Monday, November 28, 2011
On a misty evening this past Labor Day, Randy Edsall made his debut as head football coach at the University of Maryland. Donning flashy new uniforms, and playing before a national television audience, Edsall's Terrapins electrified Byrd Stadium in upsetting the five-time national champion Miami Hurricanes. For the coach who was brought to College Park and entrusted with the task of raising Maryland's national profile, the start was beyond anyone's wildest dreams.
Sadly, aside from one win against Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) school Towson, nothing has gone right for the Terps since. The 2011 season quickly imploded into a disastrous 2-10 campaign that featured embarassing home losses to ACC doormat Boston College, and an unheralded Temple. Worst of all, however, was Saturday's cataclysmic collapse to N.C. State, in which the Terps surrendered a 27 point 4th quarter lead before losing by 15.
For a team that seemed destined to reach new heights less than 3 months ago, loyal Terp fans are now left to contemplate the despair of their new depths. And in identifying the source of their discontent, no one is looking anywhere other than the highly unpopular Edsall.
Edsall, of course, came to College Park last January, on the heels of a highly successful 2010 season at the University of Connecticut, in which, he led the Huskies to their first BCS Bowl game. New Maryland athetic director Kevin Anderson had been looking to make a big splash in the coaching market to replace Ralph Friedgen. After a a much publicized flirtation with former Texas Tech coach Mike Leach, Anderson settled on Edsall.
And it didn't take long for the new coach to start rubbing people the wrong way. In fact, during Edsall's introductory press conference, he had to answer questions about his poor handling of his departure from UConn. Apparently, Edsall flew directly from the Fiesta Bowl to College Park, and had one of his assistants relay the news to his players, before telling them himself--by conference call.
From there, Edsall would do even more to further alienate himself from, well, everyone. A firm believer in discipline, Edsall imposed strict rules with regard to facial hair and jewelry that players recruited by the less dictatorial, and well liked Friedgen, did not take well to. Edsall, likewise, adopted the role of ornery curmudgeon with the media and team boosters, who he denied the access to players and practice they were accustomed to under the more friendly, engaging Friedgen.
However, the fact Edsall was viewed as a sanctimonious blowhard, was, in a certain sense, the least of his problems. While Edsall's childish approach to player discipline and condescending attitude with the public did him no favors, Maryland's season was not undone because Edsall wasn't down with doo rags, bling, and fan appreciation day.
Rather, Edsall's disastrous campaign was the product of an unprecedented arrogance and his failure to accept ownership of Maryland's woes, as the season deteriorated. For example, on numerous occasions Edsall insisted that his system had worked just fine at UConn. While he didn't exactly acknowledge it wasn't working at Maryland, the implication was clear: Players, who the former coach recruited were incapable of running his system effectively.
And about that former coach. Players claimed both publicly and privately that Edsall would consistently rip Friedgen. Sophomore defensive end David Mackall, who Edsall suspended November 2nd, recently told the Baltimore Sun, that many players resented the way Edsall spoke of Friedgen, often implying Friedgen ran a loose ship. While Friedgen wasn't perfect, he was and remains a beloved figure by Terrapin supporters. And no can dispute that for a decade he ran a program that had one inkling of an NCAA violation. This, of course, in spite of his casual attitude towards facial hair and earrings.
Certainly, the worst instance of Edsall's arrogance came a week ago prior to the N.C. State game. Edsall, while speaking with the media, mused aloud that he recently had a conversation with New England Patriots owner Bob Kraft, and "must be doing something right," because after all, he was doing things a lot like the Patriots. Sitting at 2-9 this comment did not play well in Terrapin nation. Edsall was slammed for his comments, as they seemed to confirm everyone's worst suspicions of the new coach as being arrogant to the point of delusional. Saturday's fourth quarter debacle, did little to dispell any of that.
Sadly, there seems to be little Maryland can do to extricate itself from the disastrous hire of Edsall. The school is apparently in a deep financial hole, and plans to cut as many as 8 varsity sports over the next year. Maryland needs the football team to be successful to sell tickets and create buzz. However, their stuck with a coach, who seems unwilling to generate any goodwill, and is guaranteed $10 million over the next five years.
Because Maryland is unlikely to swallow that $10 million pill and fire Edsall, the school's only hope is that their new coach can chart a new course, and repair relationships amongst players and supporters. However, if Edsall's first year is any indication, this already disastrous situation will likely get worse before it gets better.
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