The Washington Times - September 12, 2008, 03:31PM

D1scourse Challenge participant toppingsguy didn’t take advantage of his Week 1 triumph to get a question in.

The one he offered up yesterday is probably a little bit better:

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In your estimation is there a close to 1:1 ratio of the total number of plays in Ralf’s ridiculous playbook compared with the number of fans who want him fired now? There’s gotta be over 100,000 on each side.

First of all, I’ll question whether there are really 100,000 Maryland football fans. I’m not talking about people who will ask “How are the Terps doing?” I’m talking about people willing to block off three-plus hours of their Saturday to attend/watch/listen to Maryland play every week. Does this group crack 100,000 total? It’s a valid question.

Now, on to an issue that probably isn’t worth too serious a look right now but will get an airing here anyway: Ralph Friedgen’s job security.

There seem to be a lot of people who would like to shove Friedgen out the door this very second. And if Maryland gets run out of Byrd Stadium tomorrow afternoon, that sentiment surely won’t be abated any time soon.

But anyone who wants to pull the plug on the Fridge has to offer up a solution to the following three questions.

1. Who pays the $5.5 million (at least) Ralph has guaranteed over the next three years? This is numero uno by a lot, especially considering whoever would come in as a new coach would probably command $2 million a year. An athletic department so conscious of money would have a hard time mustering that sort of coin, which means Ralph’s sweet contract will keep him in the catbird’s seat so long as the program doesn’t spiral out of control. And “out of control” does not mean 5-7. It means worse. Substantially worse.

2. Who sells the Byrd Stadium suites? Mo’ money issues. Friedgen is considered the “ultimate closer” for Maryland’s suite sales, and while he doesn’t possess as much political capital as he once did, he can still get some important people to jangle the change (or the five-figure checks) out of their pockets. It’s critically important Maryland sell those suites, not just for perception but also for adding a revenue stream while also paying back a $35 million loan to the board of regents that made the stadium construction possible

It’s going to be hard enough to sell corporations on purchasing these suckers when the entire stadium is going to be dry. Doing it without a recognizable and personally invested pitchman – even if he is 26-24 over the last four-plus seasons – makes the job even more difficult.

3. Who can you realistically get who will do better? This is the question Maryland fans really don’t want to ask. Not because it will prompt them to re-examine their coach, but rather because it will force them to acknowledge their place on the college football food chain.

And the fact is, a middle-of-the-pack team in one of the weaker BCS conferences with a stadium that seats less than 60,000 in a market where it struggles to make a dent in the sporting consciousness is not royalty in the sport.

Friedgen was not a highly sought commodity when he was hired after the 2000 season. He was an alum who believed the program could be better than it was the previous decade and a half. And guess what? His worst seasons (5-6) were trumped by only two of the 14 immediately before he came – 6-5-1 in 1990, and 6-5 in 1995. Not exactly heady stuff from his predecessors.

Maryland has defeated eight ranked teams under Friedgen; before he arrived, the last victory over a ranked team came in 1990, and the last eight had come in a 21-season span (1980-2000).

The Terps have been to five bowl games in the last seven seasons. Maryland was invited to five in the 20 seasons prior to Friedgen’s arrival.

It begs the question – who’s going to do better? Certainly, the last three men to sit in Friedgen’s office didn’t. And beyond that, who would want to come if they have opportunities elsewhere? Maryland is not pigskin nirvana.

It’s easy for fans to want to press the big eject button, but it’s never that simple. Beyond the personal factors – at the end of the day, people are calling for a decision that could uproot the lives of a lot of people, which is never something you want to do recklessly or capriciously – there are financial and realpolitik considerations at play as well.

Obviously, all of those reasons listed above could change, and a dreadful season with a senior-laden roster could do just that.

But for now, with 10 games left in this season, it’s a non-issue – or at least it should be.

Patrick Stevens