In fairness, if Maryland wants to truly improve its football program, if it wants to go from "good to great," then there are larger issues then who the athletic director is, or who coaches the team. Friedgen said something in one of his final press conferences that I think touched on one of the problems Edsall is going to face. When asked if the Terps job was still a good job, Friedgen paused for a second before answering.
"I will tell you this: It's not an easy job," Friedgen said. "There's a lot of things that really have to change to help it reach its potential. To be honest with you, I don't know if the university is willing to do that. You kind of have to know that going in. I did, and I think that was a benefit to me. What I think happens to a lot of coaches who come to Maryland is they think it's like every other place and after their third year, they realize it isn't and then they're stuck. It's just tough to sustain. Just go back and look at the history."
That's not Friedgen making excuses, in my opinion. That's him tactfully expressing what I'm going to be blunt about. The University of Maryland can't decide if it wants to be Duke academically, or Virginia Tech athletically. But it can't be both if it really wants to improve.
Let's face it, it's harder to get kids into school at Maryland these days then it is Virginia Tech, or a number of other ACC schools. Both Friedgen and Gary Williams have dealt with this problem for years. I watched it happen in the two years I was the Maryland football beat writer. I know of at least two instances when Friedgen got a commitment from a recruit who met NCAA and ACC standards for admission, but was told by the admissions office that recruit would not be admitted to Maryland. And so that recruit instead went to Virginia Tech. Certainly Friedgen had his share of exceptions granted by admissions, but I don't think anyone would argue he had the same clout that his friend Frank Beamer had at Virginia Tech with his administration. Yet that's what Maryland wants its football team to be, on the level of the Hokies.
Will Randy Edsall still feel like Maryland is his dream job when he finds out he just spent a year recruiting a stud wide receiver, only to learn the university doesn't think that kid is worthy of stepping on campus? And so that kid spends the next four years running through his secondary? It's completely fine to have high standards for academics. But there is a reality that comes with that too. Notre Dame isn't a college football power anymore for several reasons, but academics is one of them.
I don't buy into the idea there is any integrity in big-time college athletics anyway, so I don't care if athletes are admitted to school with lower grades and test scores. The represent less than 1 percent of the student body, for starters. As long as schools allow legacy admissions, they can't really make the argument they're completely compromising themselves by bending their academic requirements by letting in athletes who are going to generate millions of dollars for the school.
Edsall should succeed, and when he does, some of these bad feelings will fade. But the larger issues will remain. Maryland's total operating budget for football, according to the most recent figures, is a little more than $9 million. We don't know how that ranks against private schools in the ACC like Wake Forest, Duke, Miami and Boston College, because they don't have to disclose their books, but it's less than every public ACC school except N.C. State's $7 million.