December 01, 2009
The broader story of Ralph Friedgen's tenure in Maryland is still one of the best in recent memory in College Park, including six bowl games and nine years and the only back-to-back 10-win seasons in school history. But as of last Saturday's last Saturday's loss to Boston College -- the Terps' seventh in a row to finish 2-10 -- Friedgen has also overseen the first 10-loss season in school history, a last-place finish in the ACC's Atlantic Division and four losing seasons in six years since ripping off a 31-8 record in his first three. The end of the big story is going very, very poorly.
That's only if you concede Friedgen's effectiveness at UMD is actually at an end, though, which he and the university obviously do not:
After two days of meetings with Maryland Athletic Director Debbie Yow, Terrapins Coach Ralph Friedgen received a phone call at 9 a.m. Tuesday from Yow, who ended weeks of uncertainty and speculation by telling Friedgen that he would be returning as coach for a 10th season at his alma mater.
A source briefed on specifics of the discussions said Friedgen made a strong argument about the number of injuries Maryland faced this season and was adamant that the team would be vastly improved next season. Yow and Friedgen also had a serious discussion about leadership, the source said, and Yow weighed Friedgen's nine-year resume against that of other coaches, including former Virginia Coach Al Groh.
I guess it's a good thing that Yow accepted the just-fired Groh as a fair comparison rather than some of Friedgen's more successful ACC peers in similar situations, like Jim Grobe, David Cutcliffe, Butch Davis, Paul Johnson or especially Frank Beamer. It's definitely not a good thing for Maryland offensive coordinator James Franklin, who has to spend at least one more year grooming a new quarterback while waiting to move into Friedgen's seat, as promised last year. I doubt any of the nation's resident coaches-in-waiting are enjoying the experience very much right now, except Will Muschamp at Texas.
Friedgen didn't make any Hawkins-esque promises about next season's win total, but like Colorado's embattled coach, he was likely saved by the money. Friedgen is promised $2 million for each of the remaining two years on his contract if he's fired, just a little too rich for Maryland's blood in these cash-strapped times. Friedgen's return was predicated on having a young, injury-riddled team that's certain to improve next year, which is a good bet if only because it can't be much worse than the worst team in school history. But with Friedgen pushing 63 years old in the spring, with Franklin owed $1 million if he's not the coach by the end of the 2011 season, it would take one staggering turnaround -- almost on the order of the one Friedgen orchestrated when he first arrived nine years ago -- for 2010 not to go down as his swan song.