Randy Edsall was Kevin Anderson's first and biggest hire upon taking Maryland's athletic directorship in 2010. It's not easy to admit mistakes, but that's what Anderson did by dismissing Edsall on Sunday after four-and-a-half sometimes promising but usually mediocre or bad seasons. Anderson's challenge going forward is to get it right on his second football hiring go-around at Maryland. At a press conference Sunday, Anderson said he'd learned from his past.
"As we grow in whatever endeavor we're involved in, I think that you learn certain things, and you know what to ask and what not to ask," Anderson said. "You know what to look for and not to look for, so I'll go down that path."
Anderson's facing a lot of pressure to get it right with Edsall's replacement. Few athletic directors this side of the University of Pittsburgh can hire consecutive flops in such a high-dollar sport and survive. Anderson knows this, and he said he has in mind the sort of replacement that will make Maryland relevant in a way Edsall never quite could.
"We want somebody who's going to come in here and excite the fan base," Anderson said.
Sports are becoming ever more analytical, and Anderson said his search would follow that trend.
"Now, we're such a data-driven society that I believe that the next time we sit down with anybody, we'll have data that will prove what their past is presenting and what they've done," Anderson said. "So we'll take all of that and we'll bring forth a great football coach."
As part of Anderson's aim to invigorate Maryland fans, he said he'd be looking for an open, fun-to-watch offense. That would seem to point more toward candidates like Montana's Bob Stitt, the NFL's Chip Kelly and Memphis's Justin Fuente than to more straight-laced names like Miami's Al Golden and former Rutgers boss Greg Schiano. The latter two are cut more from Edsall's cloth than the formers, who are all known for innovating offensively.
But there's more to it, Anderson said.
"It's very important that we have all three aspects – that we have somebody who's going to be committed to the academic mission, to developing good men and also to winning on the field," he said. "Those are three elements that will be very important."
Edsall failed in the winning department, as his 22-34 record confirms. It's impossible to say from the outside whether he created "better men," but Edsall did make undeniable progress in improving the team's academic image. Academic progress reports are a hugely imperfect metric because they only compare programs' academic progress against their own baselines and aren't rooted in common standards, but under Edsall, Maryland's APR score climbed.
As he was announcing Edsall's dismissal, Anderson acknowledged that Maryland did some good under Edsall's leadership but ultimately not enough of it, at least not on the field. Anderson thought Maryland would be "further along" in Edsall's fifth season, and this year's 2-4 start ultimately ended Edsall's run in College Park. The fight Maryland showed at Ohio State couldn't save Edsall – "We lost by 21 points," Anderson would say – and neither could two bowl games in 2013 and 2014. Anderson wanted "great" instead of "good" out of Edsall, and he didn't get either.
For now, interim head coach Mike Locksley will try to lead Maryland upward. Anderson said he'd be a candidate for the permanent job, but how serious a candidate surely depends on how the next two months play out. Locksley and Anderson spoke to Maryland's players on Sunday, and the healing starts immediately.
"The one thing that we asked them to demonstrate moving this day forward is that football is a passionate game, and you need to have love in passion. And the other thing we want them to do is go out there and have fun," Anderson said. "We've got six games left, and we don't want them to be for naught."