys were humiliated by 41 at Cameron.  It’s ALMOST fair to wonder if the Lady Terps could have played and lost by less.  

I’m not a “fire the coach” kind of guy.  I never have been.  Good coaches (some would say Gary is a great coach) are hard to find.  And, overall, I’ve always preached patience when it comes to coaches because they tend to outlast the players, particuarly at the college level.

Now, though, on the verge of missing out on the big dance for the 4th time in 5 years, Gary Williams is under fire – again – and it might be time to bring out the hose and douse the Gary-flame. 

Notice the word “might” in that sentence above.  I’m not advocating that Gary be fired at Maryland.  But, I do think it’s time to up the magnification level to 10x on the Williams-microscope and watch what happens between now and the end of March.

Anytime you talk about firing a coach, especially in college, funds and finances always come into play.  It’s one thing for a football owner to fire his coach and be contractually bound to pay him $15 million over the next 3 years.  It’s a totally different  set of circumstances when you work for a state institution that is in the process of a hiring freeze, demanding non-paid furloughs to employees and reducing expenses in whatever manner necessary…and you decide to fire the coach despite the fact you still owe him roughly $6 million. 

That’s the case at College Park.  Gary’s contract is guaranteed through the ’11-12 season and 20-year employees don’t generally have “buyout” clauses in their deals.  Gary’s gettin’ paid if Gary gets fired.  

It’s easy for us to say, “Pay the man and get another coach in here and fix the program…” – But it’s not our $6 million.  That said, at some point, the school and the Athletic Department have to put winning ahead of everything else – and that includes: fund raising, who gets their feelings hurt, marketing dollars and having to pay off the $6 million you owe the guy you’re firing.

At some point, winning has to be priority #1.

The uncomfortably-evident (frosty) relationship between Athletic Director Debbie Yow and Gary Williams surely can’t be good for either of them with this kind of results-oriented “issue” at hand.  The fact that Debbie and Gary don’t get along isn’t a big deal because they don’t chat much – or often – even when the team wins.  It’s hard, though, for the two of them to steer this sinking ship together when they’re – well…not together.  If they had a productive relationship, they could bunker down together and figure out a way to make this work since they’re both responsible for the program’s drop-off.  Gary is the coach of the team that is struggling.  Debbie extended the contract of that coach.  They’re linked in ways they don’t want to be, although Debbie ultimately won’t fire herself if the Terps can’t turn things around on the hardwood.

As I always say anytime someone calls or writes “fire the coach!”: “who are you going to hire?”

That’s probably not a subject that needs to be detailed right now, mainly because Gary is still the coach, with a contract, and the position isn’t open to be filled.

Make no mistake about it, though:  If Gary Williams is relieved of his duties, there are some outstanding young, proven coaches in and around the mid-Atlantic who would be worthy of consideration, including Anthony Grant of VCU, Todd Bozeman at Morgan State and, perhaps, even ex-Terp assistant Mike Lonergan who has done such a good job reviving the University of Vermont program in a short period of time.

Finding a high-quality coach to come in and take on the challenge of returning Maryland basketball to its glory years wouldn’t be hard.  Returning Maryland to its glory years might be, though.

Gary’s program has lost its energy.  They’ve been on the wrong end of too many late game collapses in recent years and the “bad losses” have far outnumbered the “good ones”.  

In this year, particularly, Gary doesn’t have many good players.  It’s hard to win that way, at the level that is the ACC.  And, since Gary recruited those players, he gets the brunt of the backlash.  

Time might be running out on Gary at College Park.  Wasn’t it just two weeks ago that I wrote this same thing?  Well, four games later, it’s not any better…and a 41-point loss at Duke probably makes it worse.

Winning has to be the #1 priority at College Park.

If they can’t win, they have to make a change.

That’s a shame, but Gary Williams’ legacy at Maryland is stamped in concrete.  He’ll always be the guy that returned Maryland to its glory years and took them on a trip virtually no one could have ever dreamed in 2002.  

He’s the best coach they’ve ever had.

But when you can’t win anymore…someone has to pay the price.

Debbie might have to pay it.  Gary might have to take it.

It won’t be pretty, that’s for sure.

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Maryland hoops: Faithful getting restless?

Posted on 15 January 2009 by Drew Forrester

At some point, losses like the one suffered by the Terps last night have to stop.

Losing is one thing.  It happens all the time.

Squandering a 17-point lead in the game’s final 12 minutes…now that’s another story.

It’s still far too early to panic if you’re a fan of Gary Williams and the Maryland basketball program.

Let’s be clear on one thing:  I am NOT advocating that Maryland make a coaching change.

Not in the least.

But the ’08-09 campaign is an important one for Maryland and, particularly, for Gary, because the faithful are starting to get a tad restless.  The “unfaithful” jumped ship a year ago, or maybe three years ago, when the Terps couldn’t win late season games against the likes of Virginia, Boston College, Clemson and Virginia Tech.  In 3 of the last 4 years, the Terps have failed to earn a spot in the NCAA tournament.  In each of those three years, Maryland coughed up late leads and lost important games down the stretch in ACC play. Those defeats generated a mass exodus from the “unfaithful”.

Now, even the faithful are getting worried.

I’m one of them.

Gary’s locked in at Maryland, mainly because he’s been ultra-successful and has a fat, guaranteed contract to show for it.  It would be extremely difficult for Athletic Director Debbie Yow to terminate Gary and pay him a ton of money for sitting around.  Remember, when you fire a coach and have to pay him, you also have to hire a coach and pay him, as well.  Firing the coach isn’t as easy as, well, firing the coach.

This is a Maryland team that will more than likely battle right down to the final game or two of conference play before either making it into the NCAA tournament – or not.  At the start of the season, I thought Maryland had the goods to go 9-7 in the conference earn a spot in the big dance.  I still feel that way now. After all, they’re only 1-1 in ACC play.  

Losses like the one they suffered last night at Miami – and last week at home to Morgan State – are particularly unsettling because quality teams don’t gag away games with double digit second half leads.

It’s one thing if you go down to Miami and the Hurricanes shoot 47% from the field and win a nip and tuck affair, 62-60.  Hey, both teams are trying, right?

But when you hold a 17-point lead on the road and you can’t put that game away, something’s wrong.

When you own a 14-point advantage at home and you’re playing a mid-major program from a conference that routinely features a single “one and done” entry in the NCAA tournament – and you lose the lead and the game…something’s wrong.  With all due respect to the outstanding job Todd Bozeman has done at Morgan State, the Terps can’t lose that game to the Bears.  They did, of course.  

And that’s why it’s starting to be worry-time at College Park.

There’s no sense in breaking down what Maryland’s problems are on the court.  They have plenty of them. But so do a lot of schools in the ACC, SEC, Big East, etc.  Maryland doesn’t have a true big man.  They haven’t had one for a while, in fact.  Some call that a recruiting issue – and those that do point to Gary and say, “he’s not getting the right kids”.  There’s truth in that.  

Rather than break down Maryland’s issues, let’s just stick with the theme:

Maryland needs to turn it around.

And it’s Gary’s job to do it.

It’s his basketball program.

He’s the one that made it into something special – and he got the praise, the contract, the extension and the money for that hard work and success.

Now, with the team bobbing along trying to keep its head above water, Gary needs to fix the program.

I’m sure Gary is working as hard right now at trying to win games as he ever has…there’s no doubt in my mind losing games like the one he lost on Wednesday in Miami are tearing him up.

But those kind of losses can’t continue at Maryland.

In the ACC, you’re either flyin’ – or, dyin’.

Right now, Maryland’s not flyin’.

And, if they wind up missing out on this year’s NCAA tourney, I think it’s time to take a long look at where the program is headed under Gary Williams.

Let’s see where the next 2 months takes Maryland and their coach.

The faithful are getting restless.

That’s usually step number one, unfortunately.

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