Charlie Taaffe, who led the Montreal Alouettes to the Canadian Football League's Grey Cup game nine days ago, has resigned to take the offensive coordinator job at Maryland.
Taaffe, 50, is the first hire on the coaching staff of former Georgia Tech offensive coordinator Ralph Friedgen, who replaced Ron Vanderlinden as Maryland football coach Nov. 29. Taaffe and Friedgen have known one another for the past 20 years.
"This was one of the most difficult decisions of my life," Taaffe told the Canadian Press yesterday.
Former Bowling Green coach Gary Blackney and Georgia Tech defensive assistant Dave Sollazzo are expected to coach defensive backs and defensive tackles, respectively.
Friedgen could not be reached to comment.
Early in the day, Taaffe said he was leaning toward taking the Maryland job, but needed to discuss the matter with his family and the Montreal front office before making a decision.
Like Friedgen, Taaffe also has a reputation as someone who plans great offenses, and he believes the CFL has increased his knowledge of how to gain yardage. He went to the Alouettes in 1997 after nine seasons as coach at The Citadel, starting as an offensive coordinator before taking over as head coach in 1999.
He was the CFL's Coach of the Year in his debut, and has won divisional titles in both seasons as coach.
"This was an opportunity to progress professionally," Taaffe said of his time across the border. "I've had a lot of success. That's what makes this decision tough."
But for Taaffe, who said he spent the weekend in College Park after Friedgen called him about the job Thursday, there were several reasons to make a move:
Montreal pays Taaffe about $78,000 a year ($120,000 Canadian), which would have put him on the low end of the salary scale for Vanderlinden's assistants, a scale that is supposed to be pumped up considerably for Friedgen's staff. Reports out of Canada say that Taaffe's salary at Maryland would be closer to $200,000, though Taaffe would not confirm this.
Poor crowds and competition for talent from the Xtreme Football League mean that victory doesn't guarantee stability for the CFL as a whole.
Football coaches wanting better jobs will find more legitimacy in the college game than in Canada. Taaffe is aware of San Diego Chargers coach Mike Riley, who went from being a successful CFL coach to a Division I college assistant to an NFL head coach in the space of eight years.
"It's good football [in Canada], but you're not in the mainstream," Taaffe said. "This is an opportunity to get back into that arena. This is an option that might not happen again."