With Maryland Terrapins' season over, Coach Ralph Friedgen's future looms
Sunday, November 29, 2009
The first 10-loss season in the history of Maryland football concluded with teary-eyed players listening to an emotional head coach deliver what may be a parting message.
"I told them that I expect to be back," Coach Ralph Friedgen recalled telling his team. "But if I am not then I wanted to tell them how much I love them and have appreciated their effort this whole year. Sometimes when things happen you don't get that opportunity."
That final snapshot in Maryland's 2009 season may prove to be the final scene of Friedgen's nine-year tenure at his alma mater. Saturday's 19-17 loss to Boston College marked the latest blow in the most trying season for Friedgen, who is in danger of being fired.
Friedgen's fate is expected to be determined in the coming days after a meeting with Maryland Athletic Director Debbie Yow. Those close to the situation said Friedgen will need to articulate his vision for getting the program back on course. Maryland finished this season 2-10 and 1-7 in the ACC.
When asked after Saturday's game what he will do in the offseason to move the program forward, Friedgen said he wants discuss with Yow specific ways to improve the offense and defense. Friedgen said he has already shared ideas with offensive coordinator James Franklin, and suggested tailoring the offense more to suit his team's personnel. He declined to elaborate.
"I think that is something that needs to be done," linebacker Alex Wujciak said about offensive and defensive changes. "Two and 10 is not acceptable by any means."
After posting a 31-8 record his first three seasons, Maryland has not finished a season in the top 25 since 2003, and season ticket sales have declined each of the past five seasons. The school's season ticket sales projection for this season was missed by $600,000, a school official said.
It would cost Maryland $4 million to buy out the remaining two years on Friedgen's contract. Sources who have been briefed on the financial details of Friedgen's contract have said the cost of the buyout would not prevent Maryland from making a change, should school officials feel one is warranted.
Friedgen said that he wants to coach at Maryland next season, adding that the players "never quit on me; why would I want to quit on them? I want to be there when they are good, so we can think about these times and laugh about them."
Senior defensive lineman Travis Ivey said 80 percent of the blame for this season should be directed at the players rather than coaches, because they are the ones who miss tackles or blow assignments in games.
"I feel [Friedgen] deserves to be here, and deserves to be able to leave on his own terms," Ivey said. "He has done a lot for the school and a lot for me."
Friedgen's fourth losing season in the past six years ended with a frustrating loss before an announced crowd of 35,042 at Byrd Stadium, the smallest crowd there since the final game of the Ron Vanderlinden era in 2000. Far fewer fans were in attendance for much of the game. By game's end, no fans booed. Almost all had departed.