Maryland AD Kevin Anderson is pleased with his hire of Randy Edsall, even if others are not
Tuesday, January 4, 2011; 1:19 AM
When they found themselves together on a dais yesterday, staring into the faces of Maryland officials, players, coaches and alums and the assembled media, Kevin Anderson turned to Randy Edsall and said, "It's just me and you already."
Maryland's fairly new athletic director was joking with his very new football coach, but neither should laugh too hard. Anderson made it clear from the outset: He took input from the search committee and President Wallace D. Loh, but this decision was his decision. His fate is now inexorably linked with Edsall's, and Edsall's with his. It's the college football equivalent of being handcuffed together in a buddy movie.
Anderson can tout all of Edsall's credentials to the heavens, but the fact remains that turning a division I-AA program - excuse me, an FCS program- into a BCS program is not the same thing as taking over a team that was 9-4 last season behind a freshman of the year quarterback and with the ACC coach of the year at the helm.
That's not to say that Edsall can't do it. Maybe he can, and will. But Anderson's sales job of Edsall had a whiff of desperation, like in "Glengarry Glen Ross" when the leads dried up. It must have been hard for Edsall to sit in front of everyone and listen to Anderson field a variety of carefully worded questions that basically asked the same question: How'd you wind up with this guy?
Anderson responded in his rah-rah way, saying that Edsall told him the Maryland job was his dream job. "No one came forward and said 'I want to be the head football coach at Maryland' except Randy Edsall," Anderson said. Since just two candidates even came to College Park to interview despite a nationwide search, does that mean Mike Leach didn't want it enough? Or was attending Lefty Driesell's basketball camp as a kid enough to bump Edsall's rsum to the top of the pile?
Edsall said all the right things yesterday: "My first college football game was right here at Byrd Stadium. I still remember where we sat that day." (Good news: Those seats may still be available!)
He hit the usual "new coach talking points," including academics and competing every year for the ACC championship, as well as the fertile recruiting pool in the mid-Atlantic region. He had praise for Ralph Friedgen, whom he worked with at Georgia Tech for a season. "He's a very good coach and a very good person. I look forward to taking the program to a higher level."
Asked about scheduling more competitive non-conference games, he deferred to Anderson, but when Penn State was mentioned, he quickly chipped in: "We're the University of Maryland. We're not playing two-for-ones." Meaning, of course, the Terps won't go to Happy Valley twice if they're getting only one home game in return.
If Edsall can display more of that moxie, it might help this hire go down better with Maryland fans. Many have made known their displeasure over the handling of Friedgen's departure and the tease of a Leach hire followed by the arrival of Edsall. Asked if he would have to win back some fans, Anderson said, "There's no question that's going to have to occur." He was quick to add, "I've got a bunch of e-mails and text messages from people in the football community saying what a great hire this is."
Again, it might prove so over time. But you shouldn't have to sell a new coach too hard on his first day, especially when you already are having trouble selling seats and suites. The Terps needed to make a splash with this hire, for the alums angry that Friedgen was let go, for the alums looking for a reason to write a check, for recruiting, for marketing, for a lot of reasons.
Instead, they hired a nice, vanilla guy who looks so much like an old-school football coach that if you were playing a video game, you'd choose him as your avatar. During a meeting with some of the Terps players Sunday night, he asked them to take off their hats and do-rags, so during the news conference he took off his new Maryland cap as well, to set a good example.
He started to tear up once Monday, when discussing his former Huskies players. He boarded a plane to Maryland straight from a shellacking by Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl and was unable to tell them in person that he wasn't returning. That kind of exit isn't uncommon any more but always leaves a mark.
Still, Edsall travels light - in other words, he doesn't bring a lot of baggage. Leach would have arrived in College Park with a steamer trunk of trouble. But Terps fans were so desperate for a big-name hire, they were willing to overlook the fact that he might have locked a kid in a shed during practice. That's pretty desperate.
And they won't be encouraged to learn that Maryland's hiring pool was so shallow. Of all the candidates Anderson vetted, just two agreed to come to campus for an interview. The one who seemed to want it the most got it. The other one may not even be hired by anyone else. What does that say about Edsall's qualifications, or Anderson's persuasiveness?
One thing is certain: All they have is each other. We'll soon see if this buddy movie has a happy ending.