- The Washington Times - Monday, November 20, 2000

Four years of football futility were enough for Maryland athletic director Debbie Yow.

Yow fired fourth-year football coach Ron Vanderlinden yesterday and announced last night that a national search for his successor has begun. The firing came a day after the Terps squandered another opportunity to become bowl eligible when they fell at home to Georgia Tech 35-22 before a meager crowd of 24,701 and finished 5-6 for the second consecutive season. The Terps lost 13-10 to North Carolina a week earlier.

"Coach Vanderlinden and I have been meeting for a while about the team's progress," said Yow, who made the decision around midnight Saturday and told Vanderlinden in a morning meeting yesterday. "It's the most painful decision I've made in my 24 years of intercollegiate athletics… . If I thought the program could take the next giant step as a staff I would [have] supported them."

Yow, who made the announcement at the campus' Stamp Student Union, hired Bill Carr, a "headhunter" for collegiate football coaches. Carr, a former roommate of Steve Spurrier at Florida, will advise the six-person committee chaired by Yow that will recommend the next football coach to campus President Clayton D. Mote.

Yow gave the selection process a three-week timetable based on recruiting demands. She said "she would not be priced out of the market" but reiterated that the athletic department has more financial flexibility than it did four years ago when Vanderlinden was hired.

Possible replacements being mentioned include former Auburn coach Terry Bowden and former Terps coach Bobby Ross. Yow said she has not spoken with either, but would consider both. She said she would not mention specific names during the selection process.

Vanderlinden's team started 5-2 in 1999 but lost its final four games, including a home loss to lowly Duke and a 34-30 loss to Virginia in the season finale. A win in any of those four games would have made Maryland bowl eligible. Despite the poor finish, Vanderlinden signed a three-year contract extension on top of the original five-year deal he signed in December 1996 when he replaced Mark Duffner.

Vanderlinden was unable to meet the conditions of the extension, and the contract reverted to the original termination date of Jan. 1, 2002. Vanderlinden will be compensated for the 13-plus months he is still under contract, and his assistants will be paid until June 30, 2001.

Vanderlinden's successor will choose his own assistants, but Yow said she will meet with assistants Mike Locksley, James Franklin and Elliot Uzelac today to see if they would be willing to stay to help in the transition for players. If they choose to stay, Yow said she will recommend to the new coach that they be retained.

Vanderlinden, and then Yow, met with the team yesterday. Players said Vanderlinden broke down and cried several times in his meeting with them. Yow discussed issues that ranged from the possibility of transferring to the leadership of the team helping in the selection process. The Terps return 16 starters from the 2000 squad.

"She told us she thinks it was the right decision for our program. She said she wants what's best for us and said she's cleared her schedule for three weeks," said one sophomore starter, who asked not to be identified. "She said a top priority was not to have a guy come in and screw all of [the remaining players]. I had a mixed reaction. I wanted things to be better, but I'm scared of the change. It caught me off guard. I thought it could happen maybe next year.

"I thought he and Debbie had a great relationship and she would keep him around for as long as possible," the player continued. "Most guys don't know what to think it's a mixed reaction. A few guys think Vandy should have stayed. A few guys think that it was good that he's out. The general consensus of everyone is he was too conservative."

Vanderlinden came to Maryland after a successful run as Northwestern's assistant coach, but he was unable to turn around the Terps beleaguered program. Like his predecessors, Vanderlinden could not get the Terps near the top of the ACC and into national prominence. Duffner and Vanderlinden had similar tenures in College Park. Vanderlinden finished 15-29 in four years, while Duffner posted a five-season mark of 20-35.

"Unfortunately, we were unable to produce a winning record the last two seasons when we were so close," Vanderlinden said in a statement released by the school's sports information department. "My biggest regret is that we return the majority of our team and will have experience and quality depth at almost every position. I know that a solid foundation has been laid."

Aside from an appearance in the 1990 Poulan Weed-Eater Bowl in Shreveport, La., the Terps have not been successful in Byrd Stadium or anywhere else since Ross put together a 39-19-1 record from 1982 through 1986. Joe Krivak, Ross' successor, Duffner and Vanderlinden combined for a 55-98-2 record.

"Attendance matters and the overall mood of the boosters matters, but I've never made a decision based on those two factors," said Yow, who has made selecting a new coach the athletic department's top priority. "We need to find somebody who really wants to be at the University of Maryland."

• Duff Durkin contributed to this report

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