Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank says it's time for Maryland supporters to "wrap our arms around" football coach Randy Edsall, who endured a 2-10 season and plenty of fan criticism in his first year in College Park, and to "stop rooting against him."
"Randy Edsall is a good, strong, decent man who is working his tail off on behalf of the University of Maryland," Plank said. "And there are more people that want to spend their days burning things down than building it up. At least just stop rooting against him. You know, give the guy a chance."
Plank said Edsall, who has a six-year contract, needs time to shape the program. Edsall, who replaced Ralph Friedgen, was hired after 12 years at Connecticut.
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"You know how underperforming most people are in Year One?" Plank said. "Let's let it settle. Let's give him a chance."
A former Maryland special-teams player, the Under Armour founder is one of Maryland's most prominent backers and a member of the board of trustees. A Baltimore Sun review last year found that his foundation and company had collectively donated more than $1.4 million to Maryland athletics since 2007. Plank paid for a charter plane during the coaching search that ended with Edsall's hiring in January 2011. Maryland said Plank, who did not travel with Maryland officials during the search, was not involved in the decision.
In September 2008, Maryland announced a five-year agreement for Under Armour to become the official outfitter of the school's sports teams. Plank doesn't routinely do interviews about Maryland athletics. "I don't like being the centerpiece or a portion of the story," he said last year.
But Plank did not hesitate to discuss Edsall during an interview Friday. Plank joined Baltimore Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti at The Baltimore Sun on Friday to announce the signing of a 10-year agreement to name the Ravens practice facility the Under Armour Performance Center. After the announcement, he responded to questions about Edsall and came to the coach's defense.
"I don't speak for the university, but he's our coach. He's our coach and we should get behind him and support him," Plank said.
Plank used a business example to convey his feelings about what Edsall, a frequent media target, endured last season. If one of his Under Armour employees were severely criticized, Plank said he would respond swiftly in the employee's defense 'because I want him to go home and I want him to sleep good on his pillow at night. Let's embolden that feeling of giving support."
Thirteen players with eligibility, including quarterbackDanny O'Brien, left Maryland after the season. The program has been buoyed by word that Good Counsel wide receiver Stefon Diggs, Maryland's biggest recruiting success story in years, is coming to College Park.
Edsall has often said the 2-10 season was part of a process. "When you go through change and you go through a transition ... it doesn't happen overnight. It's not basketball. We can't change it with one guy. We're on the right track," Edsall said before this year's spring football practice.
Said Plank: "I hope I see myself as Randy's biggest advocate. He's been a good friend and he's a very good football coach, and let's wrap our arms around him and see what happens when we do that."