On its face, Maryland's ouster of Ralph Friedgen doesn't make a lot of sense. The Fridge had just engineered the FBS's second-biggest turnaround to finish a game out of the ACC Atlantic Divison title, there was no longer any hurry to clear his office out for coach-in-waiting James Franklin after Franklin took the Vanderbilt job, and you'd think being an alum and the guy who dragged the Terps out of their '90s doldrums would have earned Friedgen some slack.
It didn't make much sense ... until the whispers surfaced throughout Friday and Saturday that Mike Leach was likely to become the next man-in-charge in College Park. Those whispers gained even more credence Sunday when the Washington Post reported that an attempt to sign Leach was all but a certainty:
Maryland is expected to try to hire former Texas Tech Coach Mike Leach as head football coach once the school announces Ralph Friedgen’s departure after a 10-year tenure, according to three sources familiar with the situation.With all due respect to the good work Friedgen did with the shambles of a program he inherited 10 years ago, if the Terps legitimately have the choice between the Fridge and Leach -- and Leach's willingness to lobby for nearly any job that came open this fall suggests they do -- then it's not really much of a choice. Maryland and Texas Tech are schools with roughly similar historical profiles, though Tech's presence in the rugged Big 12 South rather than the ACC means Leach arguably had something of the harder job; from 2002 to 2009 Leach never failed to win fewer than eight games, while Friedgen only reached that benchmark three seasons in the last seven.
There is mutual interest between Leach and Maryland, according to three sources, two of whom are close to Maryland and one of whom is close to Leach. Leach is said to be very interested in the job. He has a strong relationship with Kevin Plank , a former Maryland football player who sits on the school’s board of trustees and whose apparel company, Under Armour, is the outfitter for the school’s athletic teams.
There's also this, from the Post report:
Season ticket sales have declined for five straight seasons. The school fell more than $500,000 short of season ticket sales projections in each of the past two seasons. And only once this season – despite a successful 8-4 record – did Maryland fill Byrd Stadium to 75 percent capacity.If the Terps now have the cash to buy out Friedgen they didn't a year ago, and they're not scared away by the Leach-Tech lawsuit still due to have its day in court, it wouldn't make much sense not to make this move. We're not yet in the stage where it's "just a matter of time" (the notoriously unshy Leach has yet to publicly announce his interest), but at this point it's hard to find any indications it won't happen sooner rather than later.