The rumor mills are churning right now as Athletic Director Debbie Yow meets with head football coach Ralph Friedgen about the state of the football program. Football Coach Scoop is reporting that if Fridge wants to keep his job, Franklin has to go. As Ben B. said in a post earlier about this speculation, we're not sure how seriously Terps fans should take this, but maybe they know something we don't. We know the discussion between Dr. Yow and Ralph Friedgen is moving forward and will probably be concluding soon, but aside from that, we haven't heard too much, so take anything else you hear with a grain of salt. No one is really sure when or what the outcome of these meetings will be, but I'd like to put on my speculation hat for a moment and think about what a buyout of James Franklin and not Ralph Friedgen would mean for the Maryland football program. Is that the best solution moving forward?
Buying out just Franklin might seem a little crazy, but most people seem to think that paying Friedgen $4 mil to leave isn't really feasible in this economy. But at the same time, supporters of the football program want changes after the first 10 loss season in school history. Paying $1 mil to buy out Franklin would cost them only 20% of what it would be buyout both Fridge and Franklin ($4 mil to buy out Friedgen and another $1 mil to buy out Franklin). While many people are going to want to start over completely from top to bottom, this still articulates that things needed to change going forward, shows that someone paid for the failures of this season and saves Maryland $4 mil. I'm not sure Franklin ever deserved the "coach in waiting" deal he was awarded and I think others have realized this as well. If the school isn't happy about the Franklin era starting in a few years then they need to rip off that band aid now so they can develop a new plan moving forward. The longer they wait to make that decision, the more it will hurt the program and recruiting. If they still think Franklin is the answer moving forward, then perhaps they sit on their hands and don't do much in terms of assistant coach firings this off-season.
I think one question that has to be asked, if Friedgen is retained, is when does he plan on stepping down? What if the Terps have a successful year next year (8-10 win season)? Will Fridge want to then continue on through 2011 and beyond? He seemed to indicate that he might want to continue coaching longer than he originally thought, partially because he was able to lose 100 lbs this offeason and improve his overall heath. But if Ralph wants to continue coaching (assuming he produces success for the program in 2010 and 2011), he needs to come to a decision and stick to it. Remember, Ralph approached Dr. Yow about the coach in waiting idea, indicating that he thought Franklin should take over the program and that Ralph was likely going to retire in a few years. But Ralph has to know that he can't Brett Farve this decision year to year (and yes, I just made Brett Farve into a verb). Doing so will hurt the program that he is so passionate about building.
I don't think Ralph wants to go out like this. I think he wants to go out on top and he thinks the players he has returning next year and for 2011 can help him do that. What if Maryland buys out Franklin and then the Terps go out and steal Ivin Jasper, Navy's offensive coordinator, who has helped them run the option the past few years, and have him develop an option type offense for Maryland for 2010? Think about it - Robinson has clearly shown his ability to run. We have multiple talented running backs in Scott and Meggett, and we have a wide receiver with talent and speen in Torrey Smith. We could run a wildcat type offense and I think be very successful doing it. We have Robinson, Smith and Meggett for two more seasons and in that time, if we can find a good recruiter, we go after similar, fast guys, to continue that offensive trend into the future. Jasper has shown his ability to run and develop this type of offense while at Navy. And while he is the offensive coordinator at Navy, he's not as high up on the coaching tree there as you might think. There are 6 assistant head coaches in front of him, so while it might not sound like a promotion going from Navy's offensive coordinator to Maryland's offensive coordinator, he'd be getting a big promotion and going to a bigger program. Now I'll complete this whole hypothetical and throw in Ben B's ideal situation and say that Friedgen would then retire after the 2011 season and the Terps hire former Ravens head coach Brian Billick to be their new head coach.
What do you think? If the Terps cleaned their coaching house, sans Friedgen, would you be happy with the program going into 2010? Or do you want Dr. Yow to completely clean house? Or do you think Franklin is the answer and that Ralph should step down and let him take over now?