Two months into the 2011 season, Maryland’s handling of its coaching transition appears to have been a disaster. The sexy uniforms have been poor camouflage for the team’s decidedly unsexy play under Randy Edsall. Instead of invigorated, the fanbase has been plied with wine and tucked into bed. That, apparently is where most of them were last Saturday.
The team is a mess. Maryland lost 28-17 at home to previously winless-in-FBS Boston College. The Terps have lost six straight to FBS opponents since their opening win over Miami. Maryland is 79th in yards per play on offense (55th in 2010) and 88th in yards allowed per play on defense (11th in 2010). A team that won eight FBS games last season, will be fortunate to win three. Edsall was hired for his high floor. Said floor appears to be far lower than expected.
Part of Edsall’s commission was to sell the program. He hasn’t been. Local media claim he has been cagey, restricting access to players and coaches. His policies against long hair, facial hair and jewelry don’t seem to be huge hit with recruits supposedly dazzled by the Under Armour jerseys. Talented (and now benched) quarterback Danny O’Brien might be leaving. The redshirt sophomore would be a hot commodity. He would have two years of eligibility left. He would not need to sit out a year since he’s on track to graduate in three years.
Prospects under Edsall appear bleak, significantly more bleak than was conceivable under one of the three options Maryland passed up.
Keeping Ralph Friedgen. The Fridge hadn’t been getting it done. His Top 25 finish in 2010 was the Terps’ first since 2003. There was ample justification for moving in a different direction. That said, the team had just turned around with an impressive young quarterback. Friedgen was reigning ACC coach of the year. Winning would have brought in fans. There were worse options than signing him to an extension and working out a departure on his terms.
Keeping James Franklin. That guy who single-handedly revolutionized the culture at Vanderbilt and will probably be linked with every top job that comes available the next few years? He was Maryland’s offensive coordinator and “coach-in-waiting.” Maryland, presumably, is a better job than Vanderbilt. They either didn’t tip him off and lock him down or didn’t want him. Either way, that seems a poor decision in retrospect.
Hiring Mike Leach. Maryland wanted a coach that would (a) attract attention nationally and regionally (b) excite the fan base and (c) compete for an ACC title. Mike Leach and his Air Raid would have done all three. He wanted the job. Maryland would have been ensured a clean program as well. Leach had an outstanding lawsuit he refused to settle (no reason he should given what happened). Things might have been awkward with ESPN. These were risks a middling program could have taken.
It’s not clear how much leeway Randy Edsall will receive from Maryland, but a few more losses (and empty stadiums) could see him approaching Mike Stoops territory.