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FRIEDGEN WILL BE EVALUATED AFTER SEASON

THE BALTIMORE SUN

COLLEGE PARK - - In October 2008, Clemson and football coach Tommy Bowden parted ways with six games remaining in the season. The Tigers had slipped to 3-3, including a wrenching loss to Maryland, after being ranked in the top 10 in preseason polls.

A year later, it's the Terrapins who are stumbling as they prepare for the annual meeting with Clemson on Saturday. But Maryland indicates there is no thought to replacing coach Ralph Friedgen during the season.

Maryland plans to assess Friedgen's performance - as it does all its coaches - when the season is over and a thorough examination of the program can be made.

"All 27 sports are reviewed at the conclusion of each season," athletic director Deborah Yow said in an e-mail in reply to queries about Friedgen from The Baltimore Sun.

"My focus now is to support the efforts of our young team and coaching staff, who are working hard to improve," she said.

The Terrapins are 1-3 heading into Saturday's matchup with the 2-2 Tigers - Maryland's first Atlantic Coast Conference game. It's the worst start for the Terps since Friedgen, in his ninth season, became head coach.

Friedgen, 65-39 at Maryland, has two full seasons remaining on his contract after this year. The 62-year-old coach, who makes about $2 million a year, entered the season ranked eighth all-time in career winning percentage by ACC coaches.

Friedgen is among five coaches listed on the "hot seat" by CBSSports.com. FoxSports.com lists Friedgen as No. 3 on the hot seat among 10 coaches. "With a daunting schedule still ahead of them, things are not going to be merry in Maryland come December," the Fox site said.

Friedgen has been a target of criticism in blogs and on message boards during periods when his team has struggled the past few years. He said he pays little attention to the barbs.

"I haven't thrown in the towel one bit," Friedgen said Tuesday at his weekly media lunch. "I'm still thinking about winning. I'm still thinking about winning the ACC. That's just the way I am."

Friedgen has the backing of prominent members of the Maryland Gridiron Network and the Terrapin Club. MGN is a booster group that raises money for special football projects. The Terrapin Club provides scholarships for athletes.

"I look at the entire of body or work; I don't just look at four games," MGN chairman Larry Grabenstein said. "There are so many different ways to look at the job he has done - from graduation rates to long-term performance on the field. I look also at the development of character on the part of individuals. I've seen firsthand him relating to these kids."

A smattering of boos was heard at Byrd Stadium as Maryland was upset, 32-31, by Middle Tennessee State in the third game on Sept. 19.

It was a difficult loss for the Terps because it came on a last-second field goal and was the second year in a row that the Blue Raiders had surprised Maryland.

Friedgen lost 30 seniors from last year's team. On this season's Terps, 58 of 85 scholarship players have at least three years of eligibility remaining. The team has been hindered by mistakes - turnovers and penalties.

"Maryland is off to a slow start, but Ralph Friedgen has been around a long time and has a tremendous track record," Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said. "They have our full attention after they beat us at Clemson last year."

Bowden was replaced by Swinney two games after Clemson lost a 17-6 lead to the Terps in front of 81,000 last season at Death Valley. Maryland won, 20-17.

Friedgen's critics point out that his teams have had losing records in three of the past five years. The Terps are a combined 33-28 during that period.

Terrapin Club president Rick Jaklitsch said fans need to think rationally.

"The issue is the same whether the team has lost three in a row or won three championships," Jaklitsch said. "Can we get a coach tomorrow that's better than the one we have? The answer yesterday, today and tomorrow is no."

Friedgen declined to comment on his job status. "I think it starts with me," he said at the lunch. "I don't like losing, probably as much as anybody. I really think if we could eliminate the turnovers and the penalties, we'd give ourselves a chance."

On Feb. 6, the university signed an agreement promising to pay $1 million to offensive coordinator James Franklin if he is not elevated to head coach by Jan. 2, 2012. Some of Friedgen's Internet critics have attacked Maryland's decision to name his replacement in advance. Friedgen is a mentor of Franklin's and has helped the younger man in his career.

Friedgen told The Sun in July that he might not be ready to retire when his contract is up after the 2011 season.

CLEMSON@ MARYLAND

Saturday, noon

TV: ESPNU

Radio: 105.7 FM, 1300 AM

Line: Clemson by 13 1/2

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