Terrapins agree to keep Friedgen under one condition: win

After two days of talks, coach will return for his 10th season

The Terps' head coach, Ralph Friedgen, talks with Washington Post Live's Ivan Carter about being hired back for next season despite his team's 2-10 record this year.
By Eric Prisbell and Steve Yanda
Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Maryland Coach Ralph Friedgen will return for a 10th season at his alma mater with the knowledge of the baseline expectation his athletic director has established for next year: a winning regular season.

"I would anticipate that in the regular season we would have a winning season," Maryland Athletic Director Debbie Yow said in a telephone interview Tuesday. "We play 12 games, so I would anticipate that we would be 7-5 at least in the regular season."

Winning is just one of the challenges Friedgen faces after Yow assured the coach of a return in a morning phone call Tuesday. The two met for a combined 3 1/2 hours Sunday and Monday in Yow's office in what Yow called candid and collaborative discussions about the state of a program that has endured four losing seasons in the past six years.

The return of Friedgen, who has a 66-46 record at Maryland after going 2-10 this season, means that Friedgen's focus will now shift to helping to stem the loss of season ticket holders, solidifying the recruiting class and evaluating assistant coaches. The decision to make any staff changes will be made by Friedgen, who said Tuesday that he has not yet had time to consider extensions for assistants.

When asked who will be held accountable for recent struggles if there are no staff changes, Yow said: "What matters is the outcome of the coming season. Whatever staff it is, whoever he wants, we're going to go with, and that will be proven to be a wise choice or not a wise choice based on the outcome of the season."

Yow said she has a "valid concern" about season ticket sales, which have declined each of the past five years, and said the issue was an important part of the talks with Friedgen. The school's season ticket sales projection this season was missed by $600,000, a school official said, and officials are bracing for losses projected between $800,000 and $1 million next season. Friedgen has volunteered to help sell season tickets.

"He said to me: 'Tell me what I need to do to help sell tickets and I will do it. I understand that I am one of the two revenue-sport coaches and that there is a balance between what I am paid and what is expected of me,' " Yow said. "That is part of why he makes $2 million [per year] is we need a return on that investment to help keep the other sports whole. He is open about that and understood that."

Friedgen spent much of Tuesday reassuring prospects that he would remain head coach next season. None had de-committed despite rumors circulating among college coaches for weeks that Friedgen would be fired. Friedgen planned to fly to visit prospects Tuesday evening. But concerns remain.

Mike Farrell, the lead recruiting analyst for Rivals.com, said next year Maryland is going to have "a lot of difficulty selling the program because a lot of people consider this a one-year extension, so to speak. They are going to have to convince recruits that Ralph's not a lame-duck coach, that the future looks bright at Maryland."

Farrell said Maryland's two best recruiters are offensive coordinator James Franklin and defensive line coach/recruiting coordinator Dave Sollazzo, but that the jury is still out on Sollazzo, so "if they don't make a change, some strategy and some relationships with local high schools need to really be improved a bit."

No changes will be made to Friedgen's contract, which expires after the 2011 season, and Friedgen also made no requests to change the coach-in-waiting plan in place for Franklin, who was named Friedgen's eventual successor in February.

In a teleconference with reporters, Friedgen said: "I am very thankful for the opportunity. Hopefully I was not just judged on this year. I think it shows the confidence the administration has in me and our program. I am willing to repay that with everything I have to make this a team that we expect it to be."

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