If I'm Randy Edsall right now, I'm thinking of that old Al Davis motto: just win, baby. Oh, and graduate players, too.
I say that after a chat Wednesday with Wallace D. Loh, the president of the University of Maryland, who stopped by The Baltimore Sun to talk to our editorial board and also provide an impromptu assessment of the state of Terps' athletics.
•Loh gave the dreaded vote of confidence to athletic director Kevin Anderson. ("He came into a very, very difficult situation. I'm confident that he'll turn things around.")
•He issued what appeared to be a tepid endorsement of football coach Randy Edsall. (More on that in a moment.)
•He gave a thumbs-up to first-year men's basketball coach Mark Turgeon. ("I think he has done a very fine job with what he has . . . he has certainly exceeded expectations.")
•And he talked about the anguish he felt over the decision to cut eight so-called minor sports because of budget problems. (More on that, too.)
Still, it was Edsall and his team that has seemed to dominate Loh's attention recently.
"There's no question that over the past few months, there's been a drip, drip of negative publicity over the football program," Loh said.
Loh didn't tick off the reasons for the negative publicity. But let me tick off a few: a 2-10 record last season after the Terps went 9-4 the year before under Ralph Friedgen. Players leaving in droves and expressing dissatisfaction with Edsall's my-way-or-the-highway approach. And a ham-fisted bid by Edsall a couple of weeks ago to restrict where quarterbackDanny O'Brien and two other players could transfer, which, before Edsall rescinded it, resulted in national publicity — the kind Maryland doesn't need.
When Loh was asked directly what he thought about the job Edsall had done so far, there was a long pause. A very long pause. Long enough for me to recite half the alphabet.
"Well, he's our coach," Loh said finally. "And, uh, I think he has some very, very positive qualities. He is very interested in the student's success, as is Kevin Anderson. First and foremost, when I hired Kevin Anderson, I made it clear: we're in big-time athletics, but among student-athletes, the welfare of the student comes first. They must graduate, they must acquire the kinds of skills that will make them successful in life, because the vast majority are not going into professional athletics . . .
"Having set those broad parameters . .. 2-10 is not a record any of us likes. But on the other hand, it takes time to have a winning program. But I remain hopeful and supportive of both of them that they can turn the program around and have a winning program, while still abiding by those values."
Yes, not exactly a ringing endorsement.
But Loh did praise Edsall for coming to his senses and eventually allowing O'Brien to transfer to any school of his liking — even Vanderbilt, the school Maryland suspects of tampering with its quarterback.
"I think that was the right thing to do," Loh said of Edsall's reversal. ". . . We're all about supporting student athletes. They are students first. So someone who graduates in three years" – as O'Brien did – "should be commended and supported. So the fact that the coach decided to very quickly make a change, to reverse himself, I commend him for that."
When the conversation turned to the eight sports Maryland is considering cutting for budgetary reasons — men's indoor track and field, outdoor track and field, cross country, men's tennis, men's and women's swimming and diving, women's water polo, and acrobatics and tumbling (formerly competitive cheer) — Loh looked downcast.
"That was probably the most painful experience I've ever had in my life," he said. "I certainly didn't come here to cut teams. I was really quite blind-sided when I arrived here. I knew in the job interview they had mentioned attendance had slipped in basketball and football and so on. But I don't know if anyone really knew that we had been spending more than we earned and covering up the deficit (by) drawing from our reserves.
"Halfway through my first year, I'm told that the reserves are zero. That's absolutely incredible to me, especially since 10 years ago we had reserves of $20 million or so. Down to zero!"
When his athletic commission made the decision on which sports to cut, Loh said: " . . . I met with every single team in advance. And I must tell you, sitting there with water polo and the swimming team and even competitive cheer, we sat there and we cried."
He didn't feel any better when his daughter, Andrea, a soccer player at Division III Occidental College in California, called and told him: "If they eliminated my soccer team, my world would come to an end. Because that's what I've been doing since fifth grade."
Some of the eight teams on the chopping block are attempting to raise funds independently to stave off elimination. But the odds of them raising enough money in time are long, which also seems to pain Loh.
"I wish we didn't have to do it," Loh said. "But then on the other hand, I said to myself: 'I have cut academic programs before. They were very painful. But the result was that the remaining (programs) became somewhat stronger.
"It's also a philosophical issue: whether you want to have many, many teams and many, many academic programs, all of them funded at optimumlevels, or focus on fewer programs and have them (be) better."
He's only been on the job 15 months. But Wallace Loh definitely has his work cut out for him.
Listen to Kevin Cowherd at 7:20 a.m. Tuesdays on 105.7 The Fan's "The Norris and Davis Show."