Friedgen's fate: Terps fans land on both sides of debate

November 29, 2009|By Don Markus | don.markus@baltsun.com

COLLEGE PARK — — The game wasn't over, nor was the season, but Keith Gray had seen enough. A season-ticket holder since Ralph Friedgen's first season as coach at Maryland, Gray is typical of many fans when it comes to the decision about Friedgen's future at his alma mater.

"If they fire Friedgen, they need to get rid of the whole bunch," Gray said as he walked out of Byrd Stadium on Saturday night toward the end of a 19-17 loss to Boston College. "But give 'em another year. They can't afford to fire 'em, can they?"

Friedgen's fate won't be decided by the fans who came to see the Terps finish a disastrous 2-10 season, but if it were, he would be back for a 10th season.

Or would he?

The opinions were decidedly mixed, though those in favor of Friedgen's firing seem to be more passionate than those who wouldn't mind seeing him return.

Bob Stumpff, former president of the M Club and now a member of the board of the organization of former lettermen that raises athletic scholarship money, said he has seen enough progress this season - particularly on defense - to give him and others hope for next year.

"I wouldn't have a problem if [Friedgen] was here for another year, and see where we're going," Stumpff said.

But Keith Bratt, whose family has had season tickets for 50 years, said he thought "they should cut him loose," and Matthew Brazis, a senior from Columbia, said, "This season has been a big disappointment, and a change at the top would be necessary."

A decision is expected to be made this week, with athletic director Deborah Yow meeting with Friedgen as soon as today. Yow declined to comment after the game, and university president C.D. Mote was not available for comment.

As the decision is played out behind closed doors, the debate goes on among fans and boosters about Friedgen. There's even some disagreement within the same family.

Brian Harrigan, a former Frostburg State football player who bought season tickets this year for the first time, said he would like to see Friedgen get at least one more year. Like many fans, Harrigan doesn't believe Maryland officials could justify buying out Friedgen - and possibly offensive coordinator James Franklin - in the current economic climate.

Friedgen is owed $2 million for each of the next two years, and Franklin, after being wooed by some NFL teams, was promised $1 million if he doesn't become Maryland's next coach by Jan. 2, 2012.

"I think it's way too much, what they've already done to the stadium, and what they're looking at as far as the [state] deficit," said Harrigan, who lives in Calvert County. "I think it's something that can wait."

But Harrigan's wife, Erin, a Maryland graduate, said, "I think more fans are in favor of him going," then quickly added: "I don't know that we've had a good record ever of having a great football coach. If they're going to do it, they need to find someone who's really going to turn this program around."

Many fans said they like Friedgen but feel that much of the 62-year-old coach's early success was the result of the recruiting efforts of his predecessor, Ron Vanderlinden. Jerry Hoke of Hanover, Pa., is among those with affinity for Friedgen, but he said, "They need some fresh coaching.

"It's sad to say because Ralph brought a lot when he came about 10 years ago, but if they're going to buy him out, then they have to. I think they should. Given the players they had this year, they should have been a little bit better than they were," Hoke said.

Brian Penn, a 1983 Maryland graduate, would be in favor of a coaching change as long as it doesn't involve using state funds.

"I don't think they should take university money away from the rest of the school," said Penn, who lives in Rockville. "If that would be the case, I would say let him ride out his two years and then go out and get someone new. I don't think he's done the job recruiting."

Brazis said he understands how the buyout "would be wasting a bunch of money," but "this is the worst season in nine years."

Though Brazis and other fans think Franklin should take some responsibility for the season - "He is on the same staff as Friedgen, so this is partly his fault, too," Brazis said - Maryland should consider promoting Franklin now, the student said.

"I think he's a great recruiter; he did bring in some young talent," Brazis said. "I think we should give him a chance as our head football coach."

Stumpff has seen several coaching changes over the years but isn't sure how this one will play out.

"Debbie [Yow] has a tough decision to make," Stumpff said.

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