Longtime Maryland supporters and one of the program's biggest former stars seem to be willing to give the Terps' new football coach, Randy Edsall, a chance.
Yet many of them remained angry on Monday at the manner in which first-year athletic director Kevin Anderson got rid of former coach Ralph Friedgen, and some are disappointed that the Terps made what was considered a safe hire in the 52-year-old Edsall. They would have preferred to take a chance on resurrecting former Texas Tech coach Mike Leach's successful yet controversial career.
"Only time will tell. If they go on to win 10 games next year, then we'll all eat a little bit of crow," said former Maryland and NFL quarterback Boomer Esiason. "It's not exactly what anybody thought was going to be the exciting kind of anti-establishment hire that I think a lot of people thought would separate the University of Maryland from the rest of the ACC."
Said outgoing Terrapin Club president Rick Jaklitsch: "The reaction is, 'Why not dare to be great?'"
Esiason said that he doesn't know Edsall, but based on a "very positive track record" during 12 years in Storrs while taking a program from its Football Bowl Subdivision infancy to a Bowl Championship Series game last Saturday against Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl, he said he's "always willing to give people a chance. He deserves that. You have to give him the respect he is due. Saying all that, if this was going to be the hire that was going to cost Ralph Friedgen his job, you have to question it."
Part of the problem is that Edsall, despite taking the Huskies to a BCS game, does not have a national profile.
"I don't know if the overall general fan base knows enough about Randy Edsall to get excited about him," Esiason said." If you're going to pay one guy $2 million to leave and bring another guy in for another $2 million, that's $4 million that you're spending next year and you're thinking, 'For $4 million, this is what we're getting?' It sounds terribly negative — [but] If you're going to buy out Ralph Friedgen, someone who's an alum and an established personality, I think Maryland should have gone bigger and should have gone with a name that maybe would have energized the fan base."
Jaklitsch, who considers himself "a big Friedgen supporter," thinks Edsall is a "quality, solid hire" who is more than qualified for the job. But no more qualified than the former coach.
"You get rid of a guy who's as good as Friedgen and then you get into the hiring process and you kind of look around and say, 'What did we do that for? Hopefully he is as good as Friedgen," Jaklitsch said.
Jaklitsch said that he understands the circumstances that ultimately cost Friedgen his job — specifically the departure of offensive coordinator James Franklin to Vanderbilt as head coach and the possible loss of several assistant coaches — and said he wasn't shocked at the news of Edsall's hiring after Leach appeared to be the front-runner.
"If you go to any list of coaches you'd think about hiring, and Randy Edsall would have to be on that list, " Jaklitsch said. "He's got to be on the short list of qualified coaches. I would have been upset if they hadn't talked with him."
Recalling the circumstances when Friedgen was first hired to replace Ron Vanderlinden after the 2000 season, Esiason said that former athletic director Debbie Yow "had to reenergize the fan base, and here we are 10 years later and we're replacing a coach that went 9-4 [in 2010] and was on the cusp of, if they beat Miami or Florida State, going to a major bowl. There's apathy around the program, so I get why Kevin Anderson had to do what he did, and I understand the confluence of events that have taken place the last month in regards to James Franklin. I get all of that, the reality of the business. But I'm not sure if we're not back where we were prior to hiring Ralph."
Former Terrapin football player Greg Harraka, who has had two sons play for Friedgen, said that the lackluster crowds Anderson pointed to in firing Friedgen will improve if the non-conference schedule becomes more attractive.
"We just had a horrible home schedule this year. It killed us," Harraka said, alluding to games against Morgan State and Florida International. "Based of the team we have coming back and the teams we have coming in — Miami, Virginia, West Virginia, Towson — it's easy to put people in the stands. That's the bottom line."
Acknowledging the number of fans who expressed their displeasure with the coaching moves, Anderson said he expects Edsall's "body of work with these young men will have everybody see how special we are on the field and everywhere else."
Like others, Esiason said that everyone should be patient.
"Maybe we all should sit back, give him a chance and let his football prowess take root, because ultimately what do we all want? We want the University of Maryland football program to be a good solid program that can be contending for the BCS," Esiason said. "I do believe in the concept of a good, solid, safe hire, but I also know that if you're going to fire a coach because the fan base is apathetic, I don't know if this is the person you want to hire at the outset to get people excited."