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Hold off on the calls to fire Friedgen

The Baltimore Sun

No one has started a Web site that's called firefriedgen.com. Or firethefridge.com. Or fireralph.com. Or, it appears, any combination of these. Honest. I checked.


Maryland's 31-0 loss at Virginia on Saturday was horrifying, especially coupled with the wild swings of the wins over California and Clemson and the loss at Middle Tennessee State. With a bye Saturday, the Terps' faithful have an extra week to stew in their increasing bitterness. And that, again, brings some extreme opinions to the surface.

We all know, of course, that the scattered calls for Maryland to be done with coach Ralph Friedgen are just momentary outbursts of maximum frustration. Crazy, mad talk. Sorry, but things just aren't that bad, not even after a plunge as steep as the one from the win at Clemson to the throttling at Virginia.

With neither October nor the regular season even half over, and with the Terps' problems falling well short of any worst-case scenario, the word "fire" shouldn't even be in the discussion.

However, this is a good time for Friedgen to get the figurative wake-up call. He raised the bar of expectations. Two or three times a year, he not only reaches it but clears it by a wide margin. It's the two or three times a year that he and the program fall flat on their faces that's the problem.

Friedgen, it is safe to say, hears that wake-up call. This week, he laid out the challenge the Terps face and the responsibilities everybody is taking on from now on - coaches and players. The Atlantic Coast Conference season is not over, he pointed out, and by the end of next week, after the Wake Forest game, the picture can look completely changed.

"There's nothing we can do about last week, but there is something we can do about the next six games," he said. "The sand's going out of the hourglass, and it's about time we woke up and started playing. They have to realize that. They have to take some accountability for that. I can't keep thinking of ways to motivate them every minute. They have to think of ways to motivate themselves."

All true. But it's also true that no matter what happens next week, it's likely that it will have no bearing on what happens a week after that. This is the pattern these Terps have set. It seemed broken in Death Valley, but it resurfaced in Charlottesville.

Still, things would have to get a lot worse to seriously discuss running off the head coach. Things such as double-digit loss seasons, internal strife, off-the-field scandal and academic fraud.

It has never been that kind of program under Friedgen. It also has never been the kind of program in which a coach's job is in jeopardy in a season in which he beats two Top 25 teams. It never should be that kind, either.

Yet, the offsetting good-and-rotten performances have to stop. Or, at least, the cause of them has to be figured out. Maryland is talented and tough-minded enough to win games such as Middle Tennessee and Virginia. But it has not, and it's not the first time.

Friedgen knows this. He hears about it all the time. His players and staff are exposed to the anger constantly. He knows that as he preaches accountability, he is under the biggest microscope.

He's the person most likely to know how to solve the problem, now and in the future. Until he does, though, his feet will be held to the fire.

As for the fire reaching his seat - too soon. Way too soon. No need to register those domain names now.

Listen to David Steele on Fridays at 9 a.m. on WNST (1570 AM).

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