NEW YORK — Maryland said Thursday that football coach Ralph Friedgen will return next season to complete the final year of his contract, an announcement that seemed inevitable given the team's turnaround from a year ago.
The announcement ends any possible distractions from speculation about Friedgen's immediate future.
Maryland (7-3, 4-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) hosts Florida State Saturday needing a victory to stay alive in its ACC divisional race. The Terps have one more regular-season game (N.C. State) remaining after that.
Maryland athletic director Kevin Anderson had tipped his hand early in the season. When the Terps were 4-1, Anderson said Friedgen would return if the team kept winning.
"Based largely on the improved performance of our team and student-athletes this season, coach Friedgen will be our head football coach next year," Anderson said in a statement released by the school. "Once this season is complete, Ralph and I will sit down to discuss the current state and future of the program."
For now, Anderson said, the team's focus "will be on winning the 2010 ACC Championship and a bowl game."
Friedgen is in his 10th season, and his contract expires following the 2011 season.
It's uncertain what happens in 2012.
Offensive coordinator James Franklin is Friedgen's successor-in-waiting. Franklin is contractually due to receive $1 million from the school if he is not named to succeed Friedgen by Jan. 2, 2012.
Anderson, who became athletic director on Oct. 1, told the Baltimore Sun last month that he does not like succession arrangements. Franklin's succession contract was negotiated by Deborah Yow, Anderson's predecessor.
"I'm going to go out on this limb: I can't see how this [plan] serves the program well," Anderson said in October. "Because what happens now is you have two people that a staff has to serve."
But Anderson did not say at the time that he planned to try to renegotiate with Franklin. The school's statement on Thursday did not address the succession plan.
Friedgen has a record of 73-49 as head coach.
"I'm excited about the direction of our program," Friedgen said in Thursday's release. "We have a great of bunch of kids and a tremendous staff. I'm thankful for all the hard work they have put into this season."
After last season's 2-10 record - the worst under Friedgen - the coach and Yow had several private discussions with his job on the line. She said after he was retained that "I think a winning record in the regular season would be reasonable at this point."
Anderson's move was applauded by Larry Grabenstein, chairman of the Maryland Gridiron Network, a booster group that raises money for special football projects. Grabenstein said the announcement would be good for recruiting, and "I believe Kevin Anderson did the right thing."