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Posted at 3:27 PM ET, 12/20/2010

When Ralph Friedgen named the Bog

By Dan Steinberg

(By John McDonnell - TWP)


Two personal reflections on Ralph Friedgen's departure from Maryland, termed a "strategic business decision" by AD Kevin Anderson. I'm not getting into the should-they-or-shouldn't-they-have question, though it's hard to see a guy who returned the program to respectability and just won the ACC coach of the year award get shown the door. I'm just talking about my own interactions with the Fridge.

1) Friedgen was, and probably will remain, the only football coach I ever covered as a beat writer. That was in the fall of 2005, a truly dark period in my life due to my inability to be a beat writer, paralyzing insecurities and a real confusion over what I was doing for a living.

I can't say Friedgen was better or worse than any other football coach to cover, since I never covered another coach, but there was something kind of comforting about our twice-weekly sessions in his office. He sat in one corner, and five or six beat writers sat in chairs or couches in a circle around him. I often stared at the books in his office, or at his treadmill.

He used the same phrases over and over, to the point that a Friedgen Phrase Bingo Card emerged at some point. He got emotional regularly, talking about kids who had overcome adversity or players he thought were particularly hard-working. (Yes, "emotional" was the phrase we used when he teared up.) He was amazingly, ridiculously focused on football. I hated just about everything about being a beat writer, but I didn't hate sitting in that office.

2) The next summer, I wrote one final Friedgen story before starting this blog. In preparation for the story, I set up a one-on-one interview with the coach in his office, where we talked a lot about his offseason vacation time spent in Georgia. He was getting up at 5:30 just about every day to go fishing. Sometimes, he went alone. Sometimes, he went with one of his daughters. Sometimes, his wife, Gloria, came with.

"What are we doing out here?" she'd ask. "We could be sleeping."

"Look at that," he'd tell her, pointing to the sky. "Look at that sun coming up. You can't beat that. I enjoy the full day, you know?"

But even during his vacation, he said he was working at least five hours a day on football stuff, often from his screened-in porch, where he could look out over the lake and at the birds in his feeders before returning to football. I asked if there were ever days when he didn't think about the sport.

"Never," he said. "Ever. That's what I do. That's who I am."

I was in there for a really long time, more than an hour, I think. At the end, I shut off my recorder, and we talked a little bit about my frustrations with beat-writing, and his frustrations with the media. Since he knew I was leaving the beat, we both were able to be pretty honest about the whole interaction. Finally, he asked what I was doing next, and I told him I was starting a blog.

"You know, Dan," Friedgen said, "I don't even know what a Bog is."

So thanks for that, Fridge, and good luck.

By Dan Steinberg  | December 20, 2010; 3:27 PM ET
Categories:  College Football, Terps  
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Comments

I almost got a bit "emotional" at the end there. Nice work, Steinz.

Posted by: nordicus | December 20, 2010 3:44 PM | Report abuse

dan, I recently cleaned out my RSS reader to simplify things (and get more work done), but I the bog is one of the few sports news services that remained. I recommend it to friends and appreciate it even more knowing it's ties to the Fridge. nice work.

Posted by: umdgreg | December 20, 2010 3:53 PM | Report abuse

You act as if he passed away or something. He will still be living in the same house as before. I just wish he accepted a "Mike Belotti" type of position in the front office and had a dorm named after him.

Posted by: LargoD85 | December 20, 2010 3:56 PM | Report abuse

Hahaha, that's awesome Dan. I had always wondered "Why bog?"

I have always liked the Fridge. He's a great man with a huge heart. I was fortunate enough to be a student there while Fridge had the Terps upsetting top 25 schools year after year.

That said, I do think it's time for UMD to move on. It's sad that it came to this, but I'd prefer to remember Fridge as a the man who brought 3 straight 10-win seasons and shocked the NCAA by leading the Terps to an 8 (maybe 9) win season after just 2 wins his previous season. If there was ever a right time for him to leave, it's now. The man will leave Maryland Football in better condition than what he inherited.

Countless times I've yelled at my tv: "Fridge, what kind of call was that?!" But I'll soon forget those moments and remember the great times. Fridge's Terps winning the ACC and going to the Orange Bowl. His Terps beating (crushing) WVU twice in one year. Traveling to Rutgers to watch the Terps upset Ray Rice and company. Storming the field at Byrd after upsetting FSU. There were some great moments for Terp fans thanks to the hard work of a guy named Ralph Friedgen.

Posted by: MillBurray | December 20, 2010 3:56 PM | Report abuse

Don't really understand the decision to get rid of him. He was an alum, had a pretty solid record at a non-football school, and it cost a pretty penny to get rid of him. Ah well.

Also, dorms at UMD are all named for counties or county seats in the state.

Posted by: agl132 | December 20, 2010 4:23 PM | Report abuse

Nice piece, Dan. I never really thought about the name too much and figured it had something to do with DC's abundance of water and the swamp myth. This is WAY better, though.

Posted by: giantfig | December 20, 2010 4:45 PM | Report abuse

This really bugs me. A "business" decision. Good grief. How many other first year AD's out there get rid of a solid coach in their first year?

I can barely afford to attend a home game yet alone travel to a bowl game. The ability for fans to attend a home game or travel to a bowl does not have anything to do with a coash and does not float with me. It's the economy.

All programs have their ups and downs, look at Tennesee and Florida. Winning takes care of that and recruting. They have a good future ahead with quarterback O'Brien. So Mr. Franklin leaves, good for him, but why punish Coach Fridge?

Oh well, I was planning on purchasing season tickets for the first time this year, but maybe not. I could boycott Under Armour but I don't have any anyway.

Thanks Coach for the memories, we will miss you.

Posted by: notbiased | December 20, 2010 5:01 PM | Report abuse

I'm not a particularly big UMD fan. They were terrible as were all the local college teams when I was young so I never really got into college sports but I liked Friedgen and I am sad to hear of his dismissal in such a callous way. Thank you for your stories about your times with the man as well as the coach. It makes me feel a little worse about how he's being treated because the man gets it. College athletics should be about helping young people grow and I think Coach Fridge did that in spades.

Posted by: atari1317 | December 20, 2010 5:56 PM | Report abuse

At least Fargo1 hasn't been here whining and complaining about the decision to empty out the fridge.

Posted by: DixonTheDog | December 20, 2010 6:46 PM | Report abuse

agl132, I think you inadvertently answered your own question, by referring to Maryland as a "non-football school."
When I was a kid in the '70s, Jerry Claiborne was the coach and Mark Manges was QB; the Terps got to #5 in the rankings. When I was in college, Bobby Ross was coach and Boomer Esiason was QB; the Terps were consistently in the Top 20. Maryland might not be Alabama or USC, but it can be a "football school."

Posted by: SmittyATL | December 20, 2010 7:01 PM | Report abuse

Steinbog, I should confess that back when you first explained the backstory of the "Bog" name, I wondered whether its run would outlast Friedgen's tenure at Maryland. And here we are.

So on one level I offer my very sincere congratulations on what has turned out to be, from my perspective, a terrific run on your part.

On another level, it's a bummer that Fridge was let go, and I say that as a UVa man. But so it goes in big-time college sports. Blecch.

Posted by: NateinthePDX | December 20, 2010 7:45 PM | Report abuse

You're the best, Steinz.

Posted by: DocHolliday1906 | December 20, 2010 8:21 PM | Report abuse

Nice piece, Dan. I covered sports for 35 years, and I know "real" and "sincere" when I see it. That describes Ralph Friedgen. So does this "bog" item. A decade is a long time in sports. Overall, the Fridge had a good decade. He's going out a winner. Too bad Maryland isn't -- and I'm not referring to the upcoming bowl game. Happy fishing, Fridge. In the end, you were too good for the place.

Posted by: smkpuck1 | December 20, 2010 8:23 PM | Report abuse

Great piece Steinz. It's a very sad day in College Park...a joke of an Athletic Director comes in and 3 months into his new job he fires the one man who saved Maryland football from the laughing stock of the ACC.

1 bowl game in the previous 15 years before Friedgen got here. 7 bowl games in the 10 years since.

He's the ACC Coach of the Year and he's about to win his 9th game with a freshman QB. Next season we were poised for an Orange Bowl run, now everything is up in the air. It's a real shame.

Viva the Fridge

Posted by: Barno1 | December 21, 2010 12:43 AM | Report abuse

So THAT'S where you came up with Bog! I always wondered why it had that name!

Thanks for the explanation DS.

Posted by: ArmchairGM | December 21, 2010 1:11 AM | Report abuse

Oh and about Friedgen, sorry to see him go, but the fact that Maryland never settled on a particular offensive system meant that they almost never had an elite prospect at the skill positions. Some years/games/quarters they were a spread offense, sometimes they were read option offense, sometimes they were a traditional pro-style and so on.

Once in a blue, a Vernon Davis, a Darrius Heyward-Bey would be produced, but not with enough regularity to attract more of the same.

As a result, the offense's production was tepid and halting further limiting his ability to attract elite recruits at all skill positions. Same for the defense (Kris Jenkins, Shawne Merriman)

Happy that Mike Leach is replacing him, at least he has definite ideas of what he wants to do on offense.

Posted by: ArmchairGM | December 21, 2010 1:22 AM | Report abuse

Armchair, have you watched Maryland football recently? Guy by the name of Torrey Smith, a wide receiver who has been shattering ACC records left and right, likely a 1st round pick if he leaves this year. Yeah, he's kinda elite.

Oh and Kris Jenkins never played for Ralph Friedgen.

Posted by: Barno1 | December 21, 2010 2:15 AM | Report abuse

Question finally answered. What a good piece of work. I'll miss Fridge. Yet one more reason not to care much about NCAA BCS Div Football.

Posted by: prestoj | December 21, 2010 5:37 AM | Report abuse

Question finally answered. What a good piece of work. I'll miss Fridge. Yet one more reason not to care too much about NCAA BCS Div Football.

Posted by: prestoj | December 21, 2010 5:38 AM | Report abuse

The way I see it, AD Anderson is peeing on the hydrant, saying in his own inimitable way that this is HIS athletic department now and the Debbie Yow era is OVER.

I like the sound of "Fridge Field at Byrd Stadium", though.

Posted by: luv2bikva | December 21, 2010 7:20 AM | Report abuse

There are over 20 current NFL players from MD. You go Fridge! You deserve sooo much better. UMCP is not an institution of higher learning - it's just another corporation.

Posted by: lk11 | December 21, 2010 8:32 AM | Report abuse

Link to that last Friedgen article?

Posted by: wbbradb | December 21, 2010 9:20 AM | Report abuse

It seems like there are a lot of mediocre teams that "want to take it to the next level".

I'm guessing that the result is just going to be a lot more money going into college stadiums and staffing, and the same number of top 5 teams: 5.

Given that, it doesn't seem worth it to trade your integrity and winning coach for a "gimmicky" one.

Time will tell how this works out, but after the excitement dies down, I think UMD is going to be at about the same level it was this year.

Posted by: Benson | December 21, 2010 10:20 AM | Report abuse

Good piece of work Dan. Now “Bog” has a much better meaning to me.

Posted by: hock1 | December 21, 2010 11:40 AM | Report abuse

"You act as if he passed away or something. He will still be living in the same house as before. I just wish he accepted a "Mike Belotti" type of position in the front office and had a dorm named after him.

Posted by: LargoD85 | December 20, 2010 3:56 PM"
-->Worked out for Belotti pretty well, he quit the AD post b/c he didn't like the "office" nature of the job and is now at ESPN angling to get back into coaching.

Posted by: break20 | December 21, 2010 11:50 PM | Report abuse

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