On Saturday we passed along the news that Maryland and football coach Ralph Friedgen had agreed on a buyout and that Mike Leach was the leading candidate to replace him as head football coach. The news was confirmed Monday when it was officially announced that Ralph would be fired after the team’s December 29th bowl game. As much as we respect what Mike Leach did at Texas Tech, Maryland is not a big-time program and the reality is it will be hard to outperform Friedgen.
Ralph led the Terps to seven bowl games in 10 years and five 8-win or more seasons. After a disappointing 2-10 year last season, he turned in an 8-4 year this season. In 2001, he led the Terps to their first double-digit win season since 1976, and actually accomplished the feat three straight years. So not only will I argue that Friedgen did a wonderful job at Maryland, but I’ll also say that it will be difficult to do much better than he did.
Given all that information, why did Maryland make a change? It’s pretty clear that the reason is not performance-related. In fact, athletic director Kevin Anderson confirmed the move is “a strategic business decision.” What the heck does that mean? College football teams are in the business of winning, and Friedgen won somewhere it’s not easy to win, so what did he do wrong?
The answer comes to us from The Wiz of Odds who wrote over the weekend “Maryland fell $500,000 short of season ticket sales projections in each of the past two seasons and has been unable to sell all the suites at remodeled Tyser Tower, part of Byrd Stadium. That is a source of irritation to Anderson, who told the Baltimore Sun in October that leasing the suites needed to be a top priority.”
Even though the team won with Friedgen as head coach, the fan base wasn’t invigorated. The thinking is that a new coach — especially one like Captain Leach — will spark interest in the program and help sell tickets and luxury suites. So what have we learned from all this? Winning isn’t enough — you have to sell. Sucks for the Fridge who was a fantastic coach at a bad program.Google+