Heller: This shouldn’t be the end for Friedgen

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Ralph Friedgen had just finished reiterating how proud he was of his 2-10 Maryland football team despite Saturday’s 19-17 loss to Boston College when a man asked him the 800-pound-gorilla question: Did he expect to be coaching the Terrapins in 2010, and did he want to be?

Blunt answer.

“I do,” said Friedgen, replying to the second part first, “and I expect to be coaching the team next season.”

Then he added the necessary caveat: “But we’ll have to see.”

Throughout his nine years at Terptown, alumnus Friedgen has been as candid as any coach can be and more so than most. He really is proud of his tattered Terps. He really does care about his players and his school.

And he really does deserve a 10th season, which would tie him with Jerry Claiborne (1972-81) as the second-longest-serving gridiron boss in College Park behind school patriarch Curley Byrd.

Yet this autumn’s agonies and four losing seasons in the past six years seemingly have downgraded Friedgen’s job status from inviolate to itchy. Sometime soon, athletic director Debbie Yow says, she will evaluate his performance and that of his staff. Then, as the Fridge noted, we’ll see.

One thing in his favor should be the Terps’ resiliency. Midway through the fourth quarter Saturday, they hadn’t scored since early in the second and trailed BC 16-10 following three field goals by the Eagles’ Steve Aponavicius. But then sophomore quarterback Jamarr Robinson led Maryland downfield and pitched a 28-yard touchdown to wideout Torrey Smith with 1:34 left.

Suddenly, startlingly, the Terps were in position to win. And if Nick Ferrara’s onside kick had twisted and turned into the hands of somebody wearing a black jersey…

But of course it didn’t, leaving the 2009 Terps in solo misery as the only Maryland team ever to lose 10 games in a season - the last seven in a ridiculous row.

Did Friedgen rant and rave in the locker room, as some coaches might?

Forget it.

“I told them how proud I am of them,” he said. “I told them I expect to be back, but if I’m not I wanted them to know how much I love them.”

I would imagine some of his big, tough football players got a bit weepy at that.

Under a plan devised by Yow a while back, Friedgen is expected to turn over the job to assistant head coach/offensive coordinator James Franklin in 2012. Perhaps Yow might ask Friedgen to hang up his whistle a year sooner, but it seems unlikely that she would dictate or endorse a more drastic move.

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