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Even if Maryland hired the right coach, it bungled the entire process


 

There is a pretty good chance that Randy Edsall will be a good hire for the Maryland Terps football program. Watching his press conference over the internet, I came away mostly impressed. Other than failing to inform his Connecticut players that he was leaving in person, choosing instead to do it over the PA of the team plane, Edsall hasn't really done anything wrong throughout this process. He's likely to win right away because Ralph Friedgen left him with a pretty good team and a pretty good quarterback. And I'm sure he'll work tirelessly as a recruiter.

I've actually been to Storrs, and it's a pretty campus, but it's also in the middle of a cow pasture surrounded by what I'll describe as The Woods of the Damned. That part of Connecticut feels like a scene from T.S. Elliot's "The Waste Land" but with better women's basketball. I don't know how Edsall sold recruits on coming there, but he seemed to do OK. I suspect he'll do even better convincing recruits to come to College Park, even though I wouldn't exactly brag about the aesthetics of Route 1 either.

All that said, it's pretty obvious Maryland administrators bungled the entire process of getting Edsall, in a manner that was almost amateurish. And it's a good lesson for athletic director Kevin Anderson that he's not running the show at Army anymore. Maryland may not be Ohio State, but it is certainly the big leagues compared to running the athletic department of a service academy. If Anderson didn't fully understand that prior to firing Friedgen, you would hope he understands it now. And if reading that paragraph angers him, so be it. Handling criticism from a passionate fan base and dealing with scrutiny from the media is a big part of his job now. Your decision-making tends to be under the microscope a bit more when you're being covered by the Baltimore Sun and the Washington Post.


Even though I liked Friedgen, I'm happy to concede that I understand the logic behind Anderson not wanting to offer him an extension. Anderson needs to sell tickets and luxury boxes, and injecting some life into Maryland football seemed like his clear priority when he was hired.

Now, I actually think Maryland fans were overrating Mike Leach's acumen as a football coach a bit. Leach doesn't like to recruit anymore than Friedgen does, but even the retread players in Texas are better than some of the top players in this area for his system, because so many high school teams in Texas run the spread. For all his pirate talk, Leach needs a good recruiting coordinator and a good defensive coordinator by his side to be successful. Just like Friedgen, now that we bring it up.

But I do agree that Leach would have been an exciting hire. He would have had the fan base thinking big again, which would have been fun.

But if Anderson wasn't ready to hire Leach, or if he couldn't sell Leach's and all his flaws to the University president Wallace Loh, then Leach's name never should have been attached to this job. Don't blame the media. The media didn't attach Leach's name to the Colorado or Minnesota jobs because those schools wanted no part of him. Good athletic directors have to know how to figure out the logistics for these kind of moves covertly. They have to be sneaky and stealthy. This was neither. In fact, it's actually hard to imagine a way this could have been handled any clumsier, from telling Friedgen he would return, to inadvertently revealing to the media on a conference call he he had changed his mind and was trying to convince Friedgen to retire, to courting Leach the day of Friedgen's final game, to not even calling Leach to tell him they were going in another direction. It's hard to imagine Under Armour's Kevin Plank is thrilled with this either, which means Maryland football may have alienated arguably its most important donor.

In the end, it's sort of like Anderson convinced someone to get a divorce, then hinted for weeks he was going to set them up with Brooklyn Decker. Two days later, he showed up with Ellen Page instead. Now, there is nothing wrong with Ellen Page. She's funny and cute. He just never should have implied he could deliver Brooklyn Decker. The fan base is angry, and rightfully so. They could get behind selling a little tiny slice of their soul, and firing an alum who dragged their program out of the dark ages, for Brooklyn Decker. Ellen Page? That's a much tougher sell.

This is probably an appropriate place to point out that Edsall was 1-16 against ranked teams at Connecticut.

Excited yet?

In fairness, if Maryland wants to truly improve its football program, if it wants to go from "good to great," then there are larger issues then who the athletic director is, or who coaches the team. Friedgen said something in one of his final press conferences that I think touched on one of the problems Edsall is going to face. When asked if the Terps job was still a good job, Friedgen paused for a second before answering.

"I will tell you this: It's not an easy job," Friedgen said. "There's a lot of things that really have to change to help it reach its potential. To be honest with you, I don't know if the university is willing to do that. You kind of have to know that going in. I did, and I think that was a benefit to me. What I think happens to a lot of coaches who come to Maryland is they think it's like every other place and after their third year, they realize it isn't and then they're stuck. It's just tough to sustain. Just go back and look at the history."

That's not Friedgen making excuses, in my opinion. That's him tactfully expressing what I'm going to be blunt about. The University of Maryland can't decide if it wants to be Duke academically, or Virginia Tech athletically. But it can't be both if it really wants to improve.

Let's face it, it's harder to get kids into school at Maryland these days then it is Virginia Tech, or a number of other ACC schools. Both Friedgen and Gary Williams have dealt with this problem for years. I watched it happen in the two years I was the Maryland football beat writer. I know of at least two instances when Friedgen got a commitment from a recruit who met NCAA and ACC standards for admission, but was told by the admissions office that recruit would not be admitted to Maryland. And so that recruit instead went to Virginia Tech. Certainly Friedgen had his share of exceptions granted by admissions, but I don't think anyone would argue he had the same clout that his friend Frank Beamer had at Virginia Tech with his administration. Yet that's what Maryland wants its football team to be, on the level of the Hokies.

Will Randy Edsall still feel like Maryland is his dream job when he finds out he just spent a year recruiting a stud wide receiver, only to learn the university doesn't think that kid is worthy of stepping on campus? And so that kid spends the next four years running through his secondary? It's completely fine to have high standards for academics. But there is a reality that comes with that too. Notre Dame isn't a college football power anymore for several reasons, but academics is one of them.

I don't buy into the idea there is any integrity in big-time college athletics anyway, so I don't care if athletes are admitted to school with lower grades and test scores. The represent less than 1 percent of the student body, for starters. As long as schools allow legacy admissions, they can't really make the argument they're completely compromising themselves by bending their academic requirements by letting in athletes who are going to generate millions of dollars for the school. 

Edsall should succeed, and when he does, some of these bad feelings will fade. But the larger issues will remain. Maryland's total operating budget for football, according to the most recent figures, is a little more than $9 million. We don't know how that ranks against private schools in the ACC like Wake Forest, Duke, Miami and Boston College, because they don't have to disclose their books, but it's less than every public ACC school except N.C. State's $7 million.

Clemson spends $10.8 million. North Carolina around $10.5 million. Georgia Tech approximately $12.9 million. At Virginia Tech, it's $14 million. And if you want to compare them with the big boys of college football, it's not even close. Ohio State football operating budget is $25.7 million.

The University of Connecticut's operating budget? $10.4 million. 

EDIT: Reader Chris G points out this AOL FanHouse article that has even more recent figures. Maryland ranks dead last behind every ACC school, even the private schools. When Wake Forest (enrollment 7,000) and Duke (enrollment 6,500) are spending nearly $4 million per year more than Maryland (enrollment 37,000) then it's silly you claim you're taking football seriously.

Does Maryland really want to have a elite athletic program? Or do they want to continue paying lip service to that idea, while still handcuffing their coaches and making their job harder than it should be? Even if the school can't afford to spend more money on football, it can't pretend it can compete for national championships while trying to have the same academic standards as Virginia. Stop trying to have it both ways.

So best of luck, Coach Edsall. But don't say you weren't warned.

Comments

great article man! excellent writing (The Woods of the Damned, ha ha).

Carrying forward your girl metaphor...

Your "Brooklyn Decker" (Leach) Probably isn't that pretty when you take off the makeup and don't get the airbrushed picture. Plus if someone is available and chasing after you, but seems too good to be true, she probably is. I'm pretty sure there's some psycho you'd have to deal with there. And if she isn't that bad, she's gonna dump you once the big boys realize she's not crazy after all.

Plus, Ellen Page is a whole lot better looking than the chubby girl who grew up in the neighborhood and then came back home and was "friendly" with you when you were at a really low point in your life but now you've got a little more self esteem.

Your comment on UMD deciding if it wants to be known for athletics or academics was something my father told me easily 15 years ago. Things obviously haven't changed much in that time....
The basketball team is a perfect example of this, which is why it's amazing to me how Gary Williams continually makes something out of a bunch of nothing. He truly is a great coach. For all of those people that want UMD to move on from Gary Williams, they gotta keep that in mind- the guy who replaces him won't be able to make something out of nothing on an annual basis.

"it's harder to get kids into school at Maryland these days then it is Virginia Tech"

It is "than", not "then", Kevin. If you are talking about academics, then you should try to use correct grammar. Of course, if you did graduate from Virginia Tech, then just do your best.

100%

You aced it, Kevin.

In retrospect it seems clear how Anderson should have handled this.

The day Franklin took the Vandy job he should have made it clear to the media that he tried hard to persuade Franklin to stay -- even if that was untrue -- even if in fact he actually shooed Franklin out the door -- even if claiming all this risked making it look like Franklin left UMD at the altar for an prettier girl from the south (which may also be true, to put a twist on your dating analogy).

Instead, Anderson meekly wished Franklin well. He gave the impression that he never really wanted Franklin, and in fact he had a better guy in mind. He gave the impression he *wanted* Franklin to go, and didn't care about treating Ralph like garbage in order to bring in his guy. He raised expectations that his guy would be a huge upgrade, worth all the bad feelings.

Anderson failed to make enough out of Franklin's departure. He needed to stand up in front of everyone and say that when Franklin rebuffed all attempts to keep in College Park, regretfully, it changed everything.

He needed to say that, regretfully, it meant re-considering the decision to let Ralph finish the contract. He needed to make a big deal out of Ralph's service to the university and needed to say he hoped Ralph would accept an important role in the athletic department. He needed to say all this before Ralph and his lawyer went to the press.

He also needed to say he was re-grouping quickly and would interview an all star panel. He need to say this before Leach's name leaked out as the probable big name he created expectations for.

And in the end he needed to say they were lucky to land on their feet with Edsall, and talk about he could build on everything Ralph started.

I understand that everything I wrote is what Anderson tried to say, but he always seemed to say it a day late, as if he was making it up as he went along. His mistake is that he didn't control this news, he let this news control him. The amateurishness you talk of is a result of Anderson's plan seemingly getting out of hand.

While Franklin's leaving may or may not have been a surprise, Anderson missed the chance to claim the upper hand from that point forward. He could have come across as the take-charge guy who rushed in with a quick solution. The guy who took lemons and made lemonade.

Instead he came across as the guy who created a big mess, wallowed in it, and then got cold feet.

Nice article.

I know there's a learning curve with any new job, but the type of simple--and self-inflicted--errors that Anderson has made so far do not bode well for the future of Maryland athletics.

brwillis: your comment made me chuckle. You're right, of course. Well done. I enjoy a good joke, even when I'm the butt of it. In my (non-) defense, at the University of Montana, we used to say that if you could spell your name correctly most of the time, the admissions office was happy to fast-track your application and get you enrolled. The wife (1998 Maryland honors graduate) and I are hoping our daughter gets her mom's study habits.

Great article Kevin. I'm glad someone finally wrote a thought out article instead of the "Leach or Die" stuff that has come out. You are 100% correct, Maryland does not know what it wants to be and the struggles between the athletic dept and University goes a lot deeper than just admission.
One thing, the media is who put Leach's name out there, not Anderson. So he is guilty of being honest and saying he spoke with a candidate.
And there is a reason why Leach is unemployed still. You may win a few games but you are going to feel pretty dirty afterwards.
Yea, Edsall doesnt have that much excitement behind his name but it will be whats best for the program in the long run.

Nice article.

As for money spent on football...one big issue at UMD is the Terps fund more athletic programs (27) that any other ACC school I believe.

Only 4 ACC schools have lacrosse. And how about competitive cheer. Not all have socer for men and women...or field hockey, or gymnastics, or volleyball, or wrestling.

Terps need to realize only 2 sports (mens basketball and football) are revenue generating. Maybe other programs need to be reduced or eliminated and more funds put into football.

Re: If the Maryland decision-makers wanted a better football program, why hire from West Point? Army's team lags the other service academies and has for years.
I think the choice reflects the Duke/Virginia Tech quandry expressed earlier. Clearly, in this case, Duke won (again!)

Excellent article, Kevin! I personally think Kevin Anderson is a scumbag for the way he first lied to Ralph Freidgen about his job security, and then basically tossed him out with the trash. And nothing against Edsall, but I don't think he is the man for the job. Someone please explain how he is an upgrade. My bet is that Maryland's football program goes downhill.

Anderson absolutely bungled the PR portion of this.

But I'm still amazed that so many people are blaming him for "mistreating" Friedgen. Everyone needs to remember that Ralph agreed to the coach-in-waiting agreement, with a January 2012 date; and that he had a contract that ran through the end of 2011. Franklin stayed because he was counting on the Maryland HC job. Ralph was extremely lucky that he got to come back after going 2-10 -- on the heels of several mediocre seasons. 2010 was a good enough season to justify keeping him through the end of his contract, but not good enough to justify reneging on the Franklin deal. He could have gone out a hero, but he got greedy. I love what Ralph did for Maryland; but he -- not Kevin Anderson -- created the situation that led to his ouster.

Les: do you think Maryland's football program will go downhill to the point where we lose three games to Sunbelt Conference schools (i.e. Middle Tenn State twice and Florida International)? Or where we go 2-10, with one of the wins coming in overtime at home against a I-AA school? Gee, I hope we don't sink that far!

Kevin,

Good column - spot on. However, we do know how much the private schools spend because they get federal dollars thru Title IV (federal student aid).

Maryland ranks *last* in the ACC (behind every school) - check the article below. And MD spends $5M less than UConn.

http://ncaafootball.fanhouse.com/2010/11/16/mcmurphys-law-ohio-state-still-big-spender-with-alabama-irish/

The federal data is located at:
http://ope.ed.gov/athletics/

Okay, I admit it. I am officially old. I had to look up who Brooklyn Decker is.

Nicely written summary, Kevin. Not that I find that unusual coming from you.

Kevin,

Excellent summary. You really nailed it.
One of the things that upset me regarding this coaching change was the hypocrisy demonstrated both by the university and the new coach. University administrators and coaches always talk about wanting their student athletes to no only perform on the field, but also comport themselves in an honorable manner off the field that reflects positively on them and the school.
Yet, the treatment of Mike Leach was atrocious. By the time an interview process has reached the point of the second stage where the spouse also visits and becomes involved, and the candidate is encouraged to do house hunting, it is serious enough that the school should, at the bare minimum, make a courtesy call telling him that it is going in another direction. This is just bad form.

Also, how does a coach not face his (UCONN) players, kids who he recruited with the expectation that he would be there throughout their matriculation, and instead does it via a P A system. This, from a guy who forced one of his players to address his Huskies teammates to tell them he was turning pro. Talk about having no stones. [By the way, did you notice how Randy Edsall's demeanor changed at the press conference when he discussed his actions regarding notifying his (now) former players?]

This whole sordid mess turned out kind of ironically in my opinion. The university hierarchy passed on Mike Leach because he was perceived to be somewhat of a loose cannon and school officials feared that he might embarrass them and the institution. As it turned out, they worried needlessly as they were more than capable of accomplishing all of that on their own.

Umd doesn't want to be Duke or Va tech. Umd wants to be Michgan or Wisconsin and it is already as good as Wisconsin. Duke has contributed nothing to society except Richard Nixon. Va tech has ZERO national championships in ANY sport and its graduates have not invented anything of national importance. Va tech is 1-17 in football against top 5 teams and the team is filled with players who probably don't belong in school...talk about a terrible situation. Umd has 38 national championships..the most in the ACC. Umd is the ONLY school in the ACC to have Nattys in Football and Basketball (both Mens and Womens). Umd graduates have invented or created the following....Google, The Muppets, Under Armour, created Seinfeld and the Wire, built the first large stadium TV system, the Universal Price Code, launched Sirius satelite, Invented the Hybrid Engine, created the Ocatane system, developed linear programming, INvented pulse doppler radar, created the miniture insulin pump, created the Boondocks, Wrote "apollo 13" . The Best thing a Umd alum did was break Watergate and get Dukes' most accomplished graduate impeached. Umd has more Nobel winning, graduates, more Pulitzer prize winning graduates and more Academy award winning graduates tahn any other ACC school. Duke or Va tech.....no thanks.

Well said. As usual, you seem to be the only writer who takes the time to think through and analyze a situation. Granted, the blog gives you more freedom (as you have said) but you still put forth the effort and I appreciate it.

we open against power house towson this year that schould fill the seats

Excellent article---the line I like to use is does Maryland want to be Penn or Penn State in football? The recruits are not fooled and neither are the fans. You can run the numbers as many ways as you want, but football done properly delivers bigger profits than basketball. But when UM should have been expanding Byrd Stadium back in 2002-2003, they were building Comcast Center. They probably should have done both!!! I have been around this most of my life--as a student-athlete, fan and donor. UM has crapped on every coach they have had since Jim Tatum. Coach Claiborne delivered and they gave him new paint on Byrd and a football building that was too small. Bobby Ross delivered and they gave him lights at Byrd. When UM finally started to invest in their football facilities--new press box, North Upper deck and new football house at Byrd in 92/94--they were way behind their competition. Ralph Freidgen delivered the first three years he was there and they gave him an expanded football building when what he really needed was an indoor practice facility and upper deck in the west end of Byrd Syadium to create a big time atmosphere at the games. Ralph was selling every seat his first three years in Byrd. So if you hear one of UM's bumbling adminstrators--and I mean stumblin, fumblin, bumblin !!!!!----that they are making the kind of investments I am describing and improving the schedule, then I will believe Randy Edsall will be around for a long time. Until then, I will believe he will leave after four years and more broken promises-----like Ralph almost did when he listened to Tampa Bay 7 years ago. Looks like he should have taken the money and left because his loyalty ended up leading him to a broken heart!!!

brwillis, Thanks for educating Kevin on the difference between 'than' and 'then' and the proper usage of each. Kevin's a quick learn: he nailed it in the last sentence of the first paragraph of his edit.

Kevin, Thanks for having a sense of humor about brwillis's comment in your response. Aside from that grammatical error, this is a great article. Next time have your wife proofread your story instead of the Sun's editors (an oxymoron). As a Maryland graduate (with or without honors) she would have been able to correct that error.

Go Terps!!

Kevin,

GREAT summary - thanks!

Despite all the anger, frustration, and disappointment, I would hope everyone will direct their anger at Loh, Anderson, and the University and not Randy Edsall, the football program, and our student-athletes.

By threatening to stop donating to the TC, MGN, and/or buying season tickets only hurts the football program, all of our athletic programs, and our student -athletes. Instead of our "protest" waking up the administration and getting them to budget more money where its needed to get from "good to great", the result would be more athletic department budget cuts and possibly the termination of some non-revenue sports programs. Is that what the fan base really wants?

We have to find a better way to get the University decision makers to take the financial risks necessary to compete for these NCs in major sports. We talk about Maryland always wanting to do things "on the cheap" but that applies to the fan base too. We also have to increase our involvement and contributions if we want to be great.

I'd love to see the numbers when it comes to other ACC and national powerhouses when you compare the memberships and contributions of their TC and MGN organizations to ours. Lets also look at season tickets while we're at it. I would imagine that at most schools, their fan bases didnt hold the football programs hostage by threatening not to financially support them until they got great. At many good schools you see packed stands and student sections despite losing records.

The Maryland I grew up with has changed. The 70's and 80's were a different time and the University was a different place - truly a state school for Marylanders and not the smaller research university more concerned with federal funding and international student quotas. The proximety to WDC has changed the place. And thats the dilemma. Its not a "state school" like the others we compete against. Academic priorities have put athletics on a back burner.

If Loh truly believes athletics are a window into the University then he has to understand that if athletic programs - especially the revenue programs - are given deeper pockets - then thats what will draw attention, create excitement, put fannies in the seats, and bring positive attention and monies to the academic programs at Maryland. No offense to any of our very accomplished non-revenue programs, but 99% of people who want to contribute financially with donations in someway arent interested in how many Soccer, Field Hockey, Lacrosse or Competitive Cheer NCs we win. National media exposure and big money contributions come from winning and exciting football and men's basketball programs. Trying to run football or basketball "on the cheap" isnt going to help accomplish all the lofty "good to great" and "I'm here to win championships" promises. All the University is doing is handcuffing their coaches and infuriating the fan base and paying customer.

This area, this market, is also different. The University has to understand that beyond the core true believers who will always support their Terps, it fills up less than half of Byrd - so you have to market and sell to the casual area sports fan who honestly isnt looking to make a long term investment unless there are guaranteed results. They want the "hot ticket". The Wizards play in an empty building most night. The majority of FEDEX Fields ring of gold mezzanine seats are empty. Why? The teams are losing and honestly not very exciting. The Caps - usually close to if not sold out. Why? Winning and exciting. But for a long time it wasnt the case. Remember when things got so bad the franchise almost folded? It didnt because ownership made the necessary changed to create the atmosphere that would sell tickets.

I for one think Randy Edsall can succeed. He has all the qualifications and attributes that the University wants and is is an experienced proven winner. Look at the last four years and understand the years before that he was struggling to build the UCONN program from nothing to something. He'll be a tireless recruiter, seems to have a positive outgoing personality, will graduate his players, and win on the field.

To get from "good to great" however, two things are needed and it requires some faith on the part of all involved.

First: The University is going to have to risk spending more budget money on the football program. Dr Loh, Kevin Anderson: Put the Universitys money where your mouths are. You want to be great - prove it, just dont talk a bout it.


Second: The fanbase has to step up. We have to fund our student-athletes in general through TC memberships and donations. Its all relative too, Even if 1000 fans join at $100/yr. thats $100,000. Its a start that pays a lot of bills. Hopefully even bigger donors join at some point and it gets even better. Its not about contributing because we win, its contributing so we can win. And if football is your passion then join the MGN. Funds that go directly to the football program.

Without these two major factors improving, it doesnt matter who is coaching, we'll never get over the hump.

I can't believe your starting to believe your own fantasy. Don't you realize that the whirlwind of blowhards that you get on the internet can be unrealistic in their expectations of their respect teams? Your buying into it, and living a fantasy.

Do I think that Anderson has learned from this experience? No doubt about that. The guy is class; which means to me, he's a hard working conscientious man. Have you forgotten what an honest man looks like? He does not need to resort to lying. So, now both the President and the Athletic Director know that you believe that the fan base are intolerant of process. I am sure they will work on that, but don't start to presume on your part that it is reasonable......because it ain't.

Kevin,
I have it from reliable sources that Ralph knew nothing about the "coach-in-waiting" contract with Franklin until it was a completed deal. He was informed of it by D. Yow. The screwing of Ralph started under Yow and the last fatal stab was delivered in a totally classless fashion by K. Anderson.

I can remember being on a Terrapin Club trip to the football game at NC State in 2003. We were at a tailgate at the RBC Center and Yow came to the podium and was teary eyed at she spoke about Ralph and his importance to UMD. Oh how things changed! I understand that many wanted Ralph gone, but you are correct in your assessment that the process was totally bungled. Anderson is inept. And I believe that UMD is paying Edsall even less than Ralph. That was the "strategic business" decision!. UMD is cheap! They want a Cadillac Escalade for the price of a Hyndai Elantra. Sooner or later, they will have to get off the fence and decide what it is they really want. MD has a pretty good football team coming back this fall and the future with Danny O'Brien looks good. Hopefully, Edsall won't mess that up. After that, who knows! Edsall will probably have learned by then that MD isn't serious about going from "good to great". He will leave, or be pushed out and we will be right back here again!

I laud the wonderful improvement in the academic reputation of MD. The old days of open admissions are gone. I don't want to see us step back from that. That being said, I understand that it makes recruiting a challenge. But it can be done. Not all good players, football or basketball, are academically challenged!

Well, well well....apparently the process wasn't botched at all. Fridge gets 2 million dollars and a Bowl win/ coach of the year trophy on his way out. Umd gets a coaching upgrade that the Univeristy of Michigan wishes it could have at this point. NOBODY wants Mike Leach. This is totally fitting for the school with the most national championships, nobel alumni, pulitzer alumni and academy award winning alumni in the ACC. Umd....a class act.

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