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A Slightly Closer Look at Maryland's Football Contract Situation

Eric Prisbell had a post today about Maryland's sticky situation in regards to Ralph Friedgen's and James Franklin's contracts. While I've made it clear I'm not a Prisbell fan, this was a good story that gave all the basic information. It's not the whole story, though, so I thought I'd expand on it a bit.

As most of you already know, Fridge has a hefty buyout that consists not only of base salary, but also of all extra appearances and endorsements. After that, Franklin has to get $1 mil if not made head coach by 2011. Thus, truly cleaning house - what a lot of people think needs to be done - would be very costly.

Prisbell cites Fridge's buyout at $4mil+; that seems to be the accepted number. My own calculation had him in the mid $3mil area, but it's possible (actually, likely) that his base salary has since increased due to some incentive or other, so a number in the 4s is definitely possible. Then you add in the million from Franklin - a sum Debbie Yow was determined not to pay even on its own - and the salary from a new's enough to say that offseason won't be cheap.

That doesn't mean firing Fridge is impossible (whether its the right thing to do or not is up to you - I'm simply presenting the information if it were to go down). While it might seem like a longshot that the notoriously Scrooge-y Yow would willingly shell out a sum north of five million dollars, you have to consider what would happen if she didn't, assuming Maryland football delved deeper into mediocrity, or worse.

Ticket sales are already dropping, due both to a lack of disposable income and the team's play. The new Tyser Tower suites, long praised by the athletic department, aren't coming close to being sold out. You can bet that attendance next year will be even worse if Fridge doesn't right the ship.

Don't forget about MGN donors, too. It's all too easy for boosters - the lifeblood of the program - to disappear in hard times, both economically and on the field. A decrease in boosters and a decrease in attendance could well cause at least $5mil in damages compared to normal income in the next two or three years.

It's no secret that a new coach brings more excitement to a program, which revitalizes both donations and attendance rates, nearly automatically fixing both those issues. Whether Franklin is or isn't "new" is an argument for another time (I imagine most would argue no, but I could be wrong).

Not to mention the buyout probably won't be as bad as it sounds. Fridge's contract doesn't state that the buyout has to be lump sum, nor would he probably want it that way. It's more likely to be drawn-out payments, so the blow wouldn't come all at once, but could instead come over two or more years.

So yeah, it is economically viable for Fridge's contract to be bought out. I wouldn't call it likely by any stretch of the imagination, but it could happen as long as Yow deems the damage done without action exceeds the buyout cost.

Not as much can be done about Franklin. Either you pay him or you don't. There's not as much risk if he's instilled as HC - if he works, great; if not, the buyout won't be anywhere near as big as Ralph's - but the benefits might not be as immediate or pronounced as a brand new coach. That's an argument for a time far in the future.

For the record, I'm not saying Fridge needs to be fired. I'm not laying out a plan to fire him. I'm also not proposing to do anything about it mid-season. If things continue on the path they're headed (that is, a season with a win count somewhere between 1 and 3), the discussion will come up both among fans and inside the athletic department, and I wanted to get this out there beforehand. If he pulls it together, which is just as possible, this is a non-issue and should be disregarded.