Bashing the Fridge is bad form
By Don Markus
There is a transition period associated with any college coaching move, so the struggles that Randy Edsall and his Maryland team seem to be having on and off the field in College Park this season are not surprising.
What is a little disconcerting is the way Edsall has continually pointed a rather obvious finger at Ralph Friedgen for what Edsall inherited in January. It was almost a way to give himself an excuse if the Terps didn't win this year.
The low point came this week. Forget for a moment last week's embarrassing 38-7 blowout loss at home to Temple -- something, by the way, that never happened at Byrd Stadium to one of Friedgen's teams during his 10-year tenure.
Though careful to avoid mentioning his predecessor by name during his regular Tuesday news conference, Edsall took a verbal swipe at the Fridge with a few of the comments he made. It wasn't even thinly veiled; it was as transparent as you could be.
Asked about the transition, Edsall said, "It's not what just happens on the football field. The process doesn't happen overnight because people don't just change overnight. It takes time, especially if young people aren't used to being held accountable."
This isn't the University of Miami that Edsall is talking about, or some other renegade program where players are selling football memorabilia for tattoos (Ohio State) or taking gifts from agents (North Carolina, Georgia, Miami, and probably dozens of other schools).
From what I know, having been around Friedgen's program during the decade he spent back at his alma mater, is that he cared about his players graduating and not acting like fools. He also cared about winning, and was the third winningest coach in Maryland history when he was fired after a 9-4 season in 2010.
I'm sure Edsall wasn't thrilled to find out the Terps had lost three scholarships this year after a slip academically toward the end of a 2-10 season two years ago caused Maryland to fall under the Mendoza Line of college sports -- the dreaded APR.
The loss of practice time because former interns and graduate assistants had broken the rules by watching practice certainly irked Edsall, too. But Edsall made it clear from the first time he met with his players and told them to remove their caps and do-rags inside the Gossett Team House that there was a new sheriff in town.
I agree with a lot of the things Edsall has said and done, but the implication that Friedgen did not hold his players accountable for their actions is simply not true. In fact, it borders on character assassination of a good and decent man who poured a decade of his life into bringing a dead program back to life.
Maybe benching six starters for part of a minor bowl game after breaking curfew is not as strong a message as the two-game suspensions Edsall handed starting wide receivers Ronnie Tyler and Quintin McCree for their late-night escapade at the 7-Eleven two weeks ago, but in both cases, the punishment probably fit the crime. (I am still trying to figure out what there is to do in Boise to cause players to miss curfew.)
I applauded Edsall's decision to sit out the two receivers, and it has certainly proved costly in Maryland's two defeats without them. I do think that Edsall is trying to change the culture in College Park, and only time will tell whether it is for the better.
But there's no reason to bash Friedgen as much as there's no reason -- yet -- to second-guess Kevin Anderson's decision to hire Edsall.
Would it be right for Friedgen or one of his supporters to suddenly come out and question why Edsall or new defensive coordinator Todd Bradford moved All-ACC safety Kenny Tate to linebacker, or what has happened to quarterback Danny O'Brien under the tutelage of new offensive coordinator Gary Crowton?
Whatever good feeling was created with Maryland's opening-night victory over a Miami team playing without nine starters and its valiant fourth-quarter comeback against a West Virginia team that subsequently got blown out at home by LSU is now gone.
Edsall is not winning any new Maryland fans with the way his team played on the field last Saturday and might have lost a few old ones with some of the comments he made in the aftermath of the most embarrassing home loss in recent memory.