Friedgen won't regret building for future

Return to Atlanta filled with bittersweet emotion for former Ga. Tech aide

College Football

October 22, 2003|By Kevin Van Valkenburg | Kevin Van Valkenburg,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK - There was a time, Ralph Friedgen admits, when he had come to grips with a cold, hard reality in his life. As much as he wanted it, he felt he would not get a chance to be a head football coach.

He came to that realization at some point during his nine years as an offensive coordinator at Georgia Tech, and so with some reluctance, he decided to build a house in Atlanta. There were good feelings involved with the decision as well, Friedgen said. He and his wife, Gloria, had been hesitant to build a house previously because of the nomadic life often led by coaches and their families. They didn't want to construct the perfect place, then have to turn around and sell it a few years later.

"I was waiting to build a house for a long while," Friedgen said. "Then I realized I was 52 years old. I started doing the math to see if I could make it to 70. I figured I'd better start enjoying life a little bit."

Once completed, the house, which overlooks a lake, brought a Zen-like peace to Friedgen's life. Being an assistant coach, and being quite good at your job, wasn't such a bad lot after all. But life, as everyone knows, threw Friedgen a heck of a curve when Maryland athletic director Debbie Yow called wondering if he'd like to run his own program in College Park.

The answer, obviously, was yes, but Friedgen couldn't bring himself to sell the house. It remains a reminder of all the good years he had and good friends he made in Atlanta, a place he plans on retiring to someday. During Maryland's bye week, he spoke at the Atlanta Touchdown Club on Oct. 13, then spent the night in the familiar confines of his home away from home.

"I just slept there and went to the airport the next day," Friedgen said. "I did get up and have coffee and sit on my deck and look out over the lake for a few minutes. After that, I'm good for another six months."

He will not, however, stop by his house when Maryland plays Georgia Tech tomorrow.

"Atlanta has been good to me, and Georgia Tech has been good to me," Friedgen said. "I have a lot of friends there. ... It's always [going to be] a special place to me. But we're going on a business trip. They're not going to be real nice to me, and I don't plan on being real nice to them."

After the game, he'll hug a few friends and shake plenty of hands, but the game won't quite carry the same emotional weight it did two years ago, when he was up against his best friend, George O'Leary, and trying to coach against players he spent years with. His heart now is in Maryland, as is his current house, in Silver Spring.

"[My wife] has houses all over the place," said Friedgen, who also still owns a house in South Carolina from his time as a coach at The Citadel. "We went on [a trip for Nike-sponsored football coaches], and all the head coaches' wives had diamonds. Big rings and stuff. I felt maybe I wasn't treating her right. She said to me, `No, I've got houses.' That made me feel better."

NOTES: Bruce Perry, who Friedgen said is as healthy as he's been all season, will start against the Yellow Jackets. Sophomore Josh Allen had started five straight games. ... Maryland has been getting off to quick starts this year. The Terps have outscored their opponents 64-10 in the first quarter this season. ... Despite being off last week, Shawne Merriman is still tied for the conference lead in sacks with six. Maryland's defense leads the ACC with 24 sacks. ... This is the third straight year and the sixth time since 1995 that Georgia Tech and Maryland have played a Thursday night game on ESPN. The Terps have won three of the five previous games, including the last two.

Next for Terps

Matchup: Maryland (5-2, 2-1) vs. Georgia Tech (4-3, 2-2)

Site: Bobby Dodd Stadium, Atlanta

When: Tomorrow, 7:45 p.m.

TV/Radio: ESPN/WBAL (1090 AM)

Line: Maryland by 2 1/2

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