Fired Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen deserved better from his alma mater
Tuesday, December 28, 2010; 11:41 PM
For the first time in forever Ralph Friedgen failed to dress up in a Santa suit and reprise his annual role for his players over the weekend. Just didn't feel right, the Fridge said, explaining why he handed his jolly-old-fellow duties to another bear of a man, Maryland assistant Mike Lynn.
"Obviously we needed a change," Friedgen said, "so I thought'd I'd have another Santa Claus for you."
The coach laughed hard Tuesday night as he related that satiric poke, which was probably aimed at whoever the hell is running Maryland athletics these days - maybe an athletic apparel company, possibly the board of trustees or, the long shot, an athletic director who's been here about five minutes.
It was going on 6 o'clock in his hotel room, hours after his last practice with a Terrapin football team, 30 minutes before he ate with his players for the last time - the night before his last game.
Beneath the humor, the big man was obviously hurting.
"I've always been very loyal to Maryland," Friedgen said. "But it doesn't feel like they've been very loyal to me.
He added, "It didn't need to end this way."
No. It shouldn't have ended this way.
Before the Military Bowl ends Wednesday at RFK, the person or people who conspired to get rid of Friedgen should know: unlike the next booster-soothing choice who steps up to the podium, Friedgen saw coaching at his alma mater as a career destination, not a stepping stone for the next big job.
He could have left for Georgia Tech or the Tampa Bay Buccaneers that first year; he stayed. He said no to the Falcons, Giants and Bears, who all inquired about the Fridge's interest after his third season at Maryland in 2003. Each time he said no, coaching in College Park was where he wanted to be.
"Even when things weren't going well, I was always happy at Maryland," he said.