Maryland should be ashamed for trying to get rid of Friedgen

Maryland's Alex Wujciak , left, embraces Coach Ralph Friedgen. (Photo by John McDonnell/The Washington Post)
Maryland's Alex Wujciak , left, embraces Coach Ralph Friedgen. (Photo by John McDonnell/The Washington Post)
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By Mike Wise
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, November 20, 2010; 12:31 AM

Thursday evening brought the comforting news that Ralph Friedgen will be returning to coach the Maryland football team in 2011, and any members of Terrapin Nation not thrilled by this need to either be classified as misguided and untrue to their school or have their garages pelted with tortoise eggs.

With Friedgen, it's not merely the seven bowl games in 10 years, making football essentially count again in College Park; it's also time, history. Beyond the resolve of his program, Fridge is simply too connected to the DNA of modern Maryland athletics for anyone but himself to decide when it's time to go.

Long before he took over for Ron Vanderlinden in 2001, he was a quarterback-turned-fullback-turned-lineman at Maryland, recruited by Lee Corso in the mid-'60s, who passed out stats at Cole Field House for the famous Kentucky-Texas Western basketball game in 1966. He assisted Bobby Ross in mentoring Boomer Esiason in the 1980s. He knew and liked Len Bias enough that he's still haunted by the sirens he heard at 5:30 in the morning the day he died. "Just a real nice kid," he said Thursday evening, on what would have been Bias's 47th birthday. "There's still a shroud over that."

In short, Friedgen has done more for, and is more a part of, Maryland athletics than any of the very people who wanted him thrown overboard a year ago. Shame on some of you for trying.

A year after his old boss tried and failed to get the state funds necessary to buy out the remaining two years of his contract, Friedgen sat in his large red-leather chair in his office at the Gossett Team House after practice. The lids of his eyes were barely open as he was continuously prompted for joyous reaction to the news that he will be allowed to fulfill his contract - as if the Board of Trustees had pardoned him.

At 7-3 with much of the same kids, facing Florida State with ACC division title implications on the line Saturday night at Byrd Stadium, it seems insane to think the only thing that may have saved him a year ago was a lousy economy.

It's nuts that such a win-now mentality could exist at Maryland of all places. Did you know the school spends less on its football program than any other ACC school, and in 2009, it spent $1.9 million less than it did in 2008?

This isn't the SEC or the Big Ten, people. Giving the discrepancies in funding, it's a wonder they don't celebrate every eight-win season like it's a national title.

Asked if he would like to coach the entirety of redshirt freshman sensation quarterback Danny O'Brien's Terrapin career, Friedgen shook his head, "Yeah."

"He's got a very bright future," Friedgen said. "I don't know if that's going to happen. I got a lot of guys like that; I recruited all these kids. I get emotional at times because I have a feeling for these kids. They're pretty special to me.

"Kids today . . . the hardest thing for them to learn is perseverance," Friedgen added as he spoke in his office. "And I think it's the most important thing to learn in life. If you can persevere, if you can take the blows, get back up, go back to work, you know, wait for your opportunity, it will come around if you're ready.

"I think it's our society. I don't want to get philosophical, but every kid in Little League gets a trophy. It's like failure is not an option. Everybody is going to be successful. When a computer game doesn't work out, a kid hits 'reset.' No one has to work through anything.

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