MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- By the time Ralph Friedgen realized he needed help Thursday night, West Virginia fans were already laughing at him. They weren't the only ones. The media in the press box at Mountaineer Stadium? Lots of them were giggling at Maryland, too.
|Friedgen held a 31-9 record in his first three years with the Terrapins. Since that time his record stands at 12-13. (AP)|
Friedgen called timeout. WVU fans, more than 50,000 of them, laughed. It was the kind of mocking laughter you hear at a really bad movie. Or at a really bad football game.
This is Maryland football under Ralph Friedgen. A punch line. Kind of like Maryland football under Ron Vanderlinden and Mark Duffner. And Joe Krivak.
This makes no sense at all. In the bigger picture, I mean. Smaller picture, West Virginia's 45-24 blowout made all the sense in the world. West Virginia was No. 5 in the country, Maryland unranked. West Virginia was at home. West Virginia has a great coach.
Maryland? Well, Maryland used to have a great coach. After the 2003 season, Friedgen was a genius. He had taken Vanderlinden's players -- this was no dynamic recruiter, Ron Vanderlinden -- and gone 31-9 in three seasons.
The 2004 season was a 5-6 blip. Friedgen was still a genius.
The 2005 season was again 5-6. This was no longer a blip. Which means Friedgen was no longer a genius.
Here we are in 2006, and while Maryland is 2-1, its victories were against William & Mary and Middle Tennessee State -- by unimpressive margins. If Maryland is to be a good team this season, it will have to happen at the Division I-AA level. It's not happening in the ACC, where the Terps are clearly superior only to Duke. And Duke hasn't tried to be good in football for a decade.
Maryland tries. The Terps have poured millions of dollars into facility upgrades and coaching staff salaries.
Again, this makes no sense. Friedgen's acumen has been highly regarded, and rightly so, ever since he was Bobby Ross' offensive coordinator for Georgia Tech's 1990 national champion and San Diego's 1994 Super Bowl team. He won beyond belief with Vanderlinden's players, giving him major recruiting momentum to upgrade the talent, and has an administration that backs him to the point of alienating basketball coach Gary Williams. Not that alienating Gary Williams is all that hard.
With all that momentum and all those resources, Friedgen has taken Maryland backward. Maryland is worse now than it was in 2003, but more than that, Maryland might be worse now than it was after Vanderlinden's fourth season. And he got fired.
Friedgen, fired? No way. Not after this season. It won't happen, and shouldn't. But if the Terps cough up a 5-7 hunk of dreck, then add another sub-.500 season in 2007, who knows? That would be four straight losing seasons, which gets you fired at most schools.