- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 12, 2001

Ralph Friedgen lifted the Maryland football team to national prominence this season. Yesterday, the first-year coach was rewarded with a new contract that should keep him in College Park until 2012.
Friedgen signed a 10-year contract designed to ensure he will coach the Terrapins for a long time and squash rumors of him being linked to other openings. Friedgen said he had been contacted about the Georgia Tech vacancy. The 54-year-old coach, who is the front-runner for National Coach of the Year, would have been a hot commodity on the coaching market.
"I'm making the commitment," Friedgen said. "I said from Day One if I can get this program back to consistently being in the top 20, then I would consider my life's work done. … I'm here. This is where I want to be."
Friedgen and athletic director Debbie Yow declined to discuss financial teams, but the deal is believed to be worth well over $1million a season. The coach was making about $800,000 a season during the original six-year deal, which has been replaced by the new contract. Georgia Tech paid $1.1 million a year to George O'Leary before he took the job at Notre Dame on Sunday, and likely would have offered Friedgen more.
"He's special," said Yow, who said the deal was to reward Friedgen's achievement as well as ensure his staying at Maryland. "It was very important for the future success of the program. In terms of recruiting and to our fans, we know we have our guy. It should be the last job he has before he retires. That's the goal."
Friedgen said he would not be among the highest paid coaches in the country. Coaches like Florida's Steve Spurrier, Florida State's Bobby Bowden and Oklahoma's Bob Stoops make upwards of $2 million a season. The Maryland coach said in addition to the increased financial package, he received commitments for improved facilities.
The coach said an indoor practice facility, a new artificial turf field and $4 million in improvements to the team house are in the works. He also envisions expanding Byrd Stadium to complete a second deck when the program is able to routinely sell out the current facility.
"I wanted to make sure that we were in line to make this a program I would want to be proud of," said Friedgen, who added he and Yow share a similar philosophy. "We're in for the long haul. We had a great season. But we have some things we have to have fixed in order to be a consistent top 20 team. I'm hoping that this is a sign that we're going to get it done."
Friedgen said Yow approached him earlier in the season about an extension to his current contract, possibly after the upset at Georgia Tech that made Maryland 6-0 to ensure the program's first winning season since 1995. The coach said he decided to put off any contract talk until after the season.
It is no coincidence the deal was done just two days after Georgia Tech suddenly had an opening. Friedgen had coached there for nine seasons, including the last four before coming to Maryland. He was believed to be a top candidate, and even received an endorsement from the outgoing coach.
Yow said a proposal was sent to Friedgen's attorney several weeks ago, but negotiations in earnest didn't get under way until Monday. A deal was quickly reached.
Friedgen signed the contract about 4 p.m. yesterday, and immediately went to practice. He said he had not even told his wife about the new deal as he walked off the field at about 6:30 p.m.
The coach and Maryland alum sees himself finishing his career with the Terps, and downplayed any interest in a possible return to the NFL. Friedgen was an assistant coach under Bobby Ross for the San Diego Chargers for five seasons, and was the offensive coordinator when the Chargers went to the Super Bowl in 1994.
Friedgen foresees that once his time as a football coach in College Park is over, he will move on to a more leisurely sport.
"If I leave, I will be playing a lot of golf," he said.
Note All-ACC cornerback Tony Okanlawon continues to practice with the team, and Friedgen anticipates him playing in the Orange Bowl. "I think, right now, he'll probably play." … Maryland has gone over its mandated sale of 15,000 tickets to the Orange Bowl. … Charlie Taafe, the Terps' offensive coordinator, reportedly is a candidate to become Georgia Tech's head coach.

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