Ralph Friedgen Fired as Maryland Plans to Go From 'Good to Great'
They weren't good enough, though, for new athletic director Kevin Anderson to give him a contract extension.
Instead, Anderson bought out the final year of Friedgen's contract on Monday, absorbing the $2 million cost after Friedgen refused to retire. The buyout is effective Jan. 2.
"I no longer believe allowing a head coach to enter the final year of his contract is the best financial decision for our department or for moving our program from good to great," Anderson said during an afternoon press conference.
Anderson said former Texas Tech coach Mike Leach is one of the candidates who Maryland will consider. Anderson denied that he or any member of his staff had contacted any potential candidates and refused to provide any other names on his prospective list.
Leach has ties to Under Armour president Kevin Plank, a former Maryland football player. Under Armour's headquarters are in Baltimore, and Plank described the school as the company's "flagship" when a deal to provide apparel for all of the university's sports was announced in September 2008.
Friedgen will coach Maryland (8-4) in the Dec. 29 Military Bowl against East Carolina. Anderson said the entire coaching staff -- other than offensive coordinator James Franklin, who departed to become Vanderbilt's head coach last week -- agreed to remain for the bowl game.
Friedgen did not attend the press conference. Maryland is expected to resume practice for the Military Bowl -- to be played a short drive from campus at RFK Stadium -- on Wednesday.
Friedgen, the ACC's coach of the year in both his first (2001) and final (2010) seasons, is 74-50 with seven bowl appearances. The Terrapins had one bowl appearance in the 15 seasons before Friedgen took over at Maryland. However, Maryland is 43-42 in the last seven years after a 31-8 start under Friedgen.
It was Franklin who set in motion the process for Friedgen's ouster. Franklin, Maryland's head coach-in-waiting for the previous 22 months, was the Terps' playcaller and ace recruiter. Anderson presumed when he announced last month Friedgen would return in 2011 that Franklin would be on the staff.
Anderson also told Franklin he would be considered -- but was not guaranteed -- of becoming the head coach when Friedgen's contract expired. Franklin's decision to bolt then changed the calculus of Anderson's thinking.
"When James Franklin was named the head football coach at Vanderbilt University and the discussions I had with coach Friedgen, he made it very clear he didn't want to be a lame-duck coach," Anderson said. "We both realized putting him and the football position, we would have a hard time retaining coaches and student-athletes."
Nonetheless, Friedgen's fate remained unresolved for more than 72 hours after Franklin left. Anderson declined to answer a question during a Friday teleconference about whether Friedgen would return as football coach in 2011, fueling speculation the tenure of the third-winningest coach in school history was about to conclude.
Anderson said Friedgen asked for an extension, and Anderson declined the request.
"When we had the discussion and I believe it was last Wednesday and I talked to him about not extending his contract, he looked me in the eye and said he understood and that we were going to sit down," Anderson said. "That was Wednesday, and Friday we would sit down and determine what kind of exit strategy we would have. Somewhere between Wednesday and Friday, that never materialized. I can't tell you what happened, but I gather he had a change of heart."
Even after Franklin's coach-in-waiting deal -- which assured him either Friedgen's job or $1 million by 2012 -- Friedgen made it clear he intended to coach beyond the end of the contract extension he signed in 2004. He survived a 2-10 season in 2009, then helped the Terps quadruple their victory total and earn their first winning season in the ACC since 2006.
That -- coupled with crowds that filled Byrd Stadium to even three-quarters capacity on one occasion -- helped doom Friedgen to an ignominious fate. He becomes the first BCS conference coach to be fired despite winning a coach of the year award, though Bill Curry (1989 Alabama) and Walt Harris (2004 Pittsburgh) left without much resistance from their respective schools.
"What we're doing now is this was a good football team, and I believe it can be great," Anderson said. "And so we're going to bring the best person in here to get to that greatness and to sustain it. That's what we're looking at and that's why the decision has been made at this time."
For more from Patrick Stevens, read the Mid-Atlantic college sports blog D1scourse.com