I was surprised by those who chose to laugh at O’Brien or to throw venom in his direction.
I was surprised by that because I’m reasonably certain every Maryland fan (and even those who aren’t) knows O’Brien agreed to attend Maryland instead of another school based in large part because of Franklin and Friedgen.
I was surprised by the reactions because I’m reasonably certain everyone knows Maryland chose to fire Friedgen after allowing Franklin to depart for the head coaching job at Vanderbilt.
I was surprised by the reactions because I’m reasonably certain everyone knows new Maryland coach Randy Edsall initially refused to allow O’Brien to seek transfer to Vanderbilt when he was asked to split time with then fellow sophomore QB C.J. Brown in an offense not suited for him. Edsall would eventually agree to let O’Brien pursue a transfer to Vandy, only to accuse Franklin immediately of inappropriate contact with his former recruit.
I was surprised by the reactions because I’m reasonably certain everyone knows Maryland felt it was acceptable to change the circumstances of O’Brien’s situation but not allow him to dictate the own circumstances of his departure.
I was surprised by the reactions because I’m reasonably certain everyone knows the governance of the NCAA falls somewhere between “questionable” and “corrupt.”
I was clearly caught off guard.
I’m not attempting to do Danny O’Brien’s bidding. He doesn’t need me to. In fact, I chose to write this column before I talked to Danny because I’m reasonably certain he would have told me he didn’t want to go much into it because he cares so much about Maryland and their fans and wouldn’t want to come off as ungrateful towards the University that he will forever be identified as having graduated from.
I’m also not attempting to do O’Brien’s bidding because had the story ended with him having two successful seasons as the quarterback for the Badgers, the unfortunate parts of his story would have been minimal in terms of his overall college career. Many scouts wondered if O’Brien had the talent level to compete at a higher level of competition in the Big Ten. His one season in Madison was marred by turnovers and benching while the Badgers struggled. After he was replaced, the team would turn things around to win the Big Ten and go to the Rose Bowl.
Perhaps O’Brien should have never even attempted the move to Wisconsin.
But what is absolutely inarguable is how flawed the system. A system that gives power and creates rules to protect programs while hiding behind the scholarships as the only benefits to the athletes.
Not every athlete at the University of Maryland had the value of Danny O’Brien. The members of the women’s lacrosse and men’s soccer teams have achieved unbelievably significant things but the dollar value attached couldn’t match O’Brien.
It was a pretty simple concept for me when Friedgen was fired and remains fairly simple now. If you want to fire a coach, fine. Don’t force kids to stay somewhere just because you’re afraid your team won’t be very good the following year.
Similarly, coaches should not have the ability to simply come and go as they please and leave student athletes in their wake. Yet somehow it is never the coach who has to sit out a year. Football coaches are free to immediately start working elsewhere for salaries that are often into the millions. Students meanwhile have to sit out a year and face restrictions as to where they can go.
Danny O’Brien is no “victim.” Not by any stretch of the imagination.
But to suggest that O’Brien isn’t part of a flawed system that is to blame for many issues within college athletics is wrong.
To laugh at O’Brien or to spew anger towards him is simply absurd.