Maryland Football: Vanderbilt's James Franklin May Be Terps' "One That Got Away"
In December of 2010, the Maryland Terrapins were coming off a 9-4 season, a second place finish in the Atlantic Division and a 51-20 bowl win over the East Carolina Pirates. As all the positive vibes surrounded Maryland football, new athletic director Kevin Anderson decided to pull the trigger on the Ralph Friedgen era. The aging head coach would not retire willingly and so, following the shellacking of ECU, the Terps fired their long-time head coach.
Along with Friedgen, the Terps lost their offensive coordinator and coach-in-waiting James Franklin. Franklin, who was named the coach-in-waiting by former athletic director Debbie Yow, left the school after new athletic director Kevin Anderson decided not to honor the previous agreement. Instead of interviewing for the job against other candidates, Franklin interviewed and took the gig at Vanderbilt in December 2010, to avoid the uncertainty surrounding the Maryland choice.
For Franklin, the choice makes sense; take the job that clearly wants you, not the job that wants to keep you in their back pocket just in case they can't get anyone better on the open market. A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, and all that jazz.
For Maryland, they had to watch Franklin and Vanderbilt, a team with a less talented roster, go 6-7 against a tougher schedule and in a tougher conference, all while seeing their team go 2-10 with massive transfers coming as the squad fell deeper into the abyss entering the offseason. Danny O'Brien, the one-time ACC Rookie of the Year and freshman All-American got benched as the Terps struggled to find any production on offense. O'Brien would then transfer to Wisconsin in a highly publicized struggle with head coach Randy Edsall.
Maryland had to watch their team lose game after game by double digits, while James Franklin's Vanderbilt squad took Georgia, Florida, Arkansas and Tennessee to the brink in SEC play. While Randy Edsall offered little in the way of inspiration, the fiery Franklin was inspiring a fan base that had never had much to root for.
In hindsight, should Maryland have stuck with James Franklin?
Now, Maryland is on the right track. By hiring Mike Locksley, Edsall has helped to repair relationships on his own team and with the DelMarVa area in which he has to recruit. For all of Locksley's shortcomings in dealing with adults, the bulk of college football is about schmoozing with high school kids and young adults, and that is something the Terps new addition does quite well.
But, for Maryland, oh what might have been had they hired James Franklin. A coach who knew and helped recruit the players on that roster. A coach who runs a dynamic offense and has worked with one of the finest play callers in the game, Ralph Friedgen. A coach who can inspire a fan base, both with his words and with his teams' play.
Now, Maryland is sitting in the middle of a tremendous rebuilding process. That's what happens when twenty-some odd players jump off the boat in the first year of the Edsall experiment. After a 9-4, season the Terps became one of college football's worst teams. Instead of building on the success, Edsall is starting from scratch. Meanwhile, Franklin, a coach who could have continued the momentum that existed in College Park after the 9-4 season, is making things happen at Vanderbilt.
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