Friedgen Says He Might Stay On

Aide Was Promised $1m If Not Made Coach By 2012

July 01, 2009|By Jeff Barker | Jeff Barker,jeff.barker@baltsun.com

COLLEGE PARK - -University of Maryland football coach Ralph Friedgen says he might want to remain in his post for up to five more years if the team is performing well - a move that could complicate the school's coaching succession plan.

Friedgen, 62, said in an interview with The Baltimore Sun that he might want to stay beyond the three years for which he is under contract. On Feb. 6, the university signed an agreement promising to pay $1 million to offensive coordinator James Franklin - who has turned down coaching jobs at other schools and in the NFL - if he is not elevated to head coach by Jan. 2, 2012.

Athletic director Deborah Yow said it is premature to speculate about when the coaching change would occur. She said Friedgen and Franklin, 37, have a close relationship and suggested the two could work out any issues related to the timing of Franklin's promotion.

"We don't intend to ever pay the million dollars. Things are going to be good," Yow said.

Interviewed in his office overlooking the Byrd Stadium field, Friedgen referred several times to coaching for three to five more years.

"Let's say I want to coach two more years after the three. I don't know if I'll do that," Friedgen said. "But if we go to the Orange Bowl, maybe I will. And James has sat down with Debbie and I, and we have talked about that."

Friedgen added: "But I'm not going to be Joe [Paterno] and coach until I'm 75 or 80 or 90."

Franklin's contract, obtained by The Sun last spring under a public records request, offers Franklin two options if Friedgen remains as coach beyond the target date. It says he can remain offensive coordinator or resign, "in which case the university will pay [Franklin] $1 million within 90 days."

Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Raheem Morris, a close friend since their coaching days at Kansas State, had expressed interest in Franklin's joining his staff. Franklin was also seriously considered by Iowa State, Maryland officials said.

The $1 million payment would not be made unless Maryland were to name a successor to Friedgen other than Franklin, or Friedgen were to remain beyond the term of his contract.

"It's just our way of acknowledging and recognizing that [Franklin] gave up something to stay at Maryland," Yow said.

In effect, Franklin would have to agree to amend the contract and let Maryland off the hook if Friedgen were to stay for the 2012 season.

"That would have to be a conversation Ralph and James had, where James deferred the opportunity for two more years," Yow said. "That's what would have to happen because I don't have a million dollars to give James. They'll work that out in time." She said any such discussion "is very premature."

Franklin declined to comment on the $1 million promise. He indicated that he has faith that he and Friedgen will continue to co-exist under the new arrangement as smoothly as they did last season. Franklin returned to Maryland, where he had previously been an assistant, in December 2007 after two seasons as offensive coordinator at Kansas State.

"The head-coach-in-waiting obviously has got to be very respectful of the position of head coach," said Franklin, who is known for his recruiting ability, play-calling and intensity. "I don't think you could do [such an arrangement] everywhere. The head coach has to have a strong personality and not feel threatened. Ralph has a very strong personality. Ralph has built something, and he wants to see it grow."

Friedgen, 64-36 in eight seasons with Maryland, might be tempted to remain if he has the Terps on a roll in 2011.

"We'll cross that bridge when we come to it," Yow said. "It'd be a nice problem to have, though. ... We're going to the Orange Bowl in three years? I'd take that problem."

It has become increasingly popular for businesses and schools to name replacements in advance. Florida State, Texas, Oregon and Kentucky are among the schools that have adopted the strategy in football.

Coach-in-waiting arrangements are a way to lure and retain talent, said Scott Rosner, associate director of the Wharton Sports Business Initiative at the University of Pennsylvania.

"This is really no different than identifying, for example, a young star in the corporate world," he said.

But there are risks associated with any succession plan, Rosner said. "Anytime that you've identified who the successor to the throne will be, there are going to be potential takeover issues," he said. "To use the Godfather reference, you'd better hope the successor is like Michael Corleone and not like Fredo."

Maryland said naming a successor would address uncertainty among recruits and staff about the program's future.

"The reason I consented to this is because I think it's a way for us to do well for many more years, long after I'm gone," Friedgen said.

The contract guarantees Franklin a five-year package worth at least the average paid to other Atlantic Coast Conference head coaches in the sport. He currently makes a base salary of $285,000. He gets $75,000 a year for fundraising and $75,000 for radio and television appearances.

Franklin was considered a candidate for the head coaching job almost from the day he returned. Friedgen said the plan was "that I would bring him in and show him things and try to groom him for that position."

The mentor relationship is familiar to Friedgen.

"When I was at Georgia Tech, [then-coach] George O'Leary many times would bring me in and say, 'What do you think?' I think he helped prepare me for coming into this situation, and [those are] things I would try to do with James."

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