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Ralph Friedgen releases statement urging Terps to move forward, then looks back

An interesting e-mail was sent today to members of the Baltimore-Washington media covering Maryland  athletics.

It came from former Terps football coach Ralph Friedgen, who wrote about the accomplishments of his program during his 10-year tenure. But the most interesting part of the e-mail was the last sentence.  

“We would appreciate the current administration looking forward to the future and dedicating their energies to continue to forge ahead as a world class University and successful football program without demeaning the accomplishments of those who came before,” Friedgen wrote.

Friedgen, who had opened the statement by saying he was “mostly silent” since he was fired in December of 2010, would have been better served to write this last fall when Randy Edsall and, to a lesser extent, athletic director Kevin Anderson, took some not-so-veiled shots at the previous staff.

But now?

The only verbal dagger I can remember recently came in Sun colleague Jeff Barker’s feature on Edsall’s wife, Eileen. Toward the end of the story, Eileen Edsall made a comment about how she was not going to take after Gloria Friedgen by providing snacks for the players. “This is not youth soccer,” Eileen Edsall said.

As much as I defended Friedgen last fall when Edsall questioned how much accountability there had been by Maryland football players under the former staff, and as much as I criticized Edsall for what I thought was making excuses for his team’s 2-10 record, this is a case of Friedgen picking the wrong time for going after Edsall and Anderson.

First of all, Edsall has finally learned, with the help of a newly-hired PR firm, to keep his mouth shut. Even at this week’s ACC media gathering in North Carolina, Edsall said that it’s time for Maryland to do it on the field and for him to be judged by what the Terps do this season. Had he done that last season, he wouldn’t have become the “punching bag,” as wide receiver Kevin Dorsey said this week, for media and fans.

Secondly, the timing of Friedgen’s statement is a little odd, given what is going on right now with the NCAA sanctioning Penn State. I’m not sure if Friedgen was trying to show what kind of balance he had in College Park, compared to Joe Paterno, but whatever Friedgen has to say about Maryland is going to get lost – even in the local media – with the Ravens and Redskins opening training camp, with the Olympics starting, with the Orioles and Nationals both in the hunt for the Major League Baseball playoffs.

I don’t think Friedgen was treated well at the end, but the truth is that he was fortunate to survive his own 2-10 season in 2009. I feel badly for a guy who gave 10 years to his alma mater and was fired, but that’s the nature of the coaching business. I had hoped that Friedgen would find his way back to the sidelines, if that was his wish, but there was a part of me who hoped he would enjoy what he accomplished and enjoy a well-deserved retirement like Gary Williams apparently has.

Ralph, it’s time to listen to the advice you offered Maryland.

It’s time to move on. 

      

RALPH FRIEDGEN PREPARED STATEMENT

July 24, 2012

After being mostly silent since my departure from the University, I would like to take this opportunity to thank my players, coaches and staff and their families, as well as our loyal Terps fans that had supported us over the decade in which I was privileged to coach at my alma mater.  Having coached football for over 40 years at both the collegiate and professional level, I can say without reservation that the players and coaches who had been a part of our program are some of the best individuals with whom I had ever worked.

I am very proud of what we had achieved together over our 10 years term.  These football accomplishments include:

  • A 75-50 on field record
  • An ACC Conference Championship
  • 7 bowl appearances with 5 wins

Our teams have also included individuals that have received the following accolades:

  • A Chuck Bednarik and Butkus trophy winner (EJ Henderson, 2002)
  • The only two-time consensus All-American Terp in school history (EJ Henderson, 2001 & 2002)
  • 4 First team All-American honors (EJ Henderson, 2001 & 2002; Vernon Davis, 2005; D’Qwell Jackson, 2005)
  • 34 First team All-ACC honors
  • Jim Tatum Award (Nick Novak, 2004; Josh Wilson, 2006)
  • Brian Piccolo Award winner (Matt Crawford, 2001)
  • ACC Defensive Player of the Year (EJ Henderson, 2001 & 2002; D’Qwell Jackson, 2005)
  • ACC Offensive Player of the Year (Bruce Perry, 2001)
  • ACC Rookie of the Year (Danny O’Brien, 2010)
  • ACC Coach of the Year (2001 & 2010)
  • National Coach of the Year by 12 Organizations (2001)
  • ACC Player of the Year (EJ Henderson, 2001)

As of 2011 season, sixty of our Terps have gone onto careers in the NFL and 36 players were on an NFL roster at the beginning of the 2010 preseason.  Twenty-four Terps have been drafted over the past 10 years, three of who were first round picks.

Through the generous support of donors, we had modernized our team house, added state of the art practice fields, expanded and updated Byrd Stadium, and built an excellent academic support facility.  We saw an increase in giving to the Maryland Gridiron Network from $40,000 per year when we first arrived in 2000 to $600,000 in 2010.  The growth in these funds, which can be attributed to the hard work and diligent efforts of our MGN Board, sponsors, and members, has helped us to pay for necessities that are not covered in the football budget.

But I am perhaps most proud of the accomplishments of our Terps off the field.  Forty-three of our players from 2001 to 2009 have been recognized with Academic All-ACC honors and during my tenure, 179 of our players have earned their degree.  In spite of being shorthanded in our academic support unit (most notably by the departure of Heather Arianna, who was extremely competent, but more importantly one who cared about the success of our players) for the last 3 years of my tenure (and emphasizing that fact as my main priority when the new athletic director arrived, but to no avail), there are many bright spots.  My wife, Gloria spent countless hours at Gossett to get to know each player by name.  As a former high school biology teacher she tutored players for 10 years.  Our two younger daughters also tutored players, as our daughters were both excellent students and graduates with honors from UMD.  In fact the football graduation cohorts ending in 2004, 2006, and 2010 exceeded the benchmark of 66%, with 2 of them exceeding 70%, and one at 79%.  Gloria and I were always extremely pleased to attend some of our players' graduation ceremonies. Gloria still works for the School of Public Health.

Our players were also encouraged to become active in community service.  Despite the extensive time commitment they make to football and their studies, a number of them volunteered their free time to various service organizations including Big Brothers Big Sisters (thanks to Dahlia Levin for coordinating this), the TERP reading program, Uplifting Athletes and other worthy causes while on our team.  Their commitments often continued after they leave us, as many of our players have gone on to start or support community service programs, including several who have started their own foundations, where they now live or in their hometowns (foundations that we continue to support).

Our entire family acted as goodwill ambassadors for the University in so many ways.  We donated, not pledged, over $500K to the University directed to the Maryland Gridiron Network, Terrapin Club, School of Public Health (naming two lounges), the Jerry P. Wrenn Scholarship, the Friedgen Family Theater Scholarship, the Friedgen Family Fund for Arts Honors and Graphic Design, the Italian Department Study Abroad Fund, and the Catholic Student Center.  We truly believe in the importance of academics, athletics and arts in molding individuals. These donations do not include various cocktail parties at our home for donors, tailgate food preparation for the first 5 years (before the Athletic Department made us change to an MGN event), the weekly snacks prepared for the coaches, players, trainers, managers, and others who passed by the practice facility.

From the beginning our approach was to engage everyone – it was a football family.  We would always tell folks that we had 3 daughters and 120 sons.  Recruit parents would ask us to “take care of their sons” and we did so with discipline and caring. Our family was involved in making senior scrapbooks with love and passion for these young men who worked so hard on and off the field.  The MGN members and fans were extended family. We cared as much about the small donor as the larger one.  We brought lettermen back in numbers as never before.  We were here ourselves in the late 60’s, early 70’s, mid 80’s and for the ten-year stretch starting in 2001. 

It has always been my philosophy that college football isn't just about teaching young men the X’s and O’s - it's about preparing them for life – a philosophy from which I have never wavered - with an understanding of

  • The long term rewards of hard work and preparation;
  • The importance of being able to rely on your teammates and their ability to rely on you;
  • The knowledge that with faith and perseverance no obstacle is insurmountable;
  • The preciousness of family, teammates and friends whose support never wavers; and
  • The irreplaceable worth of believing in yourself and your abilities despite doubt and criticism from outsiders.

My only regret was to not have the opportunity to coach the fine young men of the 2011 team to the end of their college careers – men, who I can tell you without a doubt in my mind, are not only great students of this game, but who had already demonstrated these qualities that I hold dear.  These young men have been like sons to me and I thank them from the bottom of my heart for their willingness to give me everything they have, both on and off the field.  I wish them nothing but success now and throughout their lives.  It has been my honor to be their coach and I could not be prouder of them.

Finally, our family invested time, talent and treasure in the University at large and in the football program.  We would appreciate the current administration looking forward to the future and dedicating their energies to continue to forge ahead as a world class University and successful football program without demeaning the accomplishments of those who came before.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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