- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 13, 2002

Maryland football coach Ralph Friedgen has put to rest speculation that he would pursue the head coaching position with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Friedgen had a meeting with executives from the NFL club Monday night, but yesterday said he no longer is interested in the job and will stay in College Park.
Friedgen met owner Malcolm Glazer's sons, Joel and Ed, for some four hours Monday night in Friedgen's Montgomery County home. The coach said he was never offered the job in the informal session, but felt he had to make a statement when word of the meeting leaked late Monday night and was reported by ESPN.com.
"I don't know how the story broke, but it did break," Friedgen said in a news conference yesterday morning. "It put me in a position where I felt like I had to pull my name out of the hat. I am here at Maryland with my kids, and want to see this thing through."
Friedgen described the meeting as more "shooting the bull" than any type of negotiation. The coach said money was a factor in his interest with Tampa Bay. In December, Friedgen agreed to a new 10-year deal at Maryland in a package that will pay him $12million.
Friedgen showed up for the Terps' first offseason workout at 5:45a.m. yesterday, and was forced to address the rumors of a possible departure. Speculation had spread among the team and was rampant when he arrived.
"It was pretty shocking walking in and seeing our coach might go to Tampa," kicker Nick Novak said. "I heard that from one of my teammates. We didn't get dressed to start training. We all waited to talk to Friedgen. [Cornerback] Dennard [Wilson] spoke for all of us. [He said] basically, we are in it for the long run, and we thought you were too. We were going to start a dynasty here. We never thought you would be gone after one year."
Friedgen said that is when he made his decision.
"They were pretty upset," said Friedgen, who led Maryland to a 10-2 record, an ACC championship and an Orange Bowl berth in his first season. "They said they wanted to meet with me. They virtually issued me an ultimatum. They said 'Are you in or are you out?'"
Friedgen was first contacted through his lawyer by the Buccaneers Sunday night, two days after the team had broken off negotiations with now-Washington Redskins defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis.
Maryland thought it had wrapped up Friedgen for the long haul with the new contract, which came shortly after Georgia Tech had pursed the coach.
Friedgen called Maryland athletic director Debbie Yow Monday morning to inform her he was going to talk with the Bucs. She admitted the "thought did run through her mind" that she could lose the coach and momentum around the program would be lost. Yow was among many yesterday relieved to know Friedgen is staying, although she expects the scenario to repeat itself.
"I hope that he will [complete his contract]," Yow said. "Expect is a strong word. I will tell you what I do expect. I expect to create a situation that will make it very challenging for him to leave."
The school will break ground in May on a $6million expansion project designed to improve the football team house, and other facilities. The administration already has upgraded other aspects under Friedgen, including paying top salaries for assistant coaches and high-tech computer facilities.
"The one area that we could never really overcome and never compete effectively with [the NFL] would be the money," Yow said. "I think it says a lot about him and his love for Maryland that in the final analysis he didn't want to pursue a job that could perhaps pay him as much as $3million a year."
Friedgen seemed to leave the door open for the NFL and admitted he has a passion to win a Super Bowl, where he coached on the losing side as the offensive coordinator for San Diego in 1994. But after the latest brief NFL encounter, he is ready to throw himself back into his college job.
"From a monetary standpoint, it was worth looking into," Friedgen said. "I felt like I had an obligation to my family to at least talk to these people that doesn't mean I'm going to look for every job or I'm going to look to get out of Maryland. I'm not. I'm very happy here. I want to stay at Maryland."


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