GREENSBORO, N.C. — This season Ralph Friedgen matches the longest tenure of any Maryland football coach in the past 75 years. His teams have ended Florida State's ACC dominance, posted the best three-year run in program history and earned five bowl invitations.
Yet entering his 10th season at his alma mater, Friedgen is clearly embattled. His Terps closed last season with seven consecutive defeats to finish 2-10, their third losing season in five years and worst since 1967.
"It doesn't really concern me," Friedgen said Monday at the ACC's preseason kickoff. "If I do well the next two years, I think I'll be at Maryland. If I don't, I probably won't."
Friedgen, 63, has two years remaining on a contract that pays him approximately $2 million annually. The school designated offensive coordinator James Franklin as Friedgen's eventual successor in 2009 and is contracted to pay him $1 million if he is not promoted by 2012.
So firing them both would cost Maryland more than $3 million.
Friedgen's fate rests with administrators who did not hire him. President C.D. "Dan" Mote Jr., retires Aug. 31, and athletic director Debbie Yow resigned last month to accept the same position at North Carolina State. Mote says his successor will appoint a new athletic director.
"It's very critical that we get the right president even before we get the right athletic director," Friedgen said. "I think we have to get a president who understands the importance of the revenue sports."
The Terps were 31-8 in Friedgen's first three seasons, 2001-03, and won the ACC outright in his rookie year. That ended Florida State's streak of nine consecutive conference championships.
"I think we're kind of back to where we were when I got there," Friedgen said. "I came to a program that went to one bowl in 18 years, and we did some pretty good things. Now we've kind of come full circle."
Friedgen blamed last season's decline on youth and injuries. He accused rivals of using his job status to recruit against Maryland but said fans are supportive.
"It's been unbelievable, really," Friedgen said. "I did a thing for Comcast the other day, and it was amazing to me how many people were wishing me good luck this year. I'm very appreciative of the support I've received."
Spring and summer recruiting has "gone well," Friedgen said. "We had a couple of kids de-commit here of late, but with Florida [high school] kids, that's going to happen. I don't think it's the easiest situation in the world with the coach-in-waiting and all that."
Friedgen attended Sunday's social functions at the kickoff, played golf Monday morning and appeared relaxed during afternoon interviews. He faced several rounds of questions about his job status and Maryland's leadership transition, but said players and assistant coaches feel more pressure than he does.
"They know the score," Friedgen said. "I kind of like it … I kind of enjoy that type of motivation. … I know what this team can turn into. I'm hoping we can do it this year because I think the following year we've got a chance to be a very, very good team. The biggest concern is experience at quarterback, and we've got to stay healthy."
With junior Jamarr Robinson taking over for Chris Turner at quarterback, the Terps open Sept. 6 at M&T Bank Stadium against Navy. Media attending the kickoff picked Maryland to finish last again in the Atlantic Division.
Friedgen's only brief response Monday came when asked whether he'd given N.C. State coach Tom O'Brien a scouting report on Yow, who in December said she expected Friedgen to win at least seven games this season.
"No comment," he said.
Sitting nearby, Friedgen's wife, Gloria, said, "That speaks volumes."