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Maryland Coach Ralph Friedgen will be back in 2011

Maryland Athetic Director Kevin Anderson, above, makes his first major announcement in the job when he says football coach Ralph Friedgen will be back in 2011. (Photo by Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post)
Maryland Athetic Director Kevin Anderson, above, makes his first major announcement in the job when he says football coach Ralph Friedgen will be back in 2011. (Photo by Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post)

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By Eric Prisbell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, November 18, 2010; 11:29 PM

Five days after he was noncommittal about the future of his head football coach, Maryland Athletic Director Kevin Anderson announced Thursday that Ralph Friedgen will return for the 2011 season.

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The announcement's timing was unexpected because Anderson, while complimentary about Friedgen's job performance this season, had refrained from giving Friedgen a strong vote of confidence as recently as Saturday. But Friedgen's return for what will be an 11th season in 2011 - the final year of his contract - is no surprise.

After finishing 2-10 in 2009 - the first 10-loss season in program history - the Terrapins (7-3, 4-2 ACC) have ensured themselves a winning regular season record and control their own destiny in the ACC's Atlantic Division race. What's more, Maryland would have had to pay Friedgen the $2 million remaining on his contract if it chose to fire him after this season.

In a statement released late Thursday afternoon, Anderson said "based largely on the improved performance of our team and student-athletes this season, Coach Friedgen will be our head football coach next year. Once this season is complete, Ralph and I will sit down to discuss the current state and future of the program."

While Thursday's announcement was the first significant decision by Anderson, who was named Debbie Yow's successor before the season started, the next step remains uncertain. James Franklin, Maryland's offensive coordinator, was named Friedgen's successor in February 2009 and is guaranteed $1 million if he is not named head coach by January 2012.

Friedgen, who has a 73-49 record at his alma mater, has repeatedly said he wants to continue coaching after the 2011 season, and he has been telling prospects that he plans on coaching at Maryland for the majority of their careers. Asked Thursday about wanting to coach long enough to see promising redshirt freshman quarterback Danny O'Brien finish his career, Friedgen nodded yes and added that he wants to coach the other young quarterbacks in Maryland's program, as well.

Anderson has said that, generally speaking, he is not a proponent of coach-in-waiting plans because of the possibility that such an agreement could divide a staff. Friedgen said Thursday that he and Franklin have a good relationship and that they will discuss the coaching situation after the season.

After Maryland beat Virginia, 42-23, on Saturday, three reporters asked Anderson if Friedgen's seventh victory ensured his return in 2011. Anderson remained noncommittal, saying only that he was hoping for a large fan turnout for Saturday's Florida State game and an eighth victory.

When Friedgen, 63, returns for an 11th season, he will have the second-longest tenure of any Maryland coach, behind only Curley Byrd, who coached the Terrapins for 24 seasons.

Maryland had played in just one bowl game in the previous 15 seasons before Friedgen took over for the 2001 season. During Friedgen's tenure, the Terrapins have become bowl eligible seven times in 10 seasons.

But after a disastrous 2009 season, Friedgen's job was in jeopardy. Yow, according to sources, explored securing funding to buy out the two years remaining on Friedgen's contract before Gov. Martin O'Malley voiced disapproval with the prospect of using public funds for a buyout.

Staff writer Mike Wise contributed to this report.

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