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On Randy Edsall, Danny O'Brien, Vanderbilt, and the Media

I don't really like Randy Edsall. Why should I? He just finished a 2-10 season at Maryland. I'm a Maryland fan. A + B = I don't really like Randy Edsall.

In fact, I was one of many who was campaigning for major coaching staff changes in the off season, ideally at head coach. That being somewhere between "impractical" and "impossible", I was forced to settle for both coordinators and bide my time until the Edsall buyout became feasible, or pray that the new coordinators were competent enough to save the momentum of the program. (That may very well be happening. In fact, in full disclosure, he's starting to win me over. But it's a topic for another day.)

But here I am, forced to defend Edsall in the face of new attacks from national media types. It isn't that Edsall isn't fair game - remember, I was behind John Feinstein in his bazooka earlier in the year, largely because it was ahead of the curve, provided definitive reasoning, and had context. Should everyone have agreed with it? No. But it made sense. The new articles possess none of those redeeming qualities.

The new pieces are coming largely in response to Edsall blocking Danny O'Brien's potential transfer to Vanderbilt. O'Brien is still free to transfer from Maryland - it's not quite a Todd O'Brien situation yet - but not to Vanderbilt, any ACC schools, or Maryland's future opponents.

Bit of a jerk move? Yeah. But college football is a jerk industry. It's nothing new, as sad as it may be.

The response from national media types? Bloodlust.

Pundits, even those not involved in college football, sounded off on Twitter. Then came Sally Jenkins' piece in the Washington Post, written sarcastically from Edsall's point of view, critiquing Edsall on character matters. And now it's Gregg Doyle, one of the least liked sportswriters in Maryland athletics history, getting in on the act.

The main line of attack: Edsall is a petty, self-righteous, phony, hypocritical jerk.

My response: ...So?

Randy Edsall is not the first college football coach who seems like a jerk. Nor will he be the last. He won't be the first jerk to have failed at this level. And he won't be the first to have succeeded (at UConn, at least).

Let's get something clear: the vast majority - probably 99% or so - of college football coaches are jerks, seem like jerks, or can be made to seem like jerks. Urban Meyer? Check. Les Miles? Check. Nick Saban? Check. I could go on.*

College football is a business. It's about two things: A) money, and B) wins and losses. The players? The process? That's all nice sentiment, but unless it affects A) or B), it'll get ignored. It's why fanbases venerate a snake like Meyer but eviscerate a disciplinarian (albeit an apparently pompous and self-righteous one) like Edsall.

In this example, the former won and the latter lost. That's all there is to it. And that's all that matters.

The problem with Edsall isn't that he appears to be a pompous jerk. It's that he loses football games. Even if he was the nicest, classiest guy in the world, people would be calling for his head after a 2-10 year. And if he went 10-2, Maryland fans would give him essentially free reign to do whatever.

So, Ms. Jenkins and Mr. Doyel, save me the complaints about Edsall being pompous, self-righteous, and phony. It doesn't matter. I don't care. And odds are that if he went 8-4 last year, you wouldn't either. (Which, if'n you ask me, makes you a bit pompous, self-righteous, and phony.)

Make no mistake, I'm not defending Edsall's record. You want to hate on Edsall, then hate on Edsall - I do it a ton - but hate on the right things. Hate on the record. Hate on the transfers. Hate on the attendance. Don't hate on the guy. I might even say that his personality is his strongest point (setting a rather low bar, I know) but it really doesn't matter. It's all irrelevant.

I'm not saying personality is immaterial to results. Insofar as it relates to selling tickets (will people hate him so much that they won't buy tickets no matter what? Doubtful, if Maryland can win) or winning games (will he run players off with his personality? Much more likely, but it needs to be sustained to be a long-term problem), it's as critical as every other part of his coaching arsenal. Outside of that? I really don't care.

In Edsall's case, personality very well may almost certainly will affect games going forward. Perhaps it already has. But then point to the games lost. Look at the results, the evidence. If Edsall can't win, it isn't because he's phony.** Far more abrasive personalities than Edsall have won at this level. It's because he isn't a good coach.

I get it. Journalists like to write, throw bombs, and seem ahead of the curve, especially if it lets them be condescending. And the rules surrounding assholery at this level have always been clear: win and do whatever, or lose and have the world hate you. It's sports culture. Look at reactions from their respective fanbases to the situations of Mike Leach, or even Joe Paterno, compared to, say Larry Eustachy. I'm swimming against a current of angry typewriters, I know, but I couldn't be any more annoyed by it all at this point. It's worth the vent.

Perhaps I could stand all this if the writers were at least right about what they're nattering on about. Of course, they aren't. See, Jenkins and Doyel (and many others) are painting this as a situation where Edsall is blocking O'Brien from Vanderbilt just to be a jerk. Doyel even goes so far as to say that there "[aren't] a whiff a tampering allegations."

That makes for a much nicer story, but it's not true. Maryland actually used that as the reason for denying the transfer in the first place. And James Franklin, while "denying" Maryland's allegations of tampering, admitted "having relationships" with the transferring players, including O'Brien. I don't know about you, but to me that sounds like they've been in consistent contact. And if an opposing coach had been in contact with a transferring player before said player received his release, well ... it kinda sounds like tampering.***

O'Brien will have other options. Edsall hasn't ended his career. But he's not going to hand him over to James Franklin, especially now that Franklin has made his way into recruiting Maryland's backyard. Vanderbilt, in many ways, is as large a competitor for Maryland as schools like Duke and Georgia Tech, and certainly more so than a school like Syracuse. He may've only landed one Maryland-area recruit, but that doesn't mean he didn't fight Maryland tooth-and-nail for several, and it certainly doesn't mean he won't be back.

For the record, I'm not saying that coaches should be able to block certain transfers. In many cases, this one being an example, it seems silly. Blowing up the NCAA on awful and hypocritical transfer rules is one thing, and I encourage media members or fans who are upset with this turn of events to do it. But Edsall isn't a creator of the atmosphere as much as he is a product of it. Don't hate the player, hate the game.

One more time: I don't like Randy Edsall - as a coach, not as a person. (I've never met him, after all.) I'm not saying you have to like him, or not like him, or respect him. I'm not saying sportswriters can't write another thousand stories about Edsall being a pompous hypocrite. I'm just not sure why it'd matter.

For the tl;dr folks: Personality is irrelevant. Record isn't.

*And lest you think I'm only mentioning good coaches, no, awful coaches are jerks too.

**Why in Juan's name did we start using the word "phony" again? I've seen it like 12 times in the past two months. If only I knew that Holden Caufield grew up to be every major sportswriter.

***As for why Maryland wouldn't take it to a higher level: it's very difficult to prove that. Very. It isn't likely that they're going to find a smoking gun. Unless they tapped O'Brien's cellphone - admittedly, if any coach was going to do that, it'd be Edsall - they can't definitively prove that Franklin told O'Brien to transfer, or told him that there'd be a spot at Vandy for him if he did. So why would Maryland, which is cash-strapped beyond belief, take a ridiculously rich private institution to the NCAA's Kangaroo Court just to block a transfer, when they can do the same without an ounce of effort? It'd be an NCAA investigation, meaning it wouldn't take Maryland any money or effort. Still, it'd be nearly impossible to prove, so they might as well take the sure-fire approach: blocking the transfer outright, since that's their goal to begin with.