Watching ESPN the last couple days, it's impossible to ignore the already drastic results of Maryland Athletic Director Kevin Anderson's difficult decision to fire football coach Ralph Friedgen.
Friedgen had spent 10 years with the Terrapins and was named ACC Coach of the Year only a month ago after propelling Maryland to the second biggest turnaround in NCAA Division-I FBS this season. He guided Maryland to double-digit wins three times, as well as to four bowl wins, after the Terrapins had failed to post more than six wins in any of the 15 years prior to his arrival. Before 2002, Maryland hadn't won a bowl game since beating Syracuse in the 1985 Cherry Bowl.
The Terrapins also stand at 8-4 heading into Dec. 29's Military Bowl against East Carolina, just a year after finishing 2-10, the losingest season in school history.
But even in the midst of an extremely impressive turnaround, the interest in the program just wasn't there – not only on a national level, but even on a local level – and that was especially apparent through Maryland's ticket sales, or lack thereof.
While Anderson's decision may not be popular amongst many, one need look no further than somewhere like ESPN to see it already producing significant results for the Terrapins' program, especially with all of the talk and speculation regarding the potential hire of former Texas Tech coach Mike Leach, an innovative offensive mind that led the Red Raiders to an 84-43 record during his 10 years with the team before being fired in 2009.
Part of Anderson's plan was to re-energize a fan base that's interest had been dwindling for the last several years. Even in just the matter of a week, he has managed to do that.
Anderson has emphasized consistently since his hire in September that he believes Maryland has the potential to be great, and that he will not be content settling for average or even good results.
The Terrapins have finished with a losing record in four of the last seven seasons under Friedgen and have failed to post double-digit wins since 2003.
While this year's turnaround was impressive to Anderson, it still doesn't quite meet the level of expectation that he has for Maryland's football program, a program which Anderson was quick to admit that Friedgen played a major part in re-establishing after 15 years of mediocrity.
"He took a struggling football program and turned it into a good one," Anderson said of Friedgen at a Monday press conference. "He has raised the bar for our expectations."
Anderson added, "This was a good football team [this season] and I believe it can be great, so we're going to bring the best person in here to get us to that greatness and sustain it."
All signs point towards Leach being that person. One player even said it was a relative certainty at this point, and only time will tell if he can help Anderson and Maryland ultimately reach that level of greatness.
Even in just a short time, Anderson has renewed interest in the Terrapins' football program. Now, it remains to be seen if he can take the bar from Friedgen, and continue to raise it.
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