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Fans of Redskins, Maryland Football Losing Patience With Programs
The college game is different. The buck most definitely stops with the head coach. He chooses the staff and recruits the players. If Maryland is too young this season, that's on Ralph Friedgen. He's in his ninth year so if there's a recruiting gap, the finger should be pointed at him.
Having said that, it is worth remembering where Maryland football was when Friedgen arrived prior to the 2001 season. It had been mediocre, at best, since Bobby Ross had fled. Maryland alumni, led by Boomer Esiason, all but demanded that Debbie Yow hire Friedgen, also a Maryland grad, and it worked. Friedgen's first three seasons were breathtaking. The Terrapins were 31-8, went to the Orange Bowl as the ACC champions in 2001 and won bowl games the next two seasons. Three straight years with at least 10 wins. That's unheard of at Maryland.
Since then, there's been a clear leveling off. After the Middle Tennessee loss, Friedgen is 34-30 dating from 2004 and has had three losing seasons in the last five although last year was better: 8-5 including a bowl win, albeit in the Humanitarian Bowl.
That said, the Terrapins have never been more than a game under .500 under Friedgen, and he has earned some benefit of the doubt -- in part because he's had success; in part because he infused new energy into the program and was responsible for Maryland being able to raise the money for its stadium expansion, which in hindsight might not have been such a great idea.
Friedgen is 62. In February, at Yow's insistence, James Franklin was put in place as the "coach-in-waiting," a move that apparently didn't thrill Friedgen, who would like to decide when to retire on his own terms. There is still time for this team to recover. The schedule is hardly daunting. Rutgers, Virginia, Duke, North Carolina State and Boston College are all mediocre at best. Friedgen's team tend to improve as the season goes on.
Of course, as with the Redskins, if things don't improve there will be cries for Friedgen's head, calls to move the youthful Franklin up sooner rather than later. Friedgen deserves better than that. At the very least he deserves next season -- regardless of what happens this season-- to see what he can do with a team that should be more mature.
Most fans don't want to hear about inexperience. They don't want to hear the quarterback needs more time or the coach needs the owner and alleged general manager to do a better job picking players and dealing with the salary cap.
They want wins. If they don't get them, they're going to boo. And, as we found out Sunday, on occasion they'll boo even when they do get a win. To quote Keith Jackson, "folks around here are just plain tough to please."
For more on the author, visit his Web site at www.feinsteinonthebrink.com