Apparently Mike Leach will not be coaching at the University of Maryland after all. Instead, Randy Edsall, former coach of the University of Connecticut Huskies, will be taking over the reigns. Oddly, this seems to be a lateral move for the Terrapins, who paid $2.5 million to buy out two-time ACC Coach of the Year Ralph Friedgen.
Make no mistake, Edsall is a good coach, and had he been hired after Friedgen retired, I would have agreed with the move. Still, one has to question this decision after paying millions to buy out coach Freidgen only to replace him with a coach of similar pedigree.
On paper both coaches would seem to be of similar pedigree. Edsall helped oversee UConn's transformation from a Division I-AA power into a solid Division I-A team, leading the Huskies to 74-70 record and five bowl games.
Friedgen likewise raised the bottom-feeding Maryland football team into a solid team. In the 10 years preceding Friedgen, the Terrapins posted a 75-50 record and seven bowl games, a record that certainly looks better than Edsall's. In fact, since 2001 Friedgen won more bowl games than Edsall's team even competed in.
In retrospect should UMD have fired Friedgen?
The biggest problem at Maryland was not the win and loss columns, but fan interest in the program. Caught between the NFL Washington Redskins and Baltimore Ravens, the University of Maryland had trouble filling the stands. It was maintained among many commentators that an exciting hire, such as Mike Leach, could help generate interest, and thereby revenue, for the program. Edsall runs a typical run-first offense, and while he has done a good job building a solid program at UConn, his teams have never been all that exciting to watch.
Only twice has Edsall posted a winning record in the Big East, a conference so weak over the last decade that many have come to question whether or not the Big East even deserved to be an Automatic Qualifying conference, and ironically the Big East had to add a non-AQ team (TCU) to bolster their resume.
Further, according to Rivals.com, every recruiting class brought in by Friedgen was ranked in the top 50. Edsall, meanwhile, failed to bring in a single top 50 recruiting class. Several non-automatic qualifying teams, such as Utah and TCU, have brought in top 50 recruiting classes over the last decade, so UConn's position in the Big East is certainly not an excuse.
Was it really worth firing Friedgen, a proven winner and dedicated coach, to replace him with Edsall?
I guess only time will tell, but I am personally questioning the move. I would have likely disagreed with firing Friedgen no matter who was hired as his replacement, as a Coach of the Year simply should not be fired. But replacing him with a coach of similar pedigree is an even more questionable move.