Sunday, November 6, 2011

Greed May Not Be Good--Especially For College Athletic Directors

Not too many sports fans outside of the mid-Atlantic area follow University of Maryland's football program, and I certainly don't. I did notice that the football team finished the 2010 season with an 8-4 record and almost won the ACC title, a tremendous turnaround from their 2009 record of 2-10. Ralph Friedgen, their coach, was rightfully named conference coach of the year. So how did Maryland reward him? Perhaps extending his contract which had only one year left to run? No, they fired him after a successful 10 year run in which he turned around the football program, though the first part of his tenure was admittedly more successful than the back half.

This would leave us to wonder as to the justification for the firing. Did the coach kick kittens, or perhaps mistreat players. No, not at all. Rather, in the thinking of the athletic director, Fridgen had raised Maryland's football program to the good level. However, the AD said good wasn't, well, good enough. Maryland football should be great. So bye bye Friedgen and hello Randy Edsall, hired away from Connecticut. This turned out to be a great hire right off the bat in the Maryland AD's search for greatness. In the first game of the 2011 season, Maryland beat the vaunted Miami Hurricanes on national television. Clearly, Maryland football was on the road to greatness.

Now after the victory over Miami I kind of lost track of Maryland's football fortunes. However, I just noticed this weekend that Maryland was whacked by traditional archrival Virginia by the score of 31-13. Since the Miami victory, this was Maryland's seventh loss in eight games, which included a loss to Boston College, previously thought to be the sorriest team in the ACC. Ralph Friedgen, where are you?

This episode is reminiscent of Nebraska's firing of their head coach a few years ago after Nebraska finished the season with a 10-3 record. The athletic director explained the firing saying that he would not be the one to oversee Nebraska football's descent into mediocrity. He was wrong as Nebraska won only 27 games in the next four years under the AD's hand picked successor, including two losing seasons. I suspect Maryland might not exceed that output.

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