- The Washington Times - Monday, July 24, 2006

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. — Maryland football coach Ralph Friedgen juggled many jobs upon his arrival more than five years ago.

Now, he’s concerned about only one: returning the Terrapins to the postseason.

Weary of mounting losses in back-to-back 5-6 seasons, Friedgen is trying to allocate as much time as possible to revitalizing a program that not long ago was contending for conference titles.

“I think we have to get back to a bowl game. I don’t think there’s any question of that,” Friedgen said at the ACC’s football kickoff event. “When I went to Maryland, I kind of knew what had to be done there. I think we had to improve our fan base, improve our fund raising, improve our facilities. We’ve done all that. Now it’s time to get back to winning football games.”

It hasn’t occurred nearly as often in the last two years as it did in Friedgen’s first three. The Terps’ recent scuffles created predictably modest expectations for a panel of 65 media members who picked the Terrapins to finish fourth in the ACC’s Atlantic Division.

Meanwhile, Virginia Tech was picked to finish second in the Coastal Division, while Virginia edged North Carolina by a point as the division’s fourth-place pick.

Friedgen claims to be out of the fund-raising business after spending years pitching his program to donors and fans who grew accustomed to empty seats and ugly losses throughout the 1990s. He also plans to limit his “Breakfast with the Fridge” program — an on-campus staple of Fridays before home games since Friedgen arrived — to only three times this season.

Instead, Friedgen figures to remain busy with the offensive coordinator duties he added in the offseason in addition to his usual work.

“I just can’t do everything,” Friedgen said. “I just have to cut back and focus more on winning football games.”

That would be critical in recruiting for Maryland, which watched many of the top in-state prospects sign with Penn State over the winter. A third straight losing season would be especially damaging to a program only a few years removed from three straight 10-win seasons.

“I think a lot of recruits are looking to see how we do,” Friedgen said. “They all have short memories, but that’s human nature.”

Florida State and Miami were overwhelming picks to win the Atlantic and Coastal, respectively. Nearly half the voters named Miami as the conference title game winner.

Georgia Tech wideout Calvin Johnson earned 50 votes for preseason player of the year. Only three of last year’s first-team all-conference picks are back this season, creating a vacuum of stars in a league that had 12 players selected in the first round of the NFL Draft.

As for the Terps’ projected finish, Friedgen recalled his first team at Maryland was picked to finish seventh in what was then a nine-team league. Instead, the Terps won the conference and earned a trip to the Orange Bowl.

“It doesn’t bother me,” Friedgen said. “It doesn’t matter. You can write those things any way you want. Check it out in December.”

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