By now, it’s pretty easy to be numb to the struggles of the Maryland football team on a statistical level. For a variety of reasons, the Terrapins simply have not been good; six straight double-digit losses makes it a bit easier to render that verdict.
In a couple of his weekly press conferences this month, coach Randy Edsall has extolled the virtues of establishing a program and setting the foundation for the future. At 2-9 entering Saturday’s finale at N.C. State, it is worth selling the idea the future will be better because, well, it pretty much to be. Edsall himself noted that anything that could go wrong this season has indeed gone awry.
Unfortunately for him, that 2-9 (soon to be either 2-10 or 3-9) mark goes on his resume. And considering Maryland was 9-4 a year ago, Edsall has presided over a freefall that ranks among the most severe for a first-year coach both in ACC history and over the last half-century from a national perspective.
Only two other ACC coaches have guided their teams to six fewer victories in their first season than the year preceding their arrival. That’s the best Edsall can do; a loss on Saturday gives him sole second place in that category, behind only another coach who plied his trade in College Park:
LARGEST DECREASE IN WINS, ACC TEAMS UNDER FIRST-YEAR COACHES
8: 1956 Maryland, Tommy Mont (10-1 to 2-7-1)
6: 1993 Wake Forest, Jim Caldwell (8-4 to 2-9)
4: 1960 Wake Forest, Bill Hildebrand (6-4 to 2-8)
4: 1966 South Carolina, Paul Dietzel (5-5 to 1-9)
4: 1967 Maryland, Bob Ward (4-6 to 0-9)
4: 1972 Wake Forest, Tom Harper (6-5 to 2-9)
4: 1976 N.C. State, Bo Rein (7-4-1 to 3-7-1)
4: 1988 North Carolina, Mack Brown (5-6 to 1-10)
4: 1990 Duke, Barry Wilson (8-4 to 4-7)
4: 1994 Clemson, Tommy West (9-3 to 5-6 —- West coached bowl game in 1993)
4: 1998 North Carolina, Carl Torbush (11-1 to 7-5 —- Torbush coached bowl game in 1997)
But wait, there’s more …
Only one power conference coach in the last 50 years has presided over a decrease of eight victories in his first season. That was Cincinnati’s Butch Jones just last fall, who took over when Brian Kelly bolted for Notre Dame. The Bearcats dipped from 12-1 to 4-8, but are 7-3 this year with two games remaining in their regular season.
The list of guys with a decline of seven wins to open their tenure, though, can be interpreted a little more decisively.
Colorado’s Bud Davis lasted only the 1962 season after inheriting the job after the school discovered the previous coach was paying players. Arkansas’ Jack Crowe was memorably booted a game into his third season when the Razorbacks lost their 1992 opener to The Citadel. Stanford’s Buddy Teevens followed up a 2-9 in 2002 with a pair of 4-7s before being shown the door.
One guy who did have a severe Year One decline eventually recovered, though he’s included with an asterisk here because his school wasn’t in a major conference at the time. Virginia Tech’s Frank Beamer inherited a 9-2-1 team and went 2-9 to open his tenure. It’s fair to say he’s done OK in the long run.
The bulk of that national list, though, has not. An asterisk indicates a current power conference school that was not in a major conference at the time the coach took over.
LARGEST DECREASE IN WINS, POWER CONFERENCE TEAMS UNDER 1ST-YEAR COACHES SINCE 1960
8: 2010 Cincinnati, Butch Jones (12-1 to 4-8); Jones’ W-L at UC: 11-11
7: 1962 Colorado, Bud Davis (9-2 to 2-8); Davis’ W-L at CU: 2-8
7*: 1987 Virginia Tech, Frank Beamer (9-2-1 to 2-9); Beamer’s W-L at VT: 208-96-2
7: 1990 Arkansas, Jack Crowe (10-2 to 3-8); Crowe’s W-L at Arkansas: 9-15
7: 2002 Stanford, Buddy Teevens (9-3 to 2-9); Teevens’ W-L at Stanford: 10-23
6*: 1978 Boston College, Ed Chlebek (6-5 to 0-11); Chlebek’s W-L at BC: 12-21
6: 1992 California, Keith Gilbertson (10-2 to 4-7); Gilbertson’s W-L at Cal: 20-26
6: 1993 Wake Forest, Jim Caldwell (8-4 to 2-9); Caldwell’s W-L at WF: 26-63
6*: 1994 Cincinnati, Rick Minter (8-3 to 2-8-1); Minter’s W-L at UC: 53-63-1
6: 1997 Alabama, Mike Dubose (10-3 to 4-7); Dubose’s W-L at Bama: 24-23
6: 2003 Alabama, Mike Shula (10-3 to 4-9); Shula’s W-L at Bama: 26-23
6: 2007 Louisville, Steve Kragthorpe (12-1 to 6-6); Kragthope’s W-L at UL: 15-21
6: 2008 Michigan, Rich Rodriguez (9-4 to 3-9); Rodriguez’s W-L at UM: 15-22
Beamer is very much the exception to the rule (though Jones will try to make himself a second exception). Massive Year One declines, for whatever reason, rarely bode well for the future.
In any case, Edsall remained insistent this month he intends to build a program that stands the test of time. It’s safe to say he’ll need to if Maryland fans are to let go of a lousy first impression —- the sort that power conference coaches can overcome about once in a generation.
—- Patrick Stevens