Thursday, December 30, 2010

Maryland, my Maryland

Washington Post columnist Mike Wise succinctly summarizes one of the problems with today's big-time college athletics -- there is no loyalty.

Despite being an alum of the University of Maryland, and despite turning a moribund program into something that fans and alums could support, Ralph Friedgen is out. Another Washington-based sports reporter sums up why:
Many Maryland supporters grew tired of Friedgen, especially after he had only three winning campaigns in the last seven seasons. Fans were spoiled after Friedgen won 31 games in his first three years in College Park, then became indifferent, as shown by waning attendance the past two years
Incoming Maryland athletic director Kevin Anderson was caught in a tough spot. With five assistant coaches leaving for Vanderbilt, Friedgen would have been left with half of his staff for the final year of his contract. Finding good replacement coaches for one season would be nearly impossible. Recruiting would be wrecked. It smelled of a desperate situation that the Terps couldn't financially endure.
But Friedgen was also dismissed after being named the ACC coach of the year and guiding the Terps to a 9-4 record. He deserved to return for the last year of his contract. Then again, he deserved to be fired after going 2-10 in 2009.
Friedgen felt the school wasn't loyal to him. But loyalty earned Friedgen the chance for redemption in 2010. Rarely does a coach or player leave thinking he received every day he wanted. Everyone feels cheated when a career becomes fleeting.
Consider that Friedgen finished with a 75-50 record at Maryland and was 5-2 in bowl games. The expectation is that Mike Leach, the former Texas Tech head coach, will replace Friedgen. (Full disclosure -- many readers of this blog know I taught for two years at Texas Tech and during the period in which Leach was there. I don't know the man, but I like his style and I think he's a fantastic coach. I'm happy to hear he's likely back as a head coach.)

Regardless of who does, Friedgen made clear after his team's Military Bowl win over East Carolina that he will have a hard time improving on Friedgen's career record.
I can tell you this — it's not an easy job. ... There's a lot of things that really have to change to help it reach its potential. And, to be honest with you, I don't know if the university is willing to do that. You've kind of got to know that going in. ... What happens to a lot of coaches who come to Maryland, they think it's like every other place, and after their third year they realize it isn't, and they're stuck.

People are concerned about my legacy, and my legacy is what it is — 75-50 ... I gave it the best I had for 10 years, and obviously that's not good enough right now, and that's what hurts. ... I leave the job a lot better than when I got it, so if someone else can come in and do better, my hat's off to them. (Use this link to access the full AP report from which this quote appeared.)
Friedgen's supporters and critics have enough ammunition to justify their belief that the university's administration and athletic director were/were not fair to him. Regardless of whether he should have been fired is the reality that loyalty is non-existent in college sports today.

As the football, basketball, baseball and other programs have become managed as and considered equivalent to professional sports, the need to eliminate he or she who is not performing NOW is part and parcel of the job.

The old joke about professional coaches is that they are hired to be fired. It's now true on the collegiate level as well.



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