- The Washington Times - Monday, October 12, 2015


When Maryland tabbed Randy Edsall as its football coach a little less than five years ago, athletic director Kevin Anderson envisioned the new hire taking the Terrapins from good to great.

There’s nothing wrong with ambition. But there’s also nothing wrong with being pretty good, either. That’s a more reasonable and sustainable destination for Maryland.

The first step is winning consistently, which Edsall pulled off at UConn in going 8-5, 8-5, 8-5 and 9-4 before arriving in College Park. However, the Terrapins were headed toward a finish more like what they had in their first two seasons under him, 2-10 and 4-8, at the halfway point of this year.

Edsall wasn’t leading Maryland to the next level; he was letting it slip to the subpar levels of old.

“We did not show signs of progress in the way we were losing,” Anderson said at a Sunday news conference announcing Edsall’s dismissal.

To be clear, the manner of defeats mattered as much as the number. Routs were too routine and tight games were spread too far apart.

The Terrapins have been vanquished by three or more touchdowns in four games this year. All four losses last season were by at least 20 points. In 2013, Maryland suffered five double-digit losses, including three blowouts.
Forget about being good. Being competitive was a struggle for Edsall’s Terrapins.

This football program can do better. Yes, Maryland is a basketball school first and foremost, but that doesn’t mean it has to resemble Indiana on the gridiron. The Terrapins will never be confused with the Buckeyes or Wolverines, but they have the ingredients to build a regular winner with a great coach.

And spare me the excuse that being in a major metro market with a high percentage of transplanted residents is a detriment. Put the right players on the field with the right leaders and Maryland will carve out its share of attention.
Edsall was wrong from the beginning. He might have survived if Maryland remained in the old, hoops-centric ACC, but he never seemed big enough for the level Anderson seeks and the Big Ten requires.

The next coach needs more class to not storm from a postgame news conference when he resents a question, like Edsall did after Saturday’s loss at Ohio State. The next coach needs more self-awareness and sense to speak longer than five minutes after an embarrassment, which Edsall didn’t do last month following a blowout by Bowling Green. The next coach needs a style and personality that can energize fans and transmit to the field, where the game has gone digital while Edsall is stuck in analog.

The next coach needs to be the anti-Edsall, on the sideline and at the podium.
“We want somebody who’s going to come in here and excite the fan base,” Anderson said. “If you look at football today, fans want an exciting, wide-open offense, and I think that’s part of why we weren’t successful these last six games.”

The right coach can be successful at Maryland with the proper definition. I’m talking more wins than losses. Make fairly regular bowl appearances. Occasionally crack the top 25, and/or beat teams there.

We’ve seen the transformative power of coaches at Oregon, where Mike Bellotti and Chip Kelly turned the Ducks into piranhas. We’ve seen it work the other way at Miami, where Larry Coker and Randy Shannon turned the Hurricanes into a light drizzle.

Maryland’s conference affiliation, proximity to the nation’s capitol and fertile recruiting ground make this an attractive second-tier job. The renovation of Cole Field House into a $155 million indoor football facility, plus the checkbook and marketing support of Terrapins alum/Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank, are bonuses.

All manner of names have been mentioned for the opening, including NFL assistants (San Diego offensive coordinator Mike Reich, a former Maryland quarterback, and Indianapolis offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton); former coaches (Greg Schiano, most notably of Rutgers); hotshot lower-level coaches (Houston’s Tom Herman and Bowling Green’s Dino Babers); and well-regarded college assistants (Oklahoma offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley).

Unfortunately for Terrapins interim coach Mike Locksley, his association with Edsall might taint him too much to be given the permanent position. He’s regarded as a top recruiter and the reason many top, in-state prospects have stayed home, but the Terrapins have little to show for Locksley’s talent haul and he was 2-26 in a stint as New Mexico’s coach.

Maryland won’t land anyone with the name recognition of fellow Big Ten East Division coaches Urban Myer, John Harbaugh or Mark Dantonio. The best-case scenario is securing an up-and-comer who uses success at College Park to catapult himself to an elite program.

Sounds like a deal. The Terrapins will never be great on the gridiron, anyway. But, if Anderson gets this hire right, Maryland can float between good and very good.

That’s not bad for a hoops school.

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