Ball and burden in Gary's court


By David Steele

To answer your question, no, it is not too much to ask a team that has won a national championship to reach the NCAA tournament in more than half of the next six seasons.

That is Gary Williams' fault. He raised that bar. Without 2002, or the Final Four in 2001, he would have much more reasonable expectations to live with.

That's what separates the disappointments of Ralph Friedgen's Terps football program, from those of Williams' men's basketball program. Friedgen actually buys himself some slack for not taking them into Florida State territory. Williams set the Duke-North Carolina stratosphere as the target and then reached it.

You almost can't blame fans for being spoiled; they might not have liked simply returning to the two- and three-round NCAA stays from pre-2001. Regression, though, was out of the question.

Hot seat? Williams lit the flame six years ago. More National Invitation Tournament trips aren't going to cool it. The football folks hope for excellence. The basketball-heads have been there and can't stomach the alternative.

Pressure is on 'The Fridge'


By Bill Ordine

Of Maryland's highest-profile coaches, football's Ralph Friedgen and basketball's Gary Williams, it's "The Fridge" who has less room for error.

Those three spectacular campaigns from 2001 through 2003 when Ralph led the Terps out of the wilderness and went 31-8 are beginning to dim in the memory, and among the issues weighing on the faithful is the way Maryland has faded lately.

Three out of the past four seasons have been marked by more losses than wins, both overall and in the ACC, and left a bitter aftertaste.

The Terps finished 2004 with a 2-5 slide; the following year, it was a 1-4 swoon; and last season, they were a disappointing 2-5 down the stretch after hopeful wins over Rutgers and Georgia Tech. Even in 2006, when Maryland went 9-4, it lost its last two regular-season games.

Yes, Friedgen consistently gets his team into bowls (five in seven years) but since the Orange Bowl in the 2001 season, those bowls have mostly declined in prestige.

Perhaps most telling is Maryland's conference record: 19-5 in the first phase of the "Fridge" era and 14-18 the past four seasons. And unlike the men's basketball program, the football Terps cannot lay claim to playing in one of the toughest conferences in the country for their sport.

Of course, most of the above is what has led to the return of former assistant James Franklin as offensive coordinator.

In Friedgen's defense, he has consistently lost some of his best players early to the NFL, the most recent example being linebacker Erin Henderson, a semifinalist for the 2007 Butkus Award, presented to college football's top linebacker, who signed as an undrafted free agent with the Minnesota Vikings. But that's a problem every big-time college coach -- football or basketball -- has to live with.

The thought here is that if Friedgen doesn't rev up this program soon, he won't have to live with the problem much longer.

What do you think? Get in on the argument by commenting below.