Maryland's hiring of Edsall lacks excitement

Terps fans wanted a flashy hire, but instead got a drill sergeant

January 03, 2011|By Kevin Cowherd

COLLEGE PARK — — After all the hype about wanting to get it right, Maryland turned to Randy Edsall Monday, and that sound you heard from much of Terps Nation was a big, fat, yawn.

This was the exciting new hire that was going to take Maryland football to the next level?

This was the guy who was going to bring some sizzle to Byrd Stadium? The guy who'd put fannies in the seats and get the alumni fired up?

The guy who'd get the big shots with fat wallets to pony up for all those pricy luxury suites that now sit dark and empty as caves on game day?

Randy Edsall?

This is the guy they're bringing in after they tossed Ralph Friedgen to the curb following a 9-4 season, an ACC Coach of the Year plaque and a pounding of East Carolina in the Military Bowl?

No, sorry, Edsall wasn't the name many Terps fans wanted to hear, judging from the outcry on talk radio and message boards and the e-mails and phone calls I've been getting.

All those great things new athletic director Kevin Anderson said about Edsall at the introductory news conference here Monday?

How he built the Connecticut football program practically from scratch?

How he made the Huskies a Division I power and how his players graduated and how he's been a winner wherever he went?

None of that seemed to matter to a lot of Terps fans, who seemed crushed that Mike Leach, the big-name former Texas Tech coach, wasn't taking over for the Fridge.

Oh, yeah, Leach was the sexy choice to be the next Terps coach. Leach was the sizzle fans were looking for. He'd bring his spread offense and an electrifying passing game and suddenly the air over Byrd Stadium would be filled with footballs on autumn afternoons.

The Terps would win, and even better than that, they be exciting to watch. That was the plan, anyway.

So what if Leach was prickly to deal with and had a few skeletons in his closet?

So what if he did — or didn't — famously make a player with a concussion sit in a darkened shed as punishment?

Terps Nation wanted to see Leach in a bright red Terps sweater patrolling the Maryland sideline next season.

And now they'll have Edsall, a coach who went an unremarkable 74-70 in 12 seasons at UConn and whose teams have been criticized for having dull offenses that put even his most ardent fans to sleep.

"We'll play exciting football and winning football," Edsall promised. And now we sit back and see if he makes good on that one.

Over and over again Monday, as he sat stiffly next to Anderson in front of a packed auditorium — Gary Williams was even in the house! — Edsall said that coaching at Maryland was his "dream job."

He's from Glen Rock, Pa., 70 miles from College Park, and says he grew up going to Terps games at Byrd Stadium.

I just hope he still feels it's his dream job next fall. And I hope the Terps get off to a fast start, because Edsall will have a tough time winning over the fan base if his team struggles from the get-go.

Here's the best thing Maryland can do to help Edsall and bring some sizzle to the program: get rid of the weak sisters on the schedule.

Get rid of the Morgan States and the Florida Internationals. Playing nearby Navy is a good move — the game at M&T Bank Stadium in September was a thriller and it packed the place. But Maryland needs tougher non-conference opponents to get the fans jazzed.

A reporter asked Anderson if playing mighty Penn State was a possibility, as has been rumored. But Anderson said the Nittany Lions' insistence on playing two games at State College for every one game at College Park was a stumbling block.

Which is when Edsall blurted out my favorite line of the day.

"We're the University of Maryland — we ain't playing two-for-ones!" he said heatedly.

Oh, yeah, the guy is intense. He makes Gary Williams look like Dude from "The Big Lebowski."

Early in the news conference, for instance, Anderson presented him with a red Terps baseball cap.

Edsall wore it for a minute or two, then quickly took it off. Then he explained that when he met with the Terps football players Sunday, some were wearing baseball caps and do-rags, which he had them remove.

"If I tell them to do it, I gotta do it," he said.

Coach, you've been here five minutes. Lighten up. There's plenty of time of time to be a drill sergeant.

Oh, and good luck in the new job, too. You're going to need it.

Listen to Kevin Cowherd Tuesdays from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. with Jerry Coleman on Fox 1370 AM Sports.

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