What Edsall has to do is prove he has learned from those mistakes: No more foot-in-mouth moments. Judging by his actions, Maryland Athletic Director Kevin Anderson is thinking the same way.
Convinced that the athletic department could benefit from being more proactive in dealing with reporters, the school hired a public-relations firm. Anderson also hired Zack Bolno to run the Terrapins’ media relations department. Bolno, who formerly held high-ranking positions in media relations with the Redskins and Wizards, is widely respected in local media circles for his relationship-building skills. Trying to repair Edsall’s image will be a big part of Bolno’s job. I’ve already seen some positive signs.
Edsall has appeared more comfortable recently in interview sessions. He has even personally reached out to reporters to offer help, which would have happened last season about as often as fans drove away happy from Byrd Stadium.
As Maryland prepares to face William & Mary on Sept. 1, Edsall has loosened the reins on media access to assistant coaches and players. Last season, Edsall’s voice was pretty much the only one fans heard. The more access reporters have to newsmakers, the better they can inform fans (in theory, anyway).
Players have noticed a difference in Edsall, who “does seem kind of settled in now,” all-conference defensive lineman Joe Vellano said. “Every coach is different in terms of how they approach situations. When you come into a new situation here like Coach [Edsall] did, it’s going to take a little time.”
With Anderson firmly committed to Edsall, it was best for the program that disgruntled players left. “We need to start building with guys who want to be here,” wide receiver Kevin Dorsey said. “Like on any job, you may have a boss for so many years, and then one day your boss suddenly changes.
“Well, if you want to keep working at that job, you have to adjust to your new boss. Some people just didn’t want to do that. Everyone who stayed knows who the boss is and wants to be here. It’s really that simple.”
It appears Edsall is doing a good job in recruiting. Determined to recruit well in Maryland and the District (for years, the Terrapins have fared poorly in attracting top talent within the area), Edsall signed 12 local players to a 25-member 2012 class.
Once players join the program, Edsall’s commitment to them increases, players say. Edsall serves as the team’s liaison with the new academic support staff.
Over the past three semesters, the team’s grades were higher than in the six semesters before he arrived at Maryland. Edsall has also arranged internships and jobs (all within NCAA rules, school officials assure us) for players.
“People can talk about how many of [the players from last season’s team] that aren’t here, but there are [a lot of] new [players] that want to be here,” Edsall said. “There are guys who carried over from last year who want to be here.
“So when you have that combination, when you have that many people who want to do it together, it’s a whole different environment that we’re involved with. There are so many things moving in the right direction. . . . Now, what we’ve got to do is make sure we win on the field, because that’s really the next step.”
Edsall can only take one at a time. But it seems as if he’s finally trying to put his best foot forward.
For Jason Reid’s previous columns go to washingtonpost.com/reid.