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Maryland Terrapins Roundtable - Looking Back on the Craziness of the Last Twelve Months

Still can't believe that he's retired. And that was have a new AD. And President. And Football coach.
Still can't believe that he's retired. And that was have a new AD. And President. And Football coach.

With the month of July coming to a close, things are finally starting to pick up in the world of college athletics, with football camp just around the corner and the 2nd evaluation period in basketball now underway. Maryland's new head football and basketball coaches are busy preparing for their upcoming seasons and...yeah, that sounds weird doesn't it? A new head coach in both football AND basketball, hired within a few months of each other? Oh, and on top of that, a new Athletic Director AND new University President both hired within the last year? That got us here at Testudo Times thinking about just how crazy the last year has been for not just Maryland Athletics, but the University as a whole. Thus, we're going to look back on the past year and discuss the craziness that has resulted since July 9th, 2010.

Just as a refresher, from July 9th, 2010 until May 11th, 2011, The University of Maryland has seen arguably one of the craziest transitions ever within every big time position at the University; School President, Athletic Director, Head Football Coach and Head Men's Basketball Coach. Has any BCS school ever turned over each of those positions within a year like that, especially without a huge scandal fueling such a transition? I can't think of a school that's come close to what Maryland has experienced over the last year. A quick look back and round table discussion after the jump:

July 9th, 2010 - Maryland Athletic Director Debbie Yow, who'd been at the helm of Maryland Athletics for 16 years, officially resigns to accept the same position at NC State.

August 18th, 2010 - New University President Wallace Loh is hired to replace President C.D. Mote Jr., who is retiring after 12 years.

September 4th, 2010 - New Athletic Director Kevin Anderson is hired.

December 17th, 2010 - Offensive Coordinator and Head Coach in waiting James Franklin leaves Maryland to become the head coach at Vanderbilt.

December 20th, 2010 - Kevin Anderson announces the firing of head football coach Ralph Friedgen, who would have essentially been a one year lame duck coach, following an 8-4 regular reason.

January 2nd, 2011 - After days of speculation, Kevin Anderson hires UConn coach Randy Edsall to succeed Ralph Friedgen as head football coach.

May 5th, 2011 - After a disappointing season that saw the men's basketball team miss the post season completely for the first time since 1993 and following the departure of sophomore center Jordan Williams to the NBA, head basketball coach Gary Williams abruptly announces that he's retiring after 22 years at the helm of his alma mater. Williams does remain on staff with the athletic department as a an assistant athletic director and special assistant to Kevin Anderson.

May 9th, 2011 - After days of speculation that included Sean Miller, Brad Stevens and others, Maryland hires Texas A&M coach Mark Turgeon as their new men's basketball coach.

Wow. I'm exhausted after just reading that. When you reflect back on the last 12 months, I don't think anyone could have predicted that we'd see something this drastic occur at Maryland within such a short period of time. Who could have known that Yow's resignation would have such a snowball effect on Maryland Athletics?

Question 1 - Looking up at that time line, what was the most shocking thing to you?

Ben B:

Gary's retirement, without a doubt. I thought he was closer to calling it quits than most people did, but I expected him to try to go out on top. The rejuvenated recruiting led me to believe he was gearing up for one final run, but even if he wasn't, I still thought he was going to go out after a winning season. He was representative of Maryland in so many ways, I think it probably would've been a shock anytime it came, but it was a huge one given the circumstances. Complete blindsider.

Ben G:

I think it’s got to be Gary.  In hindsight, I guess it shouldn’t have been all that surprising.  He’s been at it 22 years, accomplished everything he could possibly accomplish, and saw the landscape around him (namely recruiting) change so dramatically.  Still, none of the events on that timeline are as significant as Gary Williams retiring.  He was certainly the face of Maryland Athletics and probably the most recognizable member of the entire University.  It’s truly a new day in College Park.  

Dave T:

Yeah, I definitely thing it's Gary too.I think part of me just hoped he'd never retire. It is still somewhat shocking to me through that the loss to Michigan State in the NCAA tourney in 2010 was pretty much the beginning of the end in terms of Gary being the face of Maryland Athletics. That's crazy and makes me wish even more that we could have won that game...

2. There is no better way to get a true, real time evaluation of where your football and basketball programs stand in respect to others than going through a coaching search. Where does Maryland stand on the landscape in both football and basketball?

Ben G:

I’d have to say the national interest in both jobs surpassed my expectations.  People aren’t necessarily jumping up and down for Edsall (that’s an entirely separate issue) but let’s not forget that he left a solid, up-and-coming, Big East Champion Connecticut program to come to UMD.  There was also some interest from a top coordinator in Guz Malzann and some guy named Mike Leach.  It’s hard to say where the football program stands because it’s at such a crossroads, but the fact that we were able to coach-steal the Big East COY coming off his first BCS appearance has to say good things about the perception, or perhaps ceiling, of this program.     

 With basketball, I can now say for certain this is a top-15 job.  The amount of sports writers and analysts who emphatically stated so confirmed that for me.  A bunch of great coaches at good programs expressed varying degrees of interest, and we were one disastrous meeting away from landing one of the top two hottest coaches in the country.  In the end, we ended up with a guy who’s being praised by college basketball analysts as a great X’s and O’s coach and an up and comer. Verdict: Top 15 job, better than NC State.    

Ben B:

Well, basketball is a great job even if the hire didn't steal someone from a top-flight program. The reactions from analysts told me that much, as did the legitimate interest from guys like Sean Miller and Jay Wright. There are just too many good qualities in it to be anything lower than a top 15 job unless there's a spell of really bad results.

Football is a little more complex. It would appear only three candidates were seriously considered: Leach, Malzahn, and of course Edsall. Maryland turned down Leach, Malzahn didn't interview, and so Edsall was the guy. It doesn't really say that much about the job other than it's better than UConn, but I suppose that's not saying that much. Maryland football is a middle of the road job, like, oh, Georgia Tech in basketball. Not that those two jobs have comparable qualities, only that they would seem to be similar on the scale in terms of desirability. It has its share of good qualities, but it's second-fiddle stature, middling conference affiliation, and general lack of history and recent success make it less than it can and should be.

Dave T:

I think that after Gary retired, we saw how highly regarded the Maryland basketball job is, not just by writers and TV personalities, but by coaches as well. The fact that Sean Miller spoke with us should indicate the high value placed on the Maryland coaching job.

As Ben B. eluded to, the football job is a different beast. I don't think you saw nearly as much interest in the job as you did with basketball. When you think about it, that makes sense. While Maryland football does have success (ACC titles, a National Championship) and has shown it can be successful, the main problem the program has encountered over the years is the inability to maintain success consistently over the long term. Over the history of the Maryland football program, we've shown a 3-7 year window of success, but followed that up with a decade of utter sucking. That's not a good way to put and keep people in the seats and interested in your program. I do think it was good that we got Edsall to leave an up and coming UConn program that he built from the ground up and that does show/indicate that people in the coaching world do think the Maryland football has value and potential.I also think that the perception of Maryland football has changed since we hired Friedgen. Remember, when we hired Ralph, NO ONE over the course of his career had been willing to give him a head coaching job. We had to take a chance and fortunately, we caught lightening in a bottle. Hopefully Edsall can continue to build on that.

3. Follow-up - Now that we've had some time to digest the hires of both Edsall and Turgeon, what are your thoughts? Do you think each will be successful here? Do you think either would ever bolt Maryland for a higher profile job?

Ben B:

First off: yes, both would bolt. Not that that's bad. Except in the case of a Malzahn-type ladder-climber, I've never seen that as a negative. Of course Turgeon would leave Maryland to coach his alma mater and hometown team in Kansas, which by the way essentially anyone would do if they got the chance because it's Kansas. And frankly, if he has enough success to go to Kansas, then the next Sean Miller will be taking the job this time. I do think that's probably the only job he leaves for, though. And that isn't because he already holds some type of weird Maryland loyalty; it's because Maryland is a good enough of a job to keep him here.

That's not really the case with Edsall. If he has success, he'll probably move on to the next best thing, but again, I don't mind that. He has no real connection to Maryland, despite his claims, and if Georgia or Ole Miss or, I don't know, Iowa comes calling, he'll probably go. UMD just isn't a good enough of a job to hold onto someone without a connection. Heck, Ralph almost left. But again, if he has that much success, good on him. Guess we get to go through that again, only this time in a better position with better leverage.

Now, as for their potential success: I'm much more confident about Turgeon than Edsall, perhaps because he's more likable. I was skeptical about both initially given the "other choice," but Turge won me over quick. He did exactly what I would've done with the assistants, and his recruiting so far has been simply phenomenal. Since that was my big concern - I never had any doubts about his Xs-and-Os prowess - I'm completely on board with him. Edsall ... well, he's not quite the same exciting type of guy. I don't necessarily think he'll take Maryland to another level the way Turgeon will. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if he ultimately failed in a few years. Completely frankly, I don't see him elevating Maryland past being an 8-4 team with an occasional 9-3 year and an occasional 5-7 clunker. He isn't recruiting at a high-enough clip right now for me to believe he'll get enough talent for anything more, and his performance at UConn doesn't lead me to believe he can achieve more with lesser talent.

That said, if he proves he can land the Stefon Diggses and Noah Spences of the world semi-consistently, I'll be much more optimistic. He has to prove that, though. Turgeon has had several five-star players say Maryland is in their top X or that Maryland is recruiting them the most. Edsall has same vague rumors and quotes about parents liking Maryland. That's why I'm giving Turgeon the benefit of the doubt, and not Edsall. That, and the fact that Maryland is a much better basketball job than football job.

Dave T:

I'm not so sure Edsall would bolt. I know people have given him a hard time about his "dream job" comments, but I do think he genuinely wants to be at Maryland. I guess if a job like Michigan or Notre Dame came knocking he could leave, and as Ben B. said, if that happens it means the program has been successful and we would presumably be able to hire another good coach.

I do think Edsall will be successful here. I think he's going to do things differently and some people might not like it initially, but I think what he's trying to do, which is market "Maryland" across the state and try to create a sense of state pride in the program, is a good idea. I also think he's good at evaluating talent and he's going to recruit kids who are good character, good at football and good in the classroom. Some people might not like that, but as Edsall said last night at the "A Night with Randy Edsall" event I attended (full write up coming later), he doesn't care about how many stars a recruiting service gives a kid. He said their job is to sell a product and that he'd put his ability to evaluate talent up against theirs any day of the week. He also said, which got a lot of chuckles from the crowd, that if these recruiting sites were so good at evaluating talent, they'd be working for a football program or as a GM in the NFL. So if you're not happy with the constant string of 2 and 3 star recruits, you better get use to it. I do think he'll have success here, especially if the football program gets additional support behind it (i.e. indoor practice facility). He also has Danny O'Brien as a potential starting QB for up to three more seasons and, assuming he's here all three seasons, that's one of the biggest pieces you need in order to succeed in college football.

I love Turgeon and I really think he's going to do an awesome job here. This upcoming season is going to be...interesting, especially with the departure of Hawk and only having eight players on scholarship. But the way he and his staff are hitting the recruiting trail has been amazing. Hopefully that will pay dividends soon, but we might not see the fruits of those labors until 2012 and 2013.

I think Turgeon could bolt for another job, but it would have to be a top-5 top like Kansas. Otherwise, it would be a lateral move and I just don't see why he'd make it. I really do think the only job he'd bolt for would be Kansas, since he went there.

Ben G:

For football, it depends how you define success.  I think Edsall will win 6-8 games most years and be a decent recruiter.  But "success" for me means winning ACC championships, packing Byrd again, and creating a buzz about the program.  Because Edsall doesn’t have a particularly exciting personality, I think the first characteristic of success (winning championships) becomes even more important in order to accomplish the last two.  It’s certainly possible for Edsall to attain that kind of success but he’s got his work cut out for him.  Even if he’s able to win a couple ACC championships, I don’t necessarily see him leaving for another job anytime soon.  Not sure why.  Maybe it’s the fact that he’s not a "sexy" candidate and by the time he’d have an opportunity to leave, he’d likely be in his late 50s.

 As for basketball, I like Turgeon…a lot.  He’s won everywhere he’s been, he hates to lose, and you can tell how much he wants to make Maryland into a winner again.  He’s Gary-esque in many ways, except for the one area Gary received the most criticism: recruiting.  If you’ve been reading this site at all, you know that Turgeon has been killing it on the trail, been listed by some of the best players in the country, and generated a substantial buzz about Maryland basketball.  We already know he’s a great X’s and O’s guy, and once he starts getting players, I really think the sky is the limit for this program.  By sky, I mean this, of course.  I’m pretty confident he’ll get Maryland back to playing deep in March, and if that happens, the only place I could see him bolting for is his alma-mater, Kansas.

4. Most athletic directors have to make a few major hires in their tenure at a school. Kevin Anderson had to make two within five months. What are your thoughts on the new AD so far?

Dave T:

I think he's done a good job thus far. He's a little sneaky and seems to keep things close to his chest. Remember, the Leach and Turgeon hires both seemed to come out of no where and once we found out they were candidates, they were basically already hired. I think he's shown a clear commitment to providing the resources necessary for football and basketball to succeed and he done some innovative things to help generate additional revenue for the department. Ultimately, we'll be better able to answer this in 3-5 years, after we see what Turgeon and Edsall do and what financial shape the department is in at that time. He certainly won't have any excuses such as "these coaches weren't my hires." He's all-in and betting his success at Maryland and probably ultimately his career, on these two hires.

Ben G:

My thoughts?  Oh man.  It’s really hard to say.  First, and I’m sorry I have to get this out of the way, he’s a terrible public speaker.  I mean terrible.  It was painful hearing him introduce Turgeon.  OK, moving on…In all seriousness, I think he’s done a good job.  Edsall was a good hire for this football program and Turgeon was solid, as well.  More important than either of the head coaching hires, to me at least, was the assistant coaching hires for basketball.  In the past, if Gary would have gone to Yow and said I need $300,000 for one of the top recruiters in the country, Yow would have laughed in his face.  Kevin Anderson didn’t, and as a result, we’ve got an all-star staff that is going to bring some really good players into this program.  That, to me, is all you can ask for from an AD.  He’s shown he’s committed to winning and he’s committed to these two coaches.  That’s probably a smart move by KA, because his legacy will invariably be tied to these two hires.

Ben B:

Well, he's a shitty PR guy. That's really all we can tell so far. He's a poor public speaker, and he teased fans miserably before hiring boring coaches, at least immediately. I do think he did a good job with Turgeon, but any AD should be able to get a coach stuck at aTm to go to Maryland, so I'm not sure how much credit goes to him on that, except for the fact that he went to Turgeon before Brey.

He'll be judged on Ws and Ls, and how he tries to rescue the financial standing of the program. It's too early to say anything definitive about him, but I can't say I'm encouraged by the way he handled the early hires. They didn't seem like the clean hires you really desire. But again, all that matters is the record and the money, and it's too early to call him on either.

5. With Debbie Yow's departure, most viewed it as an opportunity for her to return home and work at the school in which her sister, Kay, was so beloved. However, a year later, we're hearing more and more about the financial troubles facing Maryland Athletics, resulting in football games being moved to Baltimore for additional revenue and discussion of the possibility of cutting several of Maryland's 27 sports teams. What are your thoughts about Yow today? Did she bolt because she knew the $hit was about to hit the fan or do you think that she sincerely left because she wanted to go back to North Carolina? Maybe a little of both?

Dave T:

When the rumors started circulating that Yow might leave Maryland for NC State, most thought of it as a lateral move, but one that made sense. No one really initially questioning her decision to leave; We thought she's from North Carolina, her sister is a legend at NC State, this makes sense. A year later, I can't say that's how I view this situation. Today, I think I'd say that she knew a new President was coming in at Maryland, that the department she ran wasn't in good financial shape (and getting the department into good financial shape was her crowning achievement that people pointed to in her time at Maryland), and that she couldn't win a battle with Gary. The opportunity at NC State was basically her one out card to leave Maryland without anyone suspecting that her reason for leaving was nothing more than having the chance to go back home. I think as time goes on, it will become increasingly clear that her motivation for leaving was driven much more by the $&*% about to hit the fan at Maryland than it was her desire to return to North Carolina.

Yow was very good to our site and she did reach out to us and granted us an interview with her, but looking back on that now I can't help but wonder if that was motivated by her trying to get good PR from a site like ours rather than by her wanting to reach out to us and embrace the work we'd done. The thought has crossed my mind that she simply wanted one of the major blogs to embrace her and give her creditability. Maybe it was a little of both. Regardless, I think Yow did some good things at Maryland but ultimately I think her inability to work with Gary and Ralph and some of the decisions she made, especially financially, will tarnish her final reputation here and were the main motivation for her leaving to go to NC State.

Ben G:

Perhaps a little of both, but I think the bigger factor was that with a new President, and her detractors growing louder, she saw the writing on the wall.  Personally, I kind of like Debbie.  If for no other reason, that she reached out to this blog and granted us an interview, when the rest of the department refused to even give us credentials.  But personal feelings aside, and from a purely Terps fan’s perspective, good riddance.  She fought with both the football and basketball coaches, she publicly threw Gary Williams under the bus, she was paying women’s basketball assistants more than the men’s assistants…The list goes on and on.  One thing to think about:  Would have Gary have retired if Yow was still AD?  Part of me thinks he wanted to outlast her for the good of the University. 

Ben B:

Eh, yeah, a little of both I'm guessing. Up until a week ago, I would've bet money it was because a) it was just time for a change and/or b) the chance to work at a place special to her and her family. And that still plays a role, I'm sure. But Randy Eaton had the money quote in that WaPo story about the financial situation being "someone else's problem," so yeah, now I'm a little skeptical. Perhaps it's a Pete Carroll situation: he wanted to get back into the NFL, sure, but when he saw the NCAA knocking on his door he really wanted to get out.

Either way, she's gone, and that's all that really matters.

6. How do you think Maryland fans feel about the Edsall and Turgeon hires? Will we see more people in Byrd and Comcast this season or do you think each coach simply has to win to get fans back in the seats?

Ben B:

No, I don't think we'll see significant increases in attendance based solely on the hires. Winning early will get fans out into the stands later in the season, but that's it. If the coaches were Sean Miller and Mike Leach, then I might say otherwise, but you never hire for the short term. If they win games, the attendance problems will be solved soon enough.

Ben G:

I think Terp fans are generally optimistic.  Edsall’s got more work cut out for him than Turgeon because a) Maryland Football isn’t Maryland Basketball, and b) Edsall isn’t killing it on the recruiting trail like Turgeon is.  Overall, though, I think we’ll see more people in both Byrd and Comcast.  In many ways, both programs had gotten stale over the last 5 years.  We’ve got two new coaches, two new leaders, and two new programs.  I think a lot of fans will be out there this year to support the new guys.  Oh, and for those debating whether or not to get season basketball tickets, I’d suggest getting in now.  I fully expect Comcast to have a waiting list again in three years.

Dave T:

I think people are excited, especially by the recruiting Turgeon is doing and by the hiring of the staff he has. I think people have hope for the future and know that this season could be...interesting. So there is excitement, but it's a little tempered, especially until we land a big-time recruit.

With Edsall, I think a lot of people are on board, but with football I think winning will help more than anything. If they beat Miami and get off to a fast start, you'll build that excitement. I think a lot of people were turned off by Friedgen and want to see some success before they'll fully buy-in.

7. Final question - After going through all of these changes over the past year, do you have a better sense on what goals for "success" Maryland should be striving for moving forward? I think most feel at minimum that making the NCAA tournament in basketball each year and flirting with and occasionally winning the ACC title are the minimum levels of success for basketball. For football, I'd guess maybe around 8 wins with a an occasional ACC title and BCS birth in football aren't unreasonable goals. Are those realistic? Should those goals be higher? Lower?

Ben B:

I'd say basketball should be a little bit higher based on the potential of the job, but football should be toned down a bit.

If the basketball job is a top 15 job, then Maryland should be playing like a top 15 program, which tends to be more than making the tourney every year. That should be the minimum, but occasional Sweet 16s and deep runs into the NCAAT every four years or so should be expected, as well. With the Comcast Center, a basketball-focused fanbase, Under Armour, and the talent in the area, it's feasible.

For football, that used to be my baseline as well, but I don't think it's realistic anymore. 8-4 is shooting a bit high; I'd think 7-5 most years, with an occasional 9-3 year and an occasional bowl miss, is plenty doable. Getting into the ACCCG anytime is just gravy considering FSU is "back" and in Maryland's division. If people think VT has been dominating the conference lately, just wait and see what FSU unleashes, if they truly are what they used to be.

Ben G:

I think those goals are probably the minimum measure of success.  If Turgeon makes the tournament every year but never gets past the first weekend, I don’t think fans will be satisfied.  I’m pretty sure Turgeon won’t be satisfied either.  I think "success" for basketball is: tournament every year, Sweet 16 every other year with some occasional trips to the Elite 8 and beyond, and a return to the undisputed third best ACC program behind Duke and Carolina.  For football: 8-9 wins a year, competing for an ACC title every couple years, and a decent bowl game (aka not the Military Bowl) every season.  I don’t think either of those sets of goals are unattainable. 

Dave T:

I too think those goals are the baseline. If you're going to build the football program, I think you need to sustain success, and I define that as 7-8 wins at minimum, over the course of 5+ years. We almost got their with Ralph and when we had those great seasons in 2001-2003, you saw that Maryland CAN build this program, but you also saw it must be sustained. If they want to pack Byrd yearly and ever expand it, they need to be contending for ACC titles. They don't have to win them each year, but they need to be knocking on the door and getting to the ACC title game ever 3-4 years.

For basketball, I think we need to get back in the NCAA tourney year in and year out, but once that starts happening, we need to get to the sweet 16 at minimum. Remember, Gary got there for many consecutive years and then people started saying he couldn't win it all. If Turgeon just gets into the dance, that won't be enough. He needs to get there and show we can make a deep run. Ultimately, if he wants to be successful here, he needs to win a National Title. And competing for one should be something Maryland can do on a yearly basis. They should be top 3-4 in the ACC and capable of making it to the final 4 most years. Capable and doing it are two different things, but I think that's where I expect Maryland basketball to be on a yearly basis.