By Steve Yanda and Eric Prisbell
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, December 31, 2010; 1:06 AM
An interview Thursday between former Texas Tech coach Mike Leach and the search committee charged by the University of Maryland to find the school's next football coach went well, according to two individuals close to the athletic department.
Leach met with first-year Maryland Athletic Director Kevin Anderson and first-year university President Wallace D. Loh on Thursday evening, one source said. It remained unclear whether an official offer was extended to Leach as of Thursday night.
The sources did not want to be identified because they were not authorized to speak on Maryland's behalf.
Anderson noted Dec. 20, the day he announced the firing of Ralph Friedgen, that he preferred to hire Friedgen's replacement by Jan. 4, which marks the beginning of a period during which coaches can have contact with potential recruits.
During the past two weeks, Anderson and senior associate athletic director Randy Eaton traveled by plane to meet with prospective candidates, according to a source.
But as of Wednesday, it appeared Maryland had narrowed its sights. On the same day Friedgen, 63, concluded his 10-year tenure as Maryland's coach with a 51-20 victory over East Carolina in the Military Bowl at RFK Stadium, Leach received a tour of the university's campus. Friedgen's contract will be terminated effective Jan. 2, and he will be paid a buyout of roughly $2 million.
Leach, 49, had an 84-43 record in 10 seasons at Texas Tech, including an 11-2 finish in 2008. His prolific "Air Raid" offense made for high-scoring games and an exciting brand of football, something that could arouse a diminished fan base at Maryland.
In addition to winning on the field, Anderson is aiming to make an attention-grabbing hire to stimulate the fan base, sources said. Season ticket sales have declined for five straight seasons. The school fell more than $500,000 short of season ticket sales projections in each of the past two seasons. Only once this season - despite a 9-4 record - did Maryland fill Byrd Stadium to 75 percent capacity.
And despite finishing in a three-way tie for third in the ACC, Maryland fell to the eighth slot in the ACC bowl pecking order in large part because of concerns about how well fans would travel to a bowl game.
From 1999 to 2009, the seating capacity at Jones AT&T Stadium increased by roughly 10,000. During that same period, the school spent $84 million on expanding and renovating the stadium and improving the football facilities. Leach, who took over at Texas Tech in 2000, led the Red Raiders to bowl appearances in all 10 of his seasons.
Texas Tech suspended Leach indefinitely late last year over allegations he mistreated a player, Adam James, who had suffered a concussion. James is the son of ESPN analyst and former NFL player Craig James. The James family contends Leach ordered Adam James to stand for hours in a darkened shed instead of practicing. Leach disputed that version of the events.
Leach was fired Dec. 30, 2009, and in January, he sued Texas Tech for wrongful termination. Leach filed a libel and defamation lawsuit against ESPN in November, claiming its coverage of the story was willfully negligent and damaging to Leach's reputation.
One of Leach's attorneys, Paul Dobrowski, said Thursday in a telephone interview that no school, including Maryland, demanded that Leach drop his lawsuits against Texas Tech and ESPN as a prerequisite to hiring him as its head football coach. Dobrowski also said Leach would "absolutely not" drop either lawsuit, should he be hired by a school before the resolution of either case.