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Ditching Randy Edsall Is No Cure-All for Maryland

InsideMDSports.com, 247Sports’ site dedicated to coverage of Maryland athletics, reports the university’s athletic brass plans to part ways with fifth-year head coach Randy Edsall before the Terrapins’ bye week.

That Maryland would fire Edsall is no shock. His record in the four seasons prior to this was 20-30, with zero conference finishes above .500 spanning both the ACC and Big Ten. The surprise is Edsall was afforded part of a fifth year, given the knee-jerk way in which administrators deal with coaches now.

Edsall’s consecutive 7-6 finishes in 2013 and 2014, following initial years of 2-10 and 4-8, pointed to some measure of progress. However, opening 2015 with a 39-point loss to border rival West Virginia, getting blanked by Michigan and giving up 42 second-half points to get blown out by Bowling Green suggest considerable regression.

Who could have guessed that Edsall’s contract extension, offered in June, might be hollow?

Well, athletic director Kevin Anderson may have had an inkling.

Anderson’s tenure as Maryland athletic director is decidedly mixed. The Terrapins gained an invite to the Big Ten in late 2012, a move that shored up the athletic department’s financial future — and the Terps needed a bailout desperately, having cut seven sports that same year.

The Terrapin basketball program is moving in the right direction under Mark Turgeon, a hire of Anderson’s in 2011. Maryland is a popular, preseason pick to reach next spring’s Final Four and compete for a Big Ten Conference championship.

Turgeon was also a very public runner-up for the job, only receiving it after a reportedly awkward pursuit of Arizona head coach Sean Miller.

Anderson also hired Turgeon just a few months after bringing aboard another public runner-up: Randy Edsall.

Fairly or not, Edsall came to College Park in 2011 as the embodiment of Anderson’s legacy. Flourish or fail, the two were destined to be tied together after Anderson fired Ralph Friedgen in December 2010.

From 2001 through 2010, Friedgen oversaw the most successful era in Maryland football since Bobby Ross in the early 1980s, or Jerry Claiborne in the 1970s.

Friedgen resurrected the program from almost two decades of failure, and he capped his time there with a nine-win 2010 that earned him ACC Coach of the Year.

It also earned him a pink slip from Anderson.

Friedgen’s firing sparked immediate buzz around Mike Leach, a year removed from his dismissal at Texas Tech.

Leach was rumored to be Maryland’s guy for almost a month, before Friedgen was ever officially fired and after coach-in-waiting James Franklin bailed for Vanderbilt. When Edsall was hired in January 2011, he was decidedly not Mike Leach.

Edsall’s failures as Maryland head coach are less of a reflection on him as a head coach. He virtually built Connecticut football from nothing, transforming the Huskies from a Division I-AA program into Fiesta Bowl participants by his final season there.

But at Maryland, Edsall was expected to meet big-school goals with mid-major backing.

Who could succeed under those circumstances? And, more importantly for Maryland going forward, who wants to take on the task?

Towson’s Rob Ambrose has flourished in that part of the country, but his hire would feel like a repeat of bringing Edsall on board. The same goes for any other successful coach at an FCS or Group of Five program — and not of any fault of their own.

The Power Five pool doesn’t feel all that deep for a program with little track record for sustained success and budgetary constraints.

Leach’s connection to Under Armour, based in Baltimore, is a thing of the past. He’s in his fourth season at Nike-sponsored Washington State, a university that’s invested heavily into new facilities Leach raves are best in the Pac-12.

James Frankl…never mind.

Maryland athletics lack an identity and direction. The Terps’ marriage to the Big Ten still feels awkward — perhaps because it began with the financially burdened athletic department essentially taking out a loan from the conference.

Should the decision indeed come and Edsall be fired after Maryland’s date with No. 1 Ohio State, it’s an opportunity for the university to craft an identity. But then, that’s an opportunity Anderson already had and squandered.

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