Randy Edsall sat behind the microphone at Gossett Team House on Tuesday, statistics and rosters spread on the table in front. He spoke about the Maryland football team, the strides it made as the Terrapins improved to 2-0 with a 36-27 win over Temple, the work needed to improve for the road ahead. He praised Connecticut, this Saturday’s opponent, for its veteran defense, its shifty backfield and playmakers on special teams.
Then came the first question, directed at the supposed “elephant in the room,” the one everyone knew would be addressed. The Terps are on the verge of starting 3-0 for the first time since 2001. But the story lines are more about the emotion of the moment, the magnitude of Edsall facing his former team. More precisely, what will it be like for him to coach against Connecticut, a program from which he left two years ago in favor of Maryland?
The circumstances have become all too familiar. After Edsall was hired to lead the Terps, he did not accompany the Huskies on their charter flight back from the Fiesta Bowl on Jan. 1, 2011. The players landed, but text messages told them Edsall had departed.
“It’s something I have to live with,” Edsall said Tuesday. “I wish I could have talked to those players in person. But the circumstances in our profession didn’t allow that, and that’s something I have to live with.”
To his credit, Edsall entered the press conference fresh off a telephone interview with Connecticut media members, so he basically answered the same exact questions twice over in a half-hour span.
He thanked the U-Conn. family for the opportunity provided over 12 seasons coaching the Huskies. He spoke of his debt to the state and the university, former Athletic Director Lew Perkins and former President Phil Austin. He credited Governor John Rowland and Speaker of the House Tom Ritter for raising the funds that built U-Conn.’s new field, football complex and training center.
He iterated pride for what he accomplished in Storrs, Conn., from building a winning program that included two Big East titles and five bowl games. But, as Edsall said, coaching at Maryland was a matter of returning home. The Glen Rock, Pa., native grew up watching Baltimore teams, going to basketball camp in the area.
After all, it’s why Maryland and Connecticut will square off Saturday in the first place. While at U-Conn., Edsall scheduled Maryland with the intention of coming back home.
“It’s just one of those things, when I came here, this is where I grew up,” Edsall said. “When I was at Connecticut, I just thought it would be a good game for us in terms of recruiting down here, but also from the standpoint, just to get back down in this area.
“Everyone has their reasons for doing what they want to do in life. Again, this is just the third game on the schedule. It happens to be against Connecticut. This one is just going to count as much as the William & Mary game and the Temple game last week. That’s what all the focus and the attention is on, trying to get a third win, put it in the bank, and move on from there. We’ll work that way this week to try to get it done.”
Plenty of Huskies are still on scholarship after Edsall recruited them to Connecticut. Contact has been limited between the two sides, per NCAA rules, but Edsall still keeps the occasional tab on his former players.
“People that you recruit, you’ve gotten to know, you do,” Edsall said. “You follow them. But hey, you wish them well in every game except when you’re going to play them.”