A flip of the coin

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Well, good news and bad news on the “coin toss” front.

First the bad news: As expected, I’m coming up short on some of the box scores during the 2002-04 stretch (known by me as the Dark Days of Deskdom). In total, there’s seven games missing out of 90 coached by Ralph Friedgen.

But here’s the good news: That’s still enough data to answer a question about whether there’s a connection between deferring on the coin toss and how often Maryland would be forced to come from behind in those situations.

So Maryland is 12-23 under Friedgen when the other team scores first, and only the 2004 West Virginia game falls into the phantom zone of missing games. So let’s take that out and call the Terps 12-22 in this scenario and break it down further:

Maryland wins toss, defers: 4-8
Maryland wins toss, receives: 0-1 (Orange Bowl)
Opponent wins toss: 8-13

And, just for the fun of it, the numbers from 2004-2008:

Maryland wins toss, defers: 2-7
Opponent wins toss: 3-8

Doesn’t look all that different to me, especially of late.

One other thing to point out. When Middle Tennessee elected to receive two weeks ago, it was the first time since September 2005 that Maryland was involved in a game in which the coin toss winner did not defer. (The Terps won at Wake Forest that day). Put another way, Maryland played 34 straight games with a deferral at the coin toss.

I’ve never entirely understood the desire to consistently defer, especially when you feel like you can get a jump on an opponent. But it’s what all the cool and not-so-cool kids are doing.

The sample size of results when Maryland elects to receive (which includes for certain Clemson 2001, Florida 2002 Orange Bowl, Wofford 2002, The Citadel 2003, Navy 2005, Wake Forest 2005) just isn’t big enough to draw any conclusions definitive enough to declare receiving to start the game is the right thing to do. So it’s hard to find fault with Friedgen there.

That said, if the only reason the Terps typically defer is conventional wisdom, then maybe that conventional wisdom (which isn’t always wise) should be checked. But that’s a subject for another day.

Patrick Stevens

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