In September of 2006, I wrote a column for The Diamondback defending Ralph Friedgen. The team was coming off back-to-back five win seasons, and some of the students were starting to get a little restless that the team had looked less than sharp in its two wins against William & Mary and Middle Tennessee State. My point in the article was to be patient (lot of that going around lately) and good things would come. For the most part, that turned out to be correct. The team went 9-4 that year and narrowly missed playing in the ACC title game. My other predictions, namely about Josh Portis (yikes) and Jeremy Ricker (double yikes), didn’t turn out so hot.
That column was written over four years ago, and I have no problem with Maryland’s decision today to part ways with Coach Friedgen.
First (and most importantly), with a contract that was due to end after next season and no realistic expectation of getting an extension after the departure of James Franklin, there was no way for the administration to keep him. You can’t go into the coming spring, and next fall, with no long-term plan at head coach. As heavy as the local competition is for recruits, the Terps would have been murdered.
Second, much is being made of the Terps’ eight wins this year and Coach Friedgen’s ACC Coach of the Year trophy. What’s being missed is that the only real half-decent team they beat this year was NC State (and I’ll give you Navy if you bug me enough). Combined record of teams theTerps beat: 46-49. Combined record of teams the Terps lost to: 30-17. The offense was ranked 63rd in passing and 94th in rushing.
Third, this would have happened LAST YEAR if the administration had managed to raise enough money to buy out Friedgen. I doubt those fans up in arms today would have raised the same issues on the heels of 2-10 (and believe me, the team is beyond lucky to have been 8-4 this year).
I love Coach Friedgen and I love what he did for our football program, but this is about progress. Mike Leach (if they hire him, and I hope they do) is progress. He’s a guy who turned Tim Couch (!) into a number one draft pick. He turned nobodies like Kliff Kingsbury and Graham Harrell into 12 and 15,000 yard passers. He gives this program a name, an identity, an entry into the big-time, and a chance to be taken seriously nationally. You want West Virginia and Virginia Tech fans to stop taking over the Byrd every season? You want to seriously compete with them and Penn State for recruits? This is your chance.
A lot has changed since 2006. Mr. Mote has retired. Debbie Yow is now at NC State. I’m now a college graduate with a wife. It’s time to welcome our football program to 2010 as well.
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