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The identity crisis that is Maryland football

January 10, 2011


Happy New Years all! I am back from a wonderful week in Jamaica, but now time to get back on the grind. I am intrigued by the whole University of Maryland football coaching situation. Living in the Baltimore area and having a wife that is a state of Maryland employee, this story interests me more than I would usually care about Maryland football. How does a program like Maryland justify firing the standing ACC coach of the year? Maryland finished 10-4 and has averaged 7.5 wins over the last 9 seasons and is 5-1 in bowl games over the same time.

   It is important to keep in mind that the Maryland football program generated $2,260,000 in the 2008-2009 season. The university will pay Ralph Friedgen approximately $2,500,00 to not coach this year,  pay Randy Edsall another $2,000,000, and also pay the $400,000 buyout owed to UCONN for letting Edsall go. For those of you that don’t know, Maryland, as a state economy,  is broke. The state’s budget has been horribly mismanaged with all kinds of problems, including but not limited to not even being able to collect proper taxes from the airport that total some $41,000,000.  State employees have been forced to take anywhere from 1 to 13 furlough days based on their salaries. They also had a salary reduction last year and have not had a cost of living or merritt based increase in the last 3 years, but somehow this state can find the money to put $5,000,000 into a head coach of a football program that generates around $2,500,000 while the rest of the state employees move backward in terms of the compensation. 

At the root of this problem, at least in my opinion, is the identity crisis of the Maryland football program and its fans.  A few weeks ago on ESPN radio on the SVP show, Van Pelt did what I thought was an interesting take on a few college programs. He looks at how the fans and alumin of various teams percieve themselves, versus what the programs identity really is.  For example, he took Clemson, whose fans and program see themselves as a perennial top 10 team with national title hopes every year and compared their internal perception to Florida, a team with the resources to actually be a top 10 team every year with national title hopes every year. He then said that the reality of Clemson’s situation is that they are more like South Carolina, a 4 loss a year team that every now and then will jump up and have a great season, but is not a perennial national/ ACC championship contender.

I think that Maryland’s internal perception of itself is Penn St. They feel that they should be a 10 win program every year and be able to be a major recruiting player in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic. Maryland really believes it is one of the top 3 programs in the ACC and should have BCS aspirations every year. Only a team that sees themselves in this light would fire the reigning ACC coach of the year. The Penn St football program generates $42,360,000 compared to Maryland’s $2,600,000.

I think Maryland’s reality is more like the University of Pittsburg, an 8 win program in an average/below average conference. Pitt is sandwiched between Penn St and Ohio St when it comes to recruiting, has a tough time keeping their best players home, and must often settle for players those two teams don’t want. Maryland has good in-state high school football players , but like Pitt,  sees most of the best ones go to two established football powers they are sandwiched between,  Penn St or Virginia Tech. Like Pitt, Maryland should expect to compete for conference championships every few years, with a BCS appearance once every 8-10 years or so.  Pitt generated $5,570,000, twice as much as Maryland.

When a school like Maryland forces out a good coach, you always have to wonder what their end game is. Do they really see themselves as a 10 win program? They don’t generate the kind of revenue that Texas, Ohio St, Florida and the like do, so it’s hard for me to see their justification for putting $5,000,000 into head coach salary this year. That’s an RTI(return on investment) of over 2 years, and that investment does not include paying out the contracts of assistant coaches that will not be retained as well as paying the incoming staff.

For me the economics don’t make sense, and we won’t even get into how awfully the situation was handled by Maryland. The way they treated a good coach and loyal alumnus was inexcusable.


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