A 22-33 record, including a 10-23 mark in conference play. Two low-level bowl appearances. And a whole lot of acrimony between players and coaches.
In a nutshell, that’s what Maryland has gotten out of Randy Edsall since he took over as head coach of the Terrapins, in rather bizarre circumstances, back in 2011. It was a marriage of coach and program that was never going to work—and now, in the midst of his fifth season with the program, it appears that the ill-fated marriage is finally about to end.
Multiple reports emerged yesterday indicating that Maryland officials, fed up both with their program’s continued mediocre results and Edsall’s inability to connect with his players, were prepared to fire the coach as early as this weekend, in the wake of the Terps’ game against Ohio State.
Though the school issued a half-hearted response (but not quite denial) to the reports—in a statement, Maryland said: “Randy Edsall is our head football coach, and he’ll be on the sidelines Saturday against Ohio State”—it appears that Edsall is, in fact, on his way out.
The question, of course, is who will replace him.
Though Maryland fans have already started dreaming the impossible dream of bringing Chip Kelly, currently floundering with the Philadelphia Eagles, back into the college game, that’s a scenario that, let’s face it, will never, ever happen. Never.
The reason is simple: This is not a big-time football school. It never has been and it never will be. But that doesn’t mean Maryland can’t consistently field at least moderately competitive teams, and it doesn’t mean, either, that it isn’t capable of attracting a smart, young, innovative coach—the kind of guy who could come in, infuse some excitement into this long-mediocre program and finally give those finicky (and yes, they are finicky) Terrapins fans something to cheer about.
The good news for Maryland? Those guys are out there. It’s just up to Terrapins athletic director to find the right fit.
Among the first calls Anderson should make would be to Bowling Green, where coach Dino Babers is turning heads with his high-scoring offensive system—one that helped his Falcons put up 48 points on Edsall’s Maryland earlier this year. Babers has a combined career record of 30-15 with stints at both Bowling Green and Eastern Illinois, and though he’s been with the Falcons less than two years, there’s an unmistakable buzz around him at the moment—and the MAC, of course, has a long, long history of sending promising young coaches into the power conferences (it shouldn’t be forgotten that both Urban Meyer and Nick Saban got their first head coaching jobs at Bowling Green and Toledo, respectively).
Other current MAC coaches who might be a good fit in College Park include P.J. Fleck, who helped Western Michigan improve from 1-11 in his first year in 2013 to 8-5 last season, and especially Matt Campbell, who is 30-13 in four seasons at Toledo, currently has his Rockets on pace for a potential undefeated season, and counts among his admirers Ohio State’s Meyer, who tried to hire him as an assistant back in 2011. Such is Campbell’s profile at the moment that, if Maryland is at all interested, it had better move quick—because other schools are certain to be watching his progress.
Of course, Maryland might choose to go the coordinator route, and if it did, there is no shortage of big names out there: TCU co-offensive coordinator Doug Meachum, Duke offensive coordinator Scottie Montgomery, Oregon offensive coordinator Scott Frost and Baylor offensive coordinator (and son or Art) Kendal Briles are all proven offensive minds who could potentially help Maryland return to the high-flying, freewheeling days that it enjoyed under Ralph Friedgen—the only guy in recent memory who actually delivered big-time results.
He couldn’t do it consistently, no. But he did get it done. And he got it done specifically because he truly understood what Maryland football was all about—its strengths, its weaknesses, its potential, its limitations. He found a way to seize on those strengths, and just as importantly, found a way to work around those limitations.
Whomever Maryland hires to take over for Edsall needs to have that same understanding.
Maryland is not Ohio State, Penn State or Michigan.
Maryland isn’t Michigan State.
Maryland probably isn’t even Wisconsin.
But Maryland can be better than what it has been under Edsall, and if the school gets the right guy in there, the Terrapins will be.