I am late getting to this, but I can't let the weekend pass without some praise for Glenn Clark and the interview he did on his WNST radio show with Ralph Friedgen, the former University of Maryland football coach.
The interview has been excerpted, carried and commented everywhere in the last 48 hours as it deserves to be. Clark did excellent work in showing us how self-centered, immature and reckless with his words Friedgen could be.
Here's the portion of the interview causing all the discussion:
Clark: Is it tough for you to watch? Have you sat down and watched any Maryland games or is it tough for you to do that. I know you love the kids, but I also know you’re a Maryland alum, and it’s got to be a little painful.
Friedgen: Well, it’s not painful because I watch it for the kids. I could care less about Maryland. I’ve burned my diploma. I’m flying a Georgia Tech flag right now.
Clark: That’s hurtful coach. I don’t want to hear that. I’m a Maryland alum.
Friedgen: Well, they talk about Maryland pride. They didn’t show me a whole lot of Maryland pride, either getting the job or getting fired.
If Friedgen really did burn his Maryland diploma, in my opinion, he needs counseling. I'm serious. And if he lied about burning it, he still needs counseling -- and a better moral compass.
Whether sports fans want to acknowledge it or not, there is a educational (or at least quasi-educational) component to being a coach at a college or university. These are educational institutions, and parents trust their children to you as coach and representative of that educational institution.
If teaching is beyond you -- and it appears Friedgen was not much of a teacher based on the latest NCAA sanctions -- you should at least serve as a role model of being a responsible citizen and member of the educational community.
Burning your diploma is the act of an angry adolescent. Lying and saying you burned it when you did not is the act of a emotionally immature and disturbed adolescent.
Neither should be entrusted with the responsibility of coaching at an institution of higher learning whether they win or lose.
Saying you burned your diploma shows an absolute disrespect for education. Now that I have heard Friedgen say what he said to Clark, I am not surprised by the sanctions his successor is saddled with because Friedgen violated NCAA educational rules.
When Friedgen was fired, I wondered if Maryland was making the right move. After what he said to Clark, I am sure the university did the right thing. I am just surprised it took as long as it did for such a self-centered, angry, adolescent in the sixth decade of his life to be exposed.
For his part, Clark, is more sympathetic to Friedgen than I am. Like Clark and Friedgen, I am also a UM alum (Ph.D., 2000). Maybe because I have taught at the University of Maryland, College Park and now teach at Goucher College, I understand the responsibility people at an educational institution have.
Here's what Clark had to say about Friedgen's words in an email exchange we had Saturday night:
Ralph has always been quite emotional, and I think his response (while over the top) was actually more evidence of how much he loved the school. The Maryland job was really the only job he ever wanted as a coach, and it clearly hurt him that he was let go the way he was. I think it would have been acceptable for him to say anything along those lines, but it was hurtful to all Maryland supporters to suggest he had "burned his diploma", even if no one truly believes he has.
Ralph Friedgen was a good-often very good-football coach at the University of Maryland. He probably deserved better than to be dismissed the way he was after a successful season. It doesn't make it acceptable to make the type of statement that he did, as he should be more respectful to Maryland fans and supporters even if still angry towards the administration.
As to the interview itself, Clark added:
I was caught off guard by Coach Friedgen's response to my question. I expected him to remind me of how much he loved the kids he had recruited to College Park, but I didn't expect him to take such shots at the University. I had no intention to lead him into anything along those lines, but instead just to discuss the surreal nature of watching a team that he has such intimate involvement with play football. I am in no ways surprised by the national response to the interview.
Again, congratulations to Clark.
As for Friedgen, all I can say is that I think this is one of those interviews he will never be able to disown. Being "emotional" is not an excuse for bad behavior and the kind of disrespect he showed to the university and the educational process itself. If that is all his diploma meant to him, he had no business ever coaching at an educational institution.
Clark's "The Reality Check" show airs from 2 to 6 p.m. weekdays on WNST-AM (1570).