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Will Anderson's first decision determine his fate?

Kevin Anderson's biggest hire at Army was bringing Rich Ellerson in two years ago from Cal Poly to rejuvenate a pitiful football program. Ellerson has been a great hire, taking the Black Knights to their first bowl game since 1996 and to their first bowl win in 25 seasons by beating SMU to finish a respectable 7-6 season.
 
Anderson's first big hire at Maryland came Sunday. While the jury will be out for a while on Connecticut's Randy Edsall — a surprise choice to replace Ralph Friedgen given all the speculation about Mike Leach — the pool of prospective jurors have issued their opinions about Anderson's decision.
 
It is not pretty.
 
Guilty on all counts!
 

I went through the first 30 responses (out of 162 by around 9 p.m., an astounding number on a Sunday during and after a Ravens game) to the Sun's initial web post on Edsall's hiring and I could only find five that were mildly supportive of the move. Most wanted Leach, the former Texas Tech coach. Many said they were going to cancel their season tickets and stop making donations to the athletic program. More than a few suggested that Anderson be fired.
 
Athletic directors often make their reputations on their first significant coaching change. Jeremy Foley survived the mistake of hiring Ron Zook by getting Urban Meyer to Florida. Debbie Yow even survived the mistake of hiring Ron Vanderlinden by eventually hiring Friedgen. But while most in Gainesville seemed to forgive Foley after Meyer won the first of two national championships — it also didn't hurt that Billy Donovan had already taken the Gators to a Final Four and later won back-to-back national titles in college basketball — many in College Park lost confidence in Yow after she hired Ron Vanderlinden to replace Mark Duffner.
 
I see some similarities — at least when it comes to a coach's projected image — between the hiring of Vanderlinden and the hiring of Edsall. When it was time to find a replacement for Vanderlinden, Yow wouldn't even interview Friedgen the first time because of his weight and was even hesitant to interview him after she fired Vanderlinden. 
 
The comparison to Leach came to mind because after Duffner was fired, Maryland fans wanted Chuck Amato, the brash assistant at Florida State who would be later hired at North Carolina State,
 
Marvin Perry, a former Terrapin Club president and longtime critic of Yow, told me at the time that Yow hired Vanderlinden because "she wanted to create the department in her own image." We all know what a mistake Vanderlinden turned out to be and what a success story Friedgen was in leading the Terps to their first and only BCS appearance in his first season, the first of three straight years of 10 wins or more.
 
I am not comparing Edsall to Vanderlinden. Edsall has accomplished more than many coaches in his 12 seasons at Connecticut, taking the Huskies from a Football Bowl Subdivision nubie to a BCS game Saturday at the Fiesta Bowl. But if you told me two weeks ago that you were going to fire a Maryland alum with a 75-50 record and seven bowl appearances at his alma mater for one with a 74-70 record and five bowl appearances who grew up rooting for the Terps, I would have asked why get rid of The Fridge?.
 
And so, apparently, are a lot of Maryland fans.
 
Not that I am surprised by the Edsall hire. As much as the fans (and the media) seemed to be getting excited about the possibility of Leach bringing his "Air Raid" offense to Byrd Stadium, I couldn't envision Anderson being totally comfortable with a guy like Leach, considering his reputation for trashing game officials, not to mention his own players, on occasion. The whole affair with Adam James — the former Texas Tech player and son of ESPN analyst Craig James who Leach allegedly ordered to be placed in a dark shed when he was suffering from a concussion — was apparently too much for Leach to overcome.
 
So now Maryland fans are being asked to get fired up about Edsall, who despite taking the Huskies to a BCS game, had a record that wasn't as good as Friedgen's and an offense that is perennially ranked in the bottom half (or quarter) of FBS schools. Given the talent returning from a 9-4 team — including a quarterback in Danny O'Brien who is better than anyone Edsall has had at Connecticut since Dan Orlovsky — the Terps have a chance to be pretty good next season. Given that O'Brien is only a freshman, maybe for three years.
 
But as for taking Maryland from "good to great", as Anderson suggested in explain the reasons for Friedgen not returning?
 
Just don't see it, and neither does the jury pool.      

 
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