Foolishness in College Park
After years of waiting, Terrapin Nation has finally received what it had been craving: national recognition for the football program. Unfortunately, it was nowhere near the kind of recognition that it coveted. It came at the expense of Ralph Friedgen, one of Maryland’s proudest alums.
On Monday, following a weekend rampant with rumors, it was officially announced by athletic director Kevin Anderson that Friedgen was being fired and bought out to the tune of $2 million. While I can understand why it had come to this, I don’t agree with it. The decision has left an indelible black eye on the Terrapin football program and athletic department alike.
I have heard the argument for the buyout of Coach Friedgen’s contract. Without an extension, it left Friedgen as a lame duck coach which would undoubtedly hurt recruiting and the search for a new offensive coordinator. I can’t argue with that. However, there is still a subject or two with which I take issue.
I am very concerned with the way the events transpired. After leading the Terps to an unexpected and exhilarating resurgence this season, Anderson did the right thing and issued a public statement claiming that Coach Friedgen was safe. A month later, he has reneged on his comments. Just because offensive coordinator James Franklin (who not many wanted anyway) left, one of the greatest football coaches in Maryland history became expendable.
Not only did Friedgen deserve to stay, I believe that Friedgen earned a contract extension. He proved that he absolutely still has the talent to coach football and lead a group of men to greatness by improving the Terps’ win total by six (possibly seven) games. A knocked down pass (late against Miami) or a completed pass (on fourth down against Florida State) and we’re talking about a possible ACC champion coach with a very young team - not to mention a completely different situation.
Perhaps the thing I’m most troubled with is how many comments and posts I’ve read from the fans that seem to be happy with Friedgen’s firing and can’t wait to replace him. Six weeks ago in a post on Coach Friedgen, I posed this question: "Just how many of you would care about Maryland football if not for Ralph Friedgen?" In the fourteen seasons prior to Friedgen’s tenure, the Terps went 55-98-2. Since Friedgen was hired in 2001, he has led the Terps to a 74-50 record. I’d bet a good 60-70 percent of you who have been calling for his head are the same ones who became fans during the “Fridge’s” tenure.
Virginia Tech head coach Frank Beamer said it best: “This shouldn’t be about who the next guy is. This should be about what they’re doing to Ralph. When you’ve got a guy who’s a loyal alum, who’s a tremendous football coach and who is responsible for bringing Maryland football back to where it is, something like this should not happen.”
Friedgen built Maryland football as we know it today, to something that people actually care about. That should not be taken lightly. The man we affectionately know as “Fridge” deserves way better than how he’s been treated over the past week. I sincerely hope that Terrapin Nation uses this as a reason to pile into RFK Stadium next week and give Coach Friedgen the send off he rightfully deserves.
Check back later in the week for my take on who the next head coach should be. Spoiler alert: when looking for your next head coach, you should probably stay away from the loony bin.
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