COLLEGE PARK — — The attorney for Maryland's Ralph Friedgen says the football coach has earned the right to have his contract extended after next season -- an assertion that places the school in a sensitive position because it has already named Friedgen's successor.
"To me, an extension is absolutely in order," attorney Jack Reale told The Baltimore Sun. "I think he has earned it."
Friedgen, whose contract expires Jan.2, 2012, was named Atlantic Coast Conference Coach of the Year on Tuesday after a regular season in which the Terps (8-4, 5-3 ACC) won six more games than in the previous year. Friedgen, 63, who is 74-50 at Maryland, has indicated no desire to retire anytime soon.
In February 2009, then-athletic director Debbie Yow signed an agreement promising to pay $1million to offensive coordinator James Franklin if he is not elevated to head coach by Jan. 2, 2012. Yow is now the athletic director at North Carolina State.
Kevin Anderson, who succeeded Yow as AD on Oct. 1, announced last month that Friedgen would complete the final year of his contract. Anderson has not talked to Friedgen about a possible extension and has said he will sit down with him after the season. He considers it premature to discuss the coach's contract publicly before then, the athletic department said last week.
Five months after Franklin's deal was signed, Friedgen told The Sun he might want to remain after his current contract expires and indicated that Maryland had left that option open.
"Let's say I want to coach two more years after [the 2011 season]. I don't know if I'll do that," Friedgen said at the time. "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."
Reale's statement during an interview this week went further, saying an extension is warranted. The attorney said extending Friedgen's contract would help recruiting by letting potential Maryland players know he was staying. Reale said he was glad "cooler heads prevailed" when Friedgen's job was on the line during meetings with Yow after Maryland finished 2-10 last season.
"Thankfully, loyal alums, players and fans stood up and supported Ralph and were instrumental in the outcome," Reale said.
Asked last week whether she had any comment on Friedgen's Coach of the Year award, Yow said in an e-mail: "I sent Ralph a brief congratulatory e-mail earlier this PM to which he responded." She had said previously that she negotiated the succession plan to provide continuity in recruiting and ensure that Franklin was not enticed away.
There are several scenarios under which Friedgen, who declined to speculate about his future, could remain after next season.
Maryland could pay Franklin the $1million or, if he were willing, renegotiate his "head coach option." Franklin, who has said he considers Friedgen a mentor, could opt to leave on his own. He has turned down coaching positions at other schools and in the NFL. He could be more marketable after the Terps averaged 30.7 points -- up from 21.3 the previous season -- and his quarterback, Danny O'Brien, was named ACC Rookie of the Year. Franklin, who is known for his recruiting, is also Maryland's quarterbacks coach.
Franklin said last week through an athletics spokesman that he was focusing on recruiting and on the team's upcoming bowl game, and had no further comment. Maryland will learn Sunday which bowl it will play in.
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 used the approach with their football coaches to lure and retain talent.
But Anderson told The Sun in October that he does not like "coach-in-waiting" arrangements. "I can't see how this serves the program well," he said.
Former Deomcratic Rep. Tom McMillen, who starred in basketball at Maryland and is member of the University System's Board of Regents, said in an interview last week: "I'm not a big fan of those [plans]. This is nothing against Coach Franklin, but life does not always go in a straight line. It's always better to deal with things situationally."