Maryland's Friedgen: 'A year ago, I was about to be fired'

For turnaround season, ACC names him top coach; Terps' O'Brien named rookie of the year

November 30, 2010|By Jeff Barker, The Baltimore Sun

COLLEGE PARK — — One year after a 2-10 season almost cost him his job, Maryland's Ralph Friedgen was named Atlantic Coast Conference football Coach of the Year -- an honor that he says provided him "vindication" for standing by his staff and players in trying times.

Friedgen, in his 10th season, got 29 votes, outpolling his close friend Frank Beamer (19 votes) of Virginia Tech. Tom O'Brien of North Carolina State and Florida State's Jimbo Fisher got six votes each from the Atlantic Coast Sports Media Association. Friedgen also won the award in 2001.

Maryland quarterback Danny O'Brien was named ACC Rookie of the Year, beating Florida State cornerback Xavier Rhodes and Wake Forest running back Josh Harris. "It's been a crazy ride," O'Brien said.

O'Brien, who was also honored as the conference's top offensive rookie, received 54 of a possible 61 votes for ACC Rookie of the Year. The North Carolina native completed 179 of 315 passes for 2,257 yards and 21 touchdowns -- the most touchdown passes by a Terps quarterback since Scott Milanovich with 26 in 1993. His pass efficiency rating of 135.2 ranked third among freshmen nationally.

For Friedgen, the contrast with last season was striking.

"You know a year ago, I was about to be fired," said Friedgen, who thanked friends and alumni who continued to support him after last season. "Because of their support, this moment is possible."

Maryland went 8-4 in the regular season and is awaiting a bowl bid. The Terps were led by O'Brien, who became the first Terp to win the award instituted in 1975.

Not only did Friedgen return after last season, but so did offensive coordinator James Franklin, defensive coordinator Don Brown and the rest of the staff.

"I kind of stuck with my guns. This is kind of vindication that I was right," Friedgen said.

After last season, Friedgen met privately for two days with then-athletic director Debbie Yow, who announced in a news release that he would be retained. He acknowledged then that he hadn't slept well in days. His top assistants had also been anxious about their jobs.

On Tuesday, Friedgen, wearing khaki slacks and a polo shirt, sat in the Gossett Football Team House and said he was glad he stuck by a team that he believed was better than 2-10. He joked about his lobbying this week to try to get the Terps to an upper-echelon bowl game. "C'mon guys. Come get us," he said with a smile.

"I hope this kind of serves as an inspiration to a lot of people," Friedgen said. "A year ago at this time, people wanted me to make [staff] changes. I refused to do that because I felt like I had the right people around me."

Yow is now athletic director at North Carolina State. Reached Tuesday, she said in an e-mail: "I sent Ralph a brief congratulatory e-mail earlier this PM to which he responded."

According to Maryland, the Terrapins' six-game turnaround ranks second best in the Football Bowl Subdivision. It said Miami (Ohio) improved by seven games from 2009.

Friedgen, 63, is 74-50 at Maryland.

Friedgen's contract expires after the 2011 season. Franklin, the offensive coordinator, is contractually due to receive $1million from the school if not named to succeed Friedgen by Jan. 2, 2012.

To retain Friedgen after that, Maryland would need to pay Franklin the money or renegotiate his deal -- unless he opted to leave on his own.

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