- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 6, 2009


Ralph Friedgen will remain at Maryland for at least another season, and that’s fine. He deserves it. He’s a good football coach and a good guy. Besides, given the shaky finances of our halls of academia, you don’t want to pay somebody $4 million to not work.

But make no mistake: Although the word curiously escaped much mention, athletic director Debbie Yow issued a cold-blooded ultimatum when she said she would “anticipate” a winning record — i.e., 7-5 — for Friedgen to keep his job.

That’s a tough way to live, especially coming off a 2-10 season. Apparently, there will be no stepping stones to five or six wins. Just win, baby. Now.

This calls to mind what happened to Joe Bugel with the Phoenix Cardinals in 1993. Coming off seasons of 5-11, 4-12 and 4-12, owner Bill Bidwill announced that Bugel would get one more year as head coach but had to produce a winning record to stay on. It was immediately and properly labeled an ultimatum.

Bugel, now the Washington Redskins’ offensive line coach, was on the right track. The Cardinals won their last three games and finished 7-9. But his fate had been sealed by the eighth loss, 19-17 to the New York Giants on a 54-yard field goal by a kickoff specialist with 32 seconds left. The Cardinals greatly improved that season — their last four losses were by a total of 17 points — but it didn’t matter. An ultimatum is just that. Bugel was gone, replaced by Buddy Ryan. By his second year, the team was in shambles.

Publicly, Bugel handled the situation with class and dignity. He said the players were affected by the ultimatum and its pressures more than he was. Privately, he acknowledged he was indeed hurt, and why not? He and his staff did good work that remained unfinished.

Perhaps Yow will build some wiggle room into her own ultimatum, room for considerations other than a specific record that might hinge on something as capricious as a made or missed field goal. Friedgen deserves that, too.


“I’m in tears. Hearing about Tiger reminds me when my mom sat me down and told me Santa Claus wasn’t real, cmon Tiger you’re my idol.”

— Cincinnati Bengals receiver Chad Ochocinco on Tiger Woods

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