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Despite checkered past, Mike Locksley may be uniquely suited to be Maryland’s head coach

The former Maryland offensive coordinator’s recruiting chops and strong local ties outweighed a disastrous first head-coaching job. The Terps have their coach.

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This story was initially published on Sunday, Dec. 2. It has been updated to reflect Maryland’s reported hiring of Locksley on Tuesday.

Maryland announced Tuesday night that Mike Locksley will be the school’s next football coach. Interim head coach Matt Canada and offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton were also finalists and met with university officials this week.

Locksley was the long-reported heavy favorite to land the job, and the interview appeared to be his final hurdle. He’s expected to be announced at a press conference Thursday.

Locksley has led Alabama’s incredible offense this season, but his only other head coaching job at New Mexico from 2009-11 raises some serious red flags. Below is a deeper look at what Locksley brings to the job, and what positives and negatives he would bring back to College Park.


1. He has a long history with this university and the DMV.

Locksley was born in Washington, D.C., and attended Ballou High School before playing defensive back at then-Towson State University. He took a job as the Tigers defensive backs and special teams coach after graduation, and worked his way up the coaching ladder before coming to College Park for the first time in 1997.

He served as the running backs coach before also becoming the recruiting coordinator in 1998, and stayed in College Park for the next five seasons. After stints on the coaching staff at Florida and Illinois and an awful head coaching stop at New Mexico, Randy Edsall brought Locksley back to College Park as the offensive coordinator in 2012. He remained the offensive coordinator until midway through the 2015 season, taking the interim coaching role after Edsall was fired. The Terps went just 1-5 under Locksley, but appeared to have more energy than they did under Edsall.

2. He has a great recruiting track record.

With his connections to the DMV, Locksley’s always been able to recruit players from one of the most talent-rich areas in the country.

When he was the offensive coordinator at Illinois, the Illini had three straight top-30 recruiting classes after barely breaking the top 50 before Locksley arrived. Although the same jump didn’t happen during his time at Maryland, he helped land some of the best players in the area, including Stefon Diggs and Damian Prince. He’s done the same at Alabama, landing St. Francis linebackers Eyabi Anoma and Shane Lee and Good Counsel safety DeMarrco Hellams.

3. His offense is currently destroying teams.

Locksley joined Alabama’s staff as an offensive analyst in 2016 and was promoted to wide receivers coach and co-offensive coordinator in 2017 before taking full reigns of the offense this year after Brian Daboll accepted the same position with the Buffalo Bills.

With quarterback Tua Tagovailoa picking up where he left off after his national championship game heroics, Locksley has led the Crimson Tide’s offense to terrifying new heights. Before this year, Alabama had been a more physical ground-and-pound team, relying on a plethora of running backs and a stingy defense rather than a quarterback’s arm to win the game.

Although Tagovailoa may be a once-in-a-generation talent with plenty of weapons at his disposal, Locksley’s played a part in unlocking the offense’s potential. His performance has turned heads around the country, and on Tuesday he was named the winner of the Frank Broyles Award, given to the country’s best assistant coach.


1. His previous head coaching job was a disaster.

The only other time Locksley was in charge of a Division I football program, he failed both on and off the field. He went 2-26 in two plus seasons at New Mexico, going 1-11 in both 2009 and 2010 before getting fired after losing the first four games of the 2011 season.

As bad as things were on the field, they may have been worse off it. Even before Locksley coached a game at New Mexico, an administrative assistant filed an age and sex discrimination against him with the Equal Opportunity and Employment Commission after he allegedly said he wanted younger women to help with recruiting. Then in September, he was accused of punching an assistant coach in the face during a coaches’ meeting.

In July 2010, he confronted a sports columnist for New Mexico’s student newspaper at a bar after he had written a column that said the program “was in shambles.” In his final year in Albuquerque, a friend of his 19-year old son Meiko was arrested for a DWI after driving a car that was registered to Meiko and Locksley’s wife.

For a university that just went through a major scandal with its last football coach, hiring someone with such a checkered past is questionable.

2. He hasn’t had much success outside of Alabama.

While Alabama’s offense has jumped from No. 23 in 2017 to No. 2 this season in S&P+ since Locksley took over, his other offensive coordinator stints have been nowhere near as successful.

His only other finish inside the top 25 in offensive S&P+ was in 2007, when an Illinois offense that featured future NFL players Rashard Mendenhall and Arrelious Benn finished 13th on its way to a Rose Bowl appearance. In his seven other years as an offensive coordinator, he hasn’t a team finish higher than 33rd.

His tenure at Maryland was even worse. Plagued by quarterback injuries and inconsistency, the Terps’ offense never finished higher than 54th in the four years Locksley was the offensive coordinator. His first year featured a linebacker starting the final four games under center, and his last produced the most interceptions by a Division I team in almost 50 years.

At Alabama, Locksley has had the benefit of coaching ridiculously talented players and being a part of Nick Saban’s detail-oriented “Process.” Without that stability and talent advantage, Locksley has struggled to find consistent offensive success.

But Maryland needs stability, and it’s hoping Locksley’s DMV roots will give it that.

Despite the personal baggage and varied success at previous jobs, Locksley has support from a lot of key stakeholders. He has support from boosters. Alum Torrey Smith and current running back Lorenzo Harrison III both voiced support for the coach on Twitter. Even Baltimore Ravens players who were at Alabama when Locksley was on the staff thought he would be a great hire.

The Washington Post reported Saturday that there was “mounting pressure” on athletic director Damon Evans to hire Locksley. For that to happen, both men had to overcome a rocky relationship. Evans played a big part in hiring Durkin over Locksley and other candidates in 2015, which reportedly created friction between the two.

Evans made this hire with the faith that Locksley has learned from his mistakes at New Mexico and that his local connections and time at Alabama will help Maryland build off the talent it currently has and eventually compete in the Big Ten.

It’s unusual to fire one coach who left mired in scandal and replace him with another, but this is not a normal situation. Maryland needs someone who can keep most of the talent in place, keep local players home and revive a dwindling fan base. Some people think Locksley can do exactly that.

A previous version of this story said the award for best coordinator was the Art Broyles Award, not the Frank Broyles Award.