Friedgen's imminent ouster surprises players

Report of a meeting with new athletic director is disputed

December 18, 2010|By Don Markus, The Baltimore Sun

Most of the players on the Maryland football team are home after finishing final exams, and figured to have a few relaxing days before returning to College Park next week to get ready for their game against East Carolina in the Military Bowl. They are now bracing for another event — the imminent departure of longtime coach Ralph Friedgen.

Though athletic director Kevin Anderson said Friday that a decision regarding Friedgen's future has not been made, officials familiar with the process told The Baltimore Sun Saturday that the 63-year-old coach has been informed that he would not return for his 11th season and would be asked to retire. Anderson had said recently that Friedgen would be back in 2011.

Sophomore offensive lineman R.J. Dill, one of a handful of players who remained on campus Saturday, said that the swift reversal in Anderson's thinking stunned him and his teammates.

"Anytime you have the ACC Coach of the Year, the ACC Rookie of the Year (freshman quarterback Danny O'Brien) and I think we're going to have 15 starters back next year, I would have never thought in a million years that it would come to this," Dill said. "Hopefully it's not definite. Hopefully it's not 100 percent true. It's scary even to hear the rumors."

Said sophomore tight end Matt Furstenberg: "Twenty-four hours ago you wouldn't have thought there was any possibility that Friedgen was leaving. It's kind of shocking."

Asked if he was upset about the way it had been handled, Furstenberg said, "I don't think our athletic director is doing it right, but it is what it is."

Dill disputed a report Saturday in the Washington Post that said Anderson informed the players of his decision at a team meeting on campus Friday night. Dill said that only about 10 players remained for a final exam Saturday morning and that he had not heard of any meeting taking place.

"I don't think he met with the 10 players who were in my class because we were all studying," Dill said.

Dill said that the possibility of former Texas Tech coach Mike Leach coming in will bring more uncertainty among the players.

"It makes no sense to switch strategies and offensive styles with all we have coming back next year and risk the chances of guys being upset about the changes we're making," Dill said.

It is certainly unsettling to Furstenberg considering that Leach's offense usually lines up four or five receivers and doesn't deploy a tight end.

"I'd probably have to switch positions," said Furstenberg, who also played defensive end in high school. "I really haven't put much thought into it. I really don't know what's going to happen here."

Freshman safety Matt Robinson recalled last season when he was being recruited and the uncertainty swirled around Friedgen after the team finished 2-10. Robinson said he realized then that college football was a business, but hoped that this year's 8-4 record had solidified Friedgen for another few years.

"I thought everything was pretty much a done deal," Robinson said. "Even with [former offensive coordinator James] Franklin interviewing for another job, I thought eveything was going to be the same. Now everything's gone a little haywire."

don.markus@baltsun.com

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