The question keeps coming up, so it’s probably worth addressing in some detail: Was Maryland’s decision to appoint a head coaching in waiting a good idea.
In all honesty, it’ll be tough to tell until a few years into James Franklin’s tenure (if it indeed comes as expected) whether it was smart or not. But one thing that probably shouldn’t be criticized is Maryland’s willingness to hire an untested young assistant rather than trolling for retreads.
It’s an example of the Terrapins acknowledging their place on the college football food chain, and doing their best to make the most of things.
Yes, the job in College Park is better than it was a decade ago. That doesn’t make it elite. So to go out and lock up a guy other people seem to want a bit – not a bad move.
Plus, it’s not like Maryland hasn’t gone the assistant route (for better or worse) before. Here’s the full rundown of the Terps’ hires since World War II. For purposes of simplicity, let’s say Franklin takes over for Ralph Friedgen in 2012 when the Fridge’s contract is up:
|Coach||Age||Last job||Years||Record||Next job|
|Bear Bryant||32||N.C. Pre-Flight||1945||6-2-1||Kentucky HC|
|C. Shaughnessy||54||Pittsburgh HC||1946||3-6||Rams HC|
|Jim Tatum||34||Oklahoma HC||1947-55||73-15-4||UNC HC|
|Tommy Mont||34||Maryland ass’t||1956-58||11-18-1||DePauw HC|
|Tom Nugent||46||Fla. State HC||1959-65||36-34||Broadcasting|
|Lou Saban||44||Bills HC||1966||4-6||Broncos HC|
|Bob Ward||39||Army ass’t||1967-68||2-17||Ottawa ass’t|
|Roy Lester||46||R. Montgomery HS||1969-71||7-25||Paint Branch HS|
|Jerry Claiborne||44||Virginia Tech HC||1972-81||77-37-3||Kentucky HC|
|Bobby Ross||45||Chiefs ass’t||1982-86||39-19-1||Ga. Tech HC|
|Joe Krivak||51||Maryland OC||1987-91||20-34-2||Virginia QBs (‘95) |
|Mark Duffner||39||Holy Cross HC||1992-96||20-35||Bengals LBs|
|Ron Vanderlinden||41||Northwestern DC||1997-00||15-29||Penn State LB|
|Ralph Friedgen||54||Georgia Tech OC||2001-||64-36||NA|
|James Franklin||40||Maryland OC||2012?-||0-0||NA|
So let’s see. Maryland has hired one major-college head coach among its last eight football hires (not including Franklin). Only two of the last 12 hires were older than 50.
Is Franklin a sure thing? No, but very few people are. Ralph Friedgen wasn’t and he’s produced six bowl appearances. Ron Vanderlinden wasn’t and he’s now churning out great linebackers in Happy Valley. Nick Saban isn’t walking through those doors.
In this case, Maryland identified someone who could thrive in College Park. It also happened to be someone who wanted to be at Maryland, which historically hasn’t always been the easiest combination to unearth.
Sure, there’s no way to know if it work out. But Maryland probably made the best of its situation, and that’s just being realistic.