Senior College Football Columnist

Talking Maryland, loyalty and coaching with Ralph Friedgen

Ralph Friedgen says he still watches Maryland 'every time they play' (USATSI)
Ralph Friedgen says he still watches Maryland 'every time they play.' (USATSI)

Ralph Friedgen was one of a host of former standout college head coaches in Atlanta for this year's Bobby Dodd Coach of the Year presentation. CBS caught up with the 66-year-old former Maryland head man, a two-time ACC Coach of the Year. Friedgen, the 2001 Bobby Dodd Coach of the Year, took over a Terps program that hadn't been to a bowl in the previous decade before he arrived back in College Park. In spite of that, Friedgen led Maryland to 31 wins in his first three seasons and he led the program to seven bowls over his decade there before his alma mater fired him after the 2010 season.

Q: What have you been up to since leaving Maryland?

Friedgen: I'm down in Charleston. The latest thing is I'm coaching this Medal of Honor Bowl in Charleston. It's a first-year college all-star game and they've roped me into coaching it. It's January 11 and it's supported by the NFL and there will be a lot of NFL scouts there. And I've been doing my normal tough life of playing golf and fishing and working out.

I don't play golf every day. I used to fish quite a bit, but I've gotten spoiled to where I'm thinking, 'Well, if the wind's not right, I can always go tomorrow.'

Q: How much do you miss coaching?

Friedgen: I do miss some parts. I really miss the kids more than anything. A lot of the stuff I don't miss.

Q: Thought about trying to get back in?

Friedgen: I've talked to people. I've turned down some situations. If it was something that really excited me, I'd get back into it. I just haven't really found that yet. There have been a couple of things that my agent thought I should get involved with, but those didn't just really excite me.

Q: You had such a tough exit from your alma mater, Maryland. How much has time changed how you feel about how things went down there?

Friedgen: You know, it's interesting with all of these coaching changes now at this time of the year. Then, you see some of these situations with (former Friedgen colleague) Billy O'Brien and some of these other guys, and I think, sometimes when you got those opportunities, you should take them because there really isn't any loyalty in this business.

Q: You were at Maryland 10 years, but it seems like coaches are fortunate, even if they're winning, that people don't start getting tired of them by year five or six.

Friedgen: I think a lot of it is just human nature. It is what it is.

They just think it's so easy and (success) should happen all the time. I laugh about some of the criticism that was out there. People said that I won with another coach's players. Yeah, well, he didn't win with them.

My last year at Maryland, I won nine games and was voted ACC Coach of the Year.

Q: Not many guys lose their jobs coming off that kind of year, right?

Friedgen: I don't know if anybody else ever has. Do you?

I talked to (another college head coach) a couple of years back for one of my coaches. He said, 'You know, I'd been meaning to call you. I'm not really happy with where our profession's at. Maryland, Miami, West Virginia and two others all had winning seasons and all had coaches who were alumni and all of them got fired. And all of them had new ADs too.

I got offered the job at Georgia Tech after George (O'Leary) left (after the 2001 season). I didn't leave (Maryland) even though I have great affection for Georgia Tech. I also felt great loyalty to Maryland. I had talked to Tampa Bay a couple of years later but I nixed that. You look back and wonder if you made the right career decisions along the way.

Q: I think a lot of people get that coaching can be a tough business, but now they see and hear about the money coaches are making and the money some of these guys make after they get fired and figure it doesn't sound like that bad of a deal.

Friedgen: Well, the thing that really bothered me was that I didn't have the chance to tell my coaches and my players. The announcement came out on a Friday night. I had already talked to (Maryland AD Kevin) Anderson about it and was willing to step down on Monday. But I think there was a big thing of them wanting to bring in (Mike) Leach on Friday and then with James Franklin going to Vanderbilt, it gets released. I had a recruiting weekend and here I am going to the dinner and now it's on ESPN?

I'm sitting with the (recruits) parents trying to explain this. 'The school is still a good school.' I still recruited the whole weekend and I got three commits that weekend. Quinton Jefferson and two other kids committed. I think I should've at least had the opportunity to tell my players and my staff. Now I've got my staff coming up to me, 'What the hell is this?' And they had to continue to work too.

I think they (Maryland brass) thought they had a slam dunk. They'd have me step down and then they'd bring in Leach.

Q: Do you still watch Maryland games?

Friedgen: I watch every game they play.

Q: Is it very bittersweet for you?

Friedgen: There are still some of my players there. (QB) C.J. Brown was one of my players. (Brandon) Ross committed to me early. I'm always looking to see how they're doing, and I'll text back and forth with them--'Good game' or whatever. I also stay up late to watch (former Maryland RB) D.J. Adams play at Portland State. He's a pretty good back you know.

Q: Do you root for Maryland?

Friedgen: I can't say that. I don't really root one way or the another. I don't root against them but I can't root for 'em either.

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