Maryland announced this morning that head coach Ralph Friedgen will return for his 10th year in College Park next fall. It is unclear what staff changes will be made but it is unlikely that significant changes will be made until next year since all the assistants are under contract until the end of June regardless. While many Maryland fans may be upset by this decision I think it was really the only option. While athletic department officials may publicly maintain that there was the money available to buy out the last two years of Friedgen's contract there was not the support among the public officials to make that a viable alternative. It was clear from the comments by Tom McMillen, Len Elmore and Governer Martin O'Malley to the media that the athletic director Debbie Yow would be going out on her own if she chose to spend the $5 million necessary to sweep out James Franklin and Ralph Friedgen.
The future implications of this decision are tough to predict. The comments by Friedgen after the last game of the season regarding making better use of the talent on offense suggest that he and Franklin might not be on the same page. If a schism develops between the two that could result in a very unpleasant climate on the staff which already isn't rosy according to the rumors. This decision marginalizes Franklin to a certain extent and, along with his poor performance as offensive coordinator, could set the stage for his departure as well.
The uncertain status of Friedgen was supposed to be ameliorated by the head-coach-in-waiting contract given to Franklin but that decision looks to have backfired on Debbie Yow. With both Franklin and Friedgen on thin ice it will be worth watching the recruiting success or failure going forward. Recruits might be more reluctant to commit to Maryland given all the uncertainty and it will also be worth watching to see if any significant players transfer or depart in the offseason. Left tackle Bruce Campbell will most likely bolt for the NFL but the rest of the roster should be intact. If players begin to transfer then that will be an ominous sign.
This team does have a young nucleolus of talent but they will have to improve in a hurry to change the ending to this story. With only two wins this year it wouldn't take much to improve upon that but how much better can you expect this group to be? The schedule isn't daunting with dates against Navy, West Virginia and Eastern Michigan at the moment. In ACC play Maryland will travel to Miami, Clemson, BC and Virginia. The home slate looks promising with Wake, N.C. State, Florida State and Duke coming to College Park. Friedgen has stated he expects the team to be significantly improved next season, which is the only thing he could say at the moment, but that will require some large leaps at multiple positions this off season. The net effect of this decision is to put Maryland's football future in stasis for another season. That may not be the worst thing that could happen when you consider the poor judgment of those that would make the decision to hire Friedgen's replacement.