COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- Ralph Friedgen is on a diet. He wants you to know that. The famously rotund coach is suddenly fitting into clothes from the 1990s.
Ralph Friedgen also is old, at least according to some of the rivals he recruits against.
Ralph Friedgen is not long for his job. We know that too because his successor has been picked.
|Ralph Friedgen has a 56-31 record since taking over as Maryland's head coach in 2001. (US Presswire)|
Maryland's coach has been an offensive coordinator for both a national champion (Georgia Tech in 1990) and a Super Bowl team (San Diego, 1994). Known as one of the country's brightest offensive minds, "Fridge" has produced three ACC Defensive Players of the Year in his eight seasons in College Park.
Although he is due to be succeeded by coach-in-waiting James Franklin at some point, Friedgen is not ready to step away yet. Coming off an 8-5 season during which Maryland beat Nevada in the Humanitarian Bowl, Friedgen answered a few offseason questions about his health, the ACC and the new wave of Terrapins.
CBSSports.com: You said recently that rival recruiters were using your age (62) against you in recruiting? That's a little bit ridiculous isn't it, you're not exactly Joe Paterno?
Ralph Friedgen: A high school coach said, 'We hear you're going to retire.' I said, 'Where did you hear that?' He said, 'One of your competitors.'
So I said, The only two guys recruiting this kid are Boston College and Penn State. (Boston College coach Frank) Spaziani is 67 (actually 62) and Paterno is pushing 100 so I'm the spring chicken of that bunch.
CBSSports.com: How long is Joe going to go?
R.F.: As long as he has to. Might be longer now that Bobby (Bowden) has had 14 wins taken from him.
CBSSports.com: Do you think Florida State is going to have to vacate those 14 wins?
R.F.: I just want to know if they take it away from him does that take my losses (to Florida State) away from me?
(note: Only one loss, in 2007, would be involved. Maryland beat FSU in 2006)
CBSSports.com: Before James Franklin, what was your opinion of those whole coach-in-waiting thing? (Franklin is the current offensive coordinator who is due $1 million in 2012 if he is not the head coach by that date.)
R.F.: I think it has to be in the right place at the right situation. James was having a lot of opportunities to go to other places. I can't pay him any more than I can pay him. Ultimately, he wants to be a head coach. He's happy here at this school.
Every time I had a recruiting deal, the subject comes up, 'How long are you going to be here coach?' Even when I had five or six years left on my contract that was coming up.
Maryland is a very different place to coach. The dynamics are different than every other place I've been at. If you look at our history we've kind of gone up and we've kind of gone down. We haven't reached our full potential yet. What happens to some of the coaches who come in here they don't understand the situation here and then all the sudden two years later when they finally do grasp it they can't change it.
If I'm going to put 10 or 12 years of my life into this, I've solved a lot of questions from a stability standpoint. I was going to start losing staff members because they didn't know who the next coach was going to be. Now they do.
To be honest with you it was an unselfish move on my part. I think we've averaged eight wins a year since I've been here. I don't know if that's ever been done here. I want to see this program in good shape.
I didn't see any negatives. When Debbie (Yow, AD) suggested it, she said, 'Are you all right it?' I said, 'Are you all right with it? You have to pick the next coach?'
CBSSports.com: Could that coach-in-waiting, at any school, eventually become as much a part of the problem as he is the solution?
R.F.: I haven't seen any problems so far. There have been a couple of rumblings in the staff but you expect that to happen, guys who didn't expect this to happen.
CBSSports.com: What about your diet?
R.F.: It's called Medifast. It's a company out of Owings Mills, Md. It kind of came from the obesity clinic at Johns Hopkins. They approached me on this. I eat five meals of their stuff -- have oatmeal, scrambled eggs, soups. Then they have these (snack) bars.
I find it works very well with my lifestyle. All I have to do is throw something in the microwave and my hunger is satisfied. In the evening I have eight ounces of steak, chicken or fish, a green vegetable and a salad.
In the evening they have puddings and shakes if you're hungry. It comes out to about 1,000 calories or less a day. I've been doing it since October and so far I've lost 80 pounds. (Philadelphia Eagles coach) Andy Reid called and I got him hooked on it.
I do feel a lot better. Once I get through it, I'm going to have to start buying clothes. I've got clothes I've had for 15 years. I just put something on this morning. I hadn't been in those pants since 2001. This belt I have on, I couldn't get the two ends together. Now I'm on the fourth notch. That's how I judge how I'm doing.
CBSSports.com: So they approached you?
R.F.: The guy is a big fan. I'd like to lose 150 pounds, I don't know if I can. Right now I'm shooting for 100.
I had sleep apnea. I never used to sleep very much. They put this machine on me and I'm out. My breath stopped ... so you were never getting a full night's sleep. A couple of years ago I was falling asleep at red lights going home.
CBSSports.com: How has the ACC changed since expansion?
R.F.: The toughest part of our league is parity within the league.
CBSSports.com: Is that good at this point with no dominant team?
R.F.: It's a double-edged sword. Is it good from a fan perspective? I think it is. It is good from a national perspective? Maybe not.
CBSSports.com: Wake Forest linebacker Aaron Curry just became the third player ever drafted in the first round at the school. You've played against them. How does the smallest BCS conference school produce this kind of talent?
R.F.: You can do all the other things -- height, weight, speed. If you can find the guy that is motivated and has the heart, that's the key. That's what you have to weigh. If he has that then he'll reach his potential in all those other areas.
CBSSports.com: Who is the kid you had like that, maybe linebacker E.J. Henderson?
R.F.: E.J. was a kid when I came here, I had played against him while I was at Georgia Tech. I kind of had an opinion of him because I was the offensive coordinator and he was on defense.
I kind of thought he was a tackle-to-tackle guy until I got here for spring practice. I saw really how good a football player he was. He's more of an introverted kid, but very, very confident.
One of the joys I have in coaching in college is kids are at a formative stage in their lives. We've got a kid right now, (defensive lineman) Travis Ivey. He came here as a basketball player. I never thought football was that big a priority in his life. Last year he played at 335.
This year for some reason, maybe he smells the money, I don't know. From the bowl game on, he's down to 320 and really coming on. What an enjoyment to me is a guy who all the sudden get it.
I'm not talking about just football. I'm talking about academically, he's accountable. He's turned into a man with some direction in his life.
CBSSports.com: Who is the new Darrius Heyward-Bey (wide receiver, first-round choice of the Raiders)?
R.F.: I got this kid Kevin Dorsey ... He had a foot injury, the same injury that Grant Hill had. He's not 100 percent yet, but at 90 percent he's making a lot of plays. No. 1 kid in his class, a military school. He was the commandant and was running the school from here.
Even thought he was enrolled, he was doing stuff on the phone back there. I guess when you're elected commandant you're that for the year. He's just an extraordinary kid.
CBSSports.com: I've got to ask you about your sophomore running back, Davin Meggett, son of Super Bowl hero Dave Meggett. The kid has the same build as his dad (5-foot-8, 220 pounds), although his dad isn't exactly in the picture.
R.F.: Davin wants to be in the dad's picture. Like a lot of kids from single-parent homes or estranged from their father, there is a tremendous need to be connected with their biological father.
Davin has two great parents, his mom and his stepdad are unbelievable. I think it's a natural thing. They want to know their father. Sometimes that's a hurtful thing. I spend a lot of time with him talking about it.
CBBSports.com: Speaking of FSU's problems, your wife and daughter both help tutor athletes. Not much chance there for impropriety is there?
R.F.: My daughter and my wife had to go through a class on what you can do and what you can't do.
When we were in San Diego there was a headline in the letters section: We Can't Afford To Lose Friedgen. I said, 'I'm going to read this one ...' It said, 'We can always find an offensive coordinator. We can't afford to lose Gloria Friedgen, the best biology teacher in San Diego.'