February 06, 2009
There are many possible avenues to speculate regarding Ralph Friedgen's future at Maryland: The Terp boss turns 62 in April, his weight leads to perpetual concerns about his health and he seemed very much on the hot seat at times last year, especially following UMD's 24-14 loss at Middle Tennessee in September. There's no specific catalyst or timeline for the Fridge's eventual departure, but for whatever reason, he's on the clock: Maryland named offensive coordinator James Franklin as Friedgen's successor this morning. In fact, the move could have much less to do with Friedgen than with the pressing need to lock in the young coach:
In recent seasons, several NFL teams have pursued Franklin. Tampa Bay most recently made a run at Franklin. To keep him in College Park, Maryland officials are expected to announce the move in coming days. [It's since been confirmed -- ed.]
It seems Franklin (right, in black shirt and sunglasses) has been quietly groomed for this role since he was brought back to Maryland's staff last year (he was also on Friedgen's first staff, in 2001, and served as receivers coach through 2004), but the official designation is all the better for warding off potential suitors -- or so the school hopes.
Two trends at work here, besides the "coach-in-waiting" thing: For one, whenever he takes Friedgen's seat, Franklin will join Kentucky's coach-in-waiting, Joker Phillips, and Miami's Randy Shannon (if he's still around) as the only black head coaches (as of now) in the "Big Six" conferences. Secondly, the trend towards locking in successors is going to make the head coaching ranks dramatically younger over the next three or four years:
For Maryland, it could also be a stab at the relative glory years of 2001-03, when UMD captured a rare ACC title (2001) and put together three straight 10-win seasons for the first time in school history. Franklin was only a young receivers coach on those teams, but including his return to the staff as offensive coordinator last year, the Terps are 44-19 this decade when he's on the sideline, and 20-23 when he's not. That's something. Not everything, but something.