The College Football Notebook

December 20, 2010 7:16 AM

Maryland Mistreats The Fridge

RalphFriedgen.jpgMaryland bought out the contract of Ralph Friedgen and is replacing him with Texas Tech's Mike Leach. The Terps have made a bad error in judgment and mistreated a man who's turned their football program into a model of respectability. Friedgen arrived in 2001 with the Maryland program on hard times. In his first season he won the ACC title and went to the Orange Bowl. Maryland's championship ended a Florida State dynasty that had seen the Seminoles go 9-for-9 on titles their first nine years in the league. Maryland followed that up with double-digit wins in 2002-03, each year capped by a bowl win--and over good programs in Tennessee and West Virginia. The next two years were tough and 5-6 years left them home for bowl season. With questions swirling about his job status, Friedgen rattled off three more winning seasons and bowl trips. 2009 was the low point, as the Terps won two games and even supporters, including myself, figured his time had run out. It was generally accepted that he needed to win six games and get bowl-eligible in order to save his job. He won eight and it was announced he was coming back. Now comes official word that he's gone.

Friedgen lost his coach-in-waiting, James Franklin, to Vanderbilt since the conclusion of the regular season. Supposedly this was the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back. Franklin was given credit for the team's recruiting and it was believed that his departure would drastically reduce the talent level in College Park. This reminds me of Notre Dame deciding Ty Willingham wasn't recruiting well enough and firing him after the 2004 season. The Irish are still trying to exceed the results Willingham produced. On another level, the Notre Dame decision in 2004 also bears some scrutiny here--ND gave the job to Charlie Weis, because of his role as offensive coordinator for the New England Patriots. What the world found out is that assistants derive their success from the head coach, not vice-versa. Before you think I've cracked and am comparing Friedgen to Bill Belichick, I'm not. I'm only pointing out one prominent situation that we should look it before attributing Maryland's recent success to Franklin.

I hope Friedgen lands on his feet. There's lot of programs that would be happy to go to seven bowls in ten years and mix a major bowl appearance in there. He's also a terrific offensive mind. A friend of mine who is a Virginia Tech fan pointed out that the Fridge and Frank Beamer are good friends. The most common criticism of the Hokies is they aren't creative enough offensively. Could Friedgen find his way to Blacksburg as a coordinator and rehabilitate himself for another head coaching shot? Whatever the future holds, the big guy deserves best wishes and future success. It's Maryland's loss, not his.

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Dan Flaherty is the editor of the Sports Notebook Family, published through the Real Clear Sports Blog Network, offering daily commentary in the NFL, coverage of college basketball.  and bowl commentary in college football. He is the author of The Last New Year's, a book that revisits the historic high points of college football's New Year's Day bowl games.

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