As we sit back and watch the results for the midterm elections, it's time to take a vote on something that many Terps fans are discussing - what are your feelings on head football coach Ralph Friedgen? A year ago today, Maryland Football was coming off of their bye week, had just dropped a close game to Duke, and was preparing for NC State. They had a miserable 2-6 record, with one of the wins admittedly coming against a good Clemson team, but the other coming against JMU and requiring overtime.
We didn't know it at the time, but Maryland would go on to lose the remainder of their games, finishing with a school record 10 losses. Many thought Ralph Friedgen's time as head coach of his alma mater was coming to a close. Many thought Friedgen had lost the coaching magic that saw him win 10+ games in his first three season, but struggle with a 35-38 record since. What had been a promising, growing fan base of support, including a growing number of season ticket holders, quickly lost interest, thinking Maryland football had reverted back to it's pre-Fridge form, where Maryland fans cared about only one sport: men's basketball.
More after the jump...
But for a variety of reasons, Ralph Friedgen was retained for the 2010 season. Many thought this Maryland team would be better than the previous year, but would struggle to get to the bowl-eligible threshold of six wins. One year later, Maryland sits at 6-2 (3-1 ACC), and finds themselves in an interesting position at the start of November - in contention for the ACC Atlantic Title. While their victories have come against some weaker teams, the Terps have taken care of business against those teams, including last week's demolishing of Wake Forest. Maryland has also dealt with making constant changes to their offensive line and making the decision to stick with redshirt freshman QB Danny O'Brien, who could end up being the ACC rookie of the year, even after Jamarr Robinson returned fully healthy.
What Maryland does in their last four games will go a long way in determining, ultimately, how people end of feeling about Fridge. But right now, as a bowl-eligible team, they control their own destiny with four games remaining. Heck, they could lose to either Miami or Virginia and still make the title game if they defeat FSU and NC State, plus either Miami or UVA. And Maryland plays both the FSU and NC State games at home.
Despite all of this, the fans haven't exactly been rushing to Byrd Stadium to watch this team. Last week, during homecoming weekend, only around 40,000 people showed up to watch Maryland dominate Wake (although part of that could have been the fact that the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear was going on at the same time). Are people apathetic towards this team because they've only beaten lesser opponents and struggled against better competition (Clemson and WVU, although both of those games were on the road in hostile environments)? Are fans sending a message that, despite the success this season, they would like Fridge gone? Or is this just a product of a poor economy and coming off of a 2-10 season? I think a lot of it has to do with the economy; when you can't sell out season tickets to Comcast for men's basketball after a co-ACC championship season, clearly the economy is preventing people from spending money they'd normally spend in the past on things such as Maryland football and basketball.
If Maryland goes 2-2 or better in their last 4 games and finishes 8-4 or better on the season, Ralph Friedgen will not only be back next season, he could be back as the ACC Coach of the Year. And if that happens, Maryland might be looking at extending his contract and possibly buying out James Franklin in 2012. That's something we'll discuss in a few weeks, depending on how the team does down the stretch. For now, on this election Tuesday, we want to put the vote in the hands of Terp Nation - What do you think of the job Ralph Friedgen has done this season? Get a discussion going in the comments and be sure to vote in the poll below. Let your voice be heard!