As was mentioned in a previous post, bbroman and I are posting two different points of view on the future of Ralph Friedgen as the Terps' head football coach. I present to you, below, my argument, detailing why we should keep the big guy around through the 2010 season. bbroman's counterargument on why Ralph needs to go will appear in a post shortly after this one. We'll also post polls at the end of each argument, asking you, the fans, what you think. Also, don't forget to vote for Testudo Times in the Baltimore Sun's Mobbies awards! You can do so by clicking here.
A long time ago, in a college football stadium far, far away, there was a Maryland Terrapin’s team that was lucky to get 4 wins in a season. From 1986-2000, the Terps averaged 4 wins per season. During that stretch, the most games that were won in a season was 6 (twice) and suffered through six 2 or 3 win seasons. The total number of bowl games the Terps participated in was 1 and that game finished in a tie, 34-34, against Louisiana Tech in the Independence Bowl. The Terps also had no ACC titles during that stretch.
In the Ralph Friedgen era, the Terps record is 65-39 (including the games thus far this season). They had 3 consecutive 10+ win seasons (the only time that’s ever happened in school history), they’ve averaged 8 wins per season (not including the games so far this year), they’ve gone to six bowl games and have won four of them and they’ve never finished with more than six losses in a season (although that could very likely change this year). The Terps were also the first team since Florida State joined the conference to win an ACC title.
Just look at those numbers Terps fans; twice as many wins per season; six times more bowl games; an ACC title. We’re probably in one of the best time periods in Terps football history. I think we were spoiled by having Fridge start off his tenure with three consecutive 10+ win seasons. People started thinking we could be an elite team on an annual basis. But the problem with Maryland has always been that they’ve never been able to building a consecutive winning tradition. There are boom periods and then periods like the one mentioned above. Would we have loved to have built off three 10+ win seasons? Sure. But it didn’t work out that way. So the question now is this; are we expecting too much from the Terps? Would we love to see the Terps as an annual national title contender? Of course we would. But the truth is, although Maryland has been playing organized football since 1892, we’re not one of the elite programs in the U.S. When you’ve been playing football for 117 years and only have one National Title and 23 bowl game appearances, going 10-11-2 in those games, we should probably be happy with the current product here at Maryland.
Ralph has put life back into the Terps program. Are there things we’d all like to see changed? Sure. But even in a scenario where the Athletic Department could afford to fire the Fridge (which we know they can’t), I’d say he’s earned the right to go out on his own. Is he on the same level as Gary? Definitely not. But he’s still done a similar thing to what Gary did – taken a program that was in the dumps and made it important again. Maryland football was a second thought to basketball before Ralph arrived. The new Tyser Tower, the video boards in either endzone, the new Gossett Team house – those are all because of Ralph. Does the program maybe need some new blood? A new football message from a new coach? Possibly, especially when you’re players aren’t playing with intensity and heart. That falls on the coach.
The Terps this season have just been playing sloppy, uninspired football and something has to change. But I don’t think that change should be Ralph. Not now. Not after all he’s done. The Terps biggest problem is turning the ball over and I don’t know what else a coach can do to prevent a player from fumbling except going out and helping them hold the ball on each play. At some point, the responsibility has to fall on the player. But at the same time, the players need to respond to their coach. I think Ralph has shown enough success in the past to justify him finishing out his contract through next year. When you’re responsible for one of the best time periods in Maryland football history, I think you’ve earned that luxury and right.