Terrapins lose to Florida State; Friedgen's status uncertain

A $4 million buyout might not be enough to save Ralph Friedgen's job.
A $4 million buyout might not be enough to save Ralph Friedgen's job. (Phil Coale/associated Press)
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By Eric Prisbell and Steve Yanda
Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, November 22, 2009

TALLAHASSEE -- The future of Maryland Coach Ralph Friedgen is now in doubt, and a buyout of more than $4 million will not prevent the school from making a change, according to sources who have been briefed on the financial details of Friedgen's contract.

Friedgen's fate is expected to be determined in a postseason meeting with school officials, the sources said, and Friedgen may have to make multiple staff changes to save his job.

Friedgen has two years remaining on his contract and is in the midst of his fourth losing season in the past six years. After losing to Florida State, 29-26, on Saturday, Maryland (2-9, 1-6 ACC) is one defeat away from posting its first 10-loss season in school history.

Maryland Athletic Director Debbie Yow, who has said that Friedgen, like all coaches, will be evaluated at season's end, had no further official statement Saturday.

Friedgen's attorney, Jack Reale, said neither he nor Friedgen have been approached about any sort of buyout by the athletic department. "I've heard no such thing. Ralph has heard no such thing. If that's going on behind the scenes, then I have no knowledge of that," Reale said.

If Friedgen is not retained, the sources said discussions would need to occur between school officials and offensive coordinator James Franklin, who was named the coach-in-waiting in February. Those discussions would involve the team's struggles this season, staffing and recruiting goals.

Another source who has been briefed on the financial details of Maryland's coaching situation said that the fates of Friedgen and Franklin are tied because both are responsible for the team's recent struggles.

Additionally, the source said that while Friedgen publicly endorsed the move to formally name Franklin as Friedgen's successor, Friedgen privately resented it because he had concerns about the move negatively affecting the other coaches on staff and how they viewed the hierarchy within the program. School officials have said they made the move because neither they nor Friedgen believed they could afford to lose Franklin, who had been pursued by NFL and college teams.

The sources requested anonymity because of the sensitive nature of a situation that remains unresolved.

Maryland has guaranteed Franklin $1 million if he is not named head coach after the 2011 season. If Franklin is named head coach, he is contractually guaranteed a five-year contract and a salary no less than the average salary of the ACC's football coaches.

When contacted Saturday morning, Franklin's agent, Neil Cornrich, did not immediately provide comment on Franklin's contract status.

Maryland has felt financial effects from recent struggles. The school's projection of season ticket sales this season missed by $600,000, a school official said.

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