COLLEGE PARK - Georgia Tech offensive coordinator Ralph Friedgen has been offered the head football coaching job at Maryland, sources close to the Terrapins program and to Friedgen said last night. It is not known whether Friedgen will accept the offer.
Sources close to Friedgen indicated he was trying to make sure the commitment he received from Maryland was enough to quickly turn around the moribund program. It wasn't so much the financial package he was offered, the sources said, but the money being put into the program to make it competitive with the rest of the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Terms of the contract offer were not available, but Friedgen was likely not to accept anything less than the same kind of five-year rollover deal he had at Georgia Tech. Friedgen has been making a reported $200,000 a year, a figure that would increase significantly should he become the new Terps coach.
Friedgen, 53, and his wife, Gloria, were in Maryland last night. A family member said from the Friedgens' home in suburban Atlanta that Gloria Friedgen, who teaches and coaches at a local school, was not expected back home until tomorrow.
Maryland athletic director Debbie Yow was not available for comment last night. Friedgen was seen leaving the football team house last night with associate athletic director Rob Mullens, but neither would comment.
Whatever Friedgen said during his meeting Sunday in Atlanta with Yow apparently was impressive enough for him to go to the top of her list of candidates. Whatever he said during his interview yesterday with Yow and the rest of the search committee was equally effective, because he was immediately offered the job.
If he accepts the offer, Friedgen could be introduced as soon as today at a campus news conference.
Actually, it would be a reintroduction. Friedgen played at Maryland in 1968, graduated the next year and started his coaching career here as a graduate assistant under Jerry Claiborne in 1972. He was offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach for Bobby Ross from 1982 to 1986, when the Terrapins went 39-19-1, winning three ACC championships.
Friedgen left when Ross went to Georgia Tech in 1987. Three years later, the Yellow Jackets beat Nebraska in the Florida Citrus Bowl and claimed a share of the national championship. Ross went to the San Diego Chargers after the 1991 season, and took Friedgen with him as offensive coordinator. The Chargers won the AFC championship in 1994.
When Ross moved to the Detroit Lions in 1997, Friedgen returned to Georgia Tech as offensive coordinator under George O'Leary. At the time, Friedgen said he went back to the college ranks to become a college head coach. He had tried to get the Maryland job in 1996, but was never interviewed when Ron Vanderlinden was hired.
This offer to Friedgen, who last season won the Frank Broyles Award as the nation's top assistant, came eight days after Vanderlinden was fired after four losing seasons and a 15-29 record. Yow said the night she announced the firing that she had a three-week timetable to find a new coach.
But things moved quickly once it was apparent that Friedgen and Toledo head coach Gary Pinkel were the only candidates Maryland had contacted who were interested in coaching here. Pinkel, 48, has been at Toledo for 10 years and is reported to be under consideration at Missouri, where he is expected to interview today. Pinkel couldn't be reached last night.
Former Clemson offensive coordinator Rich Rodriguez, who took the head coaching job at West Virginia on Sunday, and East Carolina head coach Steve Logan visited the Maryland football offices in the past few days, said a source close to the football program.
It is believed Friedgen was the only candidate formally interviewed by the search committee this time, just as Vanderlinden was back in 1996. The biggest difference is Friedgen is well-known at Maryland and throughout the ACC, and his familiarity with the program and the league likely factored dramatically in the job offer.
"It's a plus," Terps punter Brooks Barnard said last night. "He has been coaching in the ACC, so he knows the competition."
"I think it would be a tremendous hire," said former Maryland quarterback Boomer Esiason, who had recommended Friedgen to Yow four years ago. "I certainly will be much more involved with the football program and university [if Friedgen is coach]. Ralph certainly realizes what Maryland is all about and what the ACC is all about."
Friedgen is considered one of the brightest offensive minds in the country. The son of a high school coach in Harrison, N.Y., Friedgen was recruited to Maryland as a quarterback, but also wound up playing linebacker and on the offensive line.
Friedgen had done impressive jobs with players at Georgia Tech such as quarterbacks Joe Hamilton and Shawn Jones, who led the Yellow Jackets to a share of the national championship in 1990, but topped himself this season.