Who's to Blame for the Football Debacle?

Mike Wise had an article for the WaPo today on Ralph Friedgen, both foretelling and arguing against his increasingly inevitable firing. While the first page is pretty mild, he makes a few strong attacks on Debbie Yow and Maryland's athletic department feigned as a defense of Friedgen. Don't get me wrong, some of them are legitimate points for Fridge, but some of them aren't. (I wonder if there's any reason it came shortly after Yow burning him on his own radio show). Regardless, the entire thing seems to me very one-sided and misinformed. Like this:

Do you know Friedgen said he used funds not from the athletic department's annual operating budget to fly his team to Wake Forest and North Carolina State this season because of budget cuts?

That plane made a big difference in the outcome of those games, huh? That grand total of about one hour saved (depending on the airline, it could be more or less) in travel time didn't prevent NC's sweep of Maryland. Would a bus have made the offensive line even worse? Would a bus have made Anthony Wiseman even less able to cover Wake's wide receivers?

I'm not saying it's not a nice gesture from Ralph, but I don't see the relevance to coaching.

Do you know his Band-Aid roster, with the youth and injuries people accuse Friedgen of using for alibis, is so banged up that left tackle Bruce Campbell is playing with an ACL injury? Do you know another offensive lineman, Lamar Young, is at this moment a candidate for shoulder surgery?

Yeah, Ralph doesn't have enough depth along the offensive line! There's not enough roster balance and they're too young! Let's get rid of the guy that recruited that thin offensive line and that unbalanced roster!

Oh, wait...

(Continue reading after the poll and the jump. The actual question of the poll comes on the second page).

Or that when classes and practice collide at Maryland, which uses the millions from basketball and football to fund many of its stellar athletic programs, alternatives in times are altogether scarce for student-athletes?

I really don't even understand this one. Is he saying players have to skip class to get to practice, or vice versa? Well, at least he uses facts and examples, so we don't just have to take his word for it.

The idea that the latest "It" coaches in college football would jump at this gig -- say, Cincinnati's Brian Kelly or TCU's Gary Patterson -- is a flat-out fallacy. The same goes for sought-after assistants at USC and Florida.'

Who says that's who Maryland should go after? Kelly's going to ND if it opens up, which it probably will, Patterson's sticking at TCU until a top-level job open ups, and Charlie Strong isn't going anywhere anytime soon unless it's a major job. There's no reason Maryland can't go after Turner Gill, Mike London, Ken Nuimatololo, or (dream) Brian Billick, all of whom would be good hires.

If a big-time MAC coach makes almost $300,000 in a cheap-eats town that doubles as his fiefdom, why would he throw that away for the pressure and pains of this job?

Really? Because, oh, I don't know, he 1) isn't living in friggin' Ohio or Michigan, and 2) he's making literally 5 to 8 times as much money.

Also, Maryland isn't a high-pressure job. It doesn't even come close to the pressure of even the dregs of the Big 12 and SEC. Heck, it's not even high-pressure for ACC standards. If Ralph was at Clemson, he would've already been fired; just ask Tommy Bowden.

And don't come back with, "There's nowhere to go but up." Really? Maryland opens 2010 against Navy in Baltimore. Part of the nonconference schedule also includes an old rival, at West Virginia.

Who used that argument? Of course you can go down, but that doesn't no one should want the job. I think every coach in America would go to Florida if they could, and there's nowhere to go but down there.

If an oily salesman came in tomorrow, it wouldn't change the fact Maryland is consistently out-recruited in its area by Penn State, Virginia Tech and recently Illinois. Rutgers and North Carolina have made inroads lately in the District and Maryland.

Is Wise saying that, no matter what happens, Maryland can't recruit in these areas? So Pete Carroll couldn't steal recruits away from Rutgers in MD and DC? Maybe - just maybe - it's Ralph, and not the area.

But before the people at Maryland make any rash decisions and get rid of a guy who began with three 10-win seasons, they need to know that whomever they bring in will not just be trying to replace Ralph Friedgen; he also has to replace the coach who made football in College Park matter again.

I've never liked this excuse. Ralph did make football matter again, and for that I am grateful. I just have to hope he doesn't bring it down again. Not to mention there was very good football before Ralph, and there will be very good football after Ralph.

Consider that Maryland has never had a 10 loss season. Ever. Maryland is 2-8, with two games left, and both times they will be major underdogs.

Of course, the 12 game season is a recent development, so it's not exactly fair to compare across eras in terms of wins and losses. But Maryland's winning percentage, with a 2-10 season, would be about 16%. That's the lowest winning percentage for Maryland since 1967. That's 42 years. Not even Duffner or Vanderlinden had a season worse than this (or as bad, in terms of winning percentage).

I'm not so stubborn to think that Debbie Yow can't be a little at fault here. No one is so bad that they singlehandedly make a team 2-10. But I can't swallow that she's more at fault than Ralph.

It's the same problem I had with blaming Yow entirely for Maryland's basketball troubles recently. What was the difference between Yow in 07-08 and Yow last year? What was the difference between Morgan St. loss Yow and UNC win Yow? Similarly, if you could tell me how Yow made Maryland lose this year but win the early 2000s, you're better than me.

She doesn't call plays; she doesn't recruit; she doesn't make personnel decisions. She does allocate funds, though, which surely has an impact on recruiting, but I'm not sure how much else. She's to blame, yes, but not nearly so much as Ralph is, and nearly enough to suggest that no one will want the Maryland job.

This is just my opinion, though. How do you see it? Is it the administration? Is it Ralph? Feel free to comment, but remember: I know nothing more than you, and this is just an opinion, on both sides.

PS: I don't mind Mike Wise and this wasn't meant as a hack job. He's a good writer, but it was this just one article I disagree with.

PSS: This isn't meant to be a wholehearted defense of Debbie Yow. I know a lot of people have issues with her budgeting and the Olympic sports - I'm not going to take a stance on any of it because I don't know enough. Money or no money, Ralph just hasn't done his job, as I see it.

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