faceoff: who's on the hotter seat, gary williams or ralph friedgen?

Pressure is on 'The Fridge'

August 27, 2008|By BILL ORDINE

Of Maryland's highest-profile coaches, football's Ralph Friedgen and basketball's Gary Williams, it's "The Fridge" who has less room for error.

Those three spectacular campaigns from 2001 through 2003 when Ralph led the Terps out of the wilderness and went 31-8 are beginning to dim in the memory, and among the issues weighing on the faithful is the way Maryland has faded lately.

Three of the past four seasons have been marked by more losses than wins both overall and in the ACC and left a bitter aftertaste.

The Terps finished 2004 with a 2-5 slide; the following year, it was a 1-4 swoon; and last season, they were a disappointing 2-5 down the stretch after hopeful wins over Rutgers and Georgia Tech. Even in 2006, when Maryland went 9-4, it lost its last two regular-season games.

Yes, Friedgen consistently gets his team into bowls (five in seven years) but since the Orange Bowl in the 2001 season, those bowls have mostly declined in prestige.

Perhaps most telling is Maryland's conference record: 19-5 in the first phase of the "Fridge" era and 14-18 the past four seasons. And unlike the men's basketball program, the football Terps cannot lay claim to playing in one of the toughest conferences in the country for their sport.

Of course, most of the above is what has led to the return of former assistant James Franklin as offensive coordinator.

In Friedgen's defense, he has consistently lost some of his best players early to the NFL, the most recent example being linebacker Erin Henderson, a semifinalist for the 2007 Butkus Award, presented to college football's top linebacker, who signed as an undrafted free agent with the Minnesota Vikings. But that's a problem every big-time college coach - football or basketball - has to live with.

The thought here is that if Friedgen doesn't rev up this program soon, he won't have to live with the problem much longer.

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