Maryland president Wallace Loh said Monday that the athletic program is positioned much better than it was five years ago to attract a top-notch football coach, one day after Randy Edsall was fired midway through his fifth season.
In a meeting with The Baltimore Sun editorial board, Loh said he believes Maryland's affiliation with the Big Ten Conference will allow the Terps to vie for a high-profile candidate once the search begins in earnest.
"We joined the Big Ten and ... a reason for joining is money. We are in a very different situation than when we let go of [Ralph] Friedgen and we hired Randy Edsall," Loh said. "It was at a time when we were facing a major financial crisis. ... The choice of the next coach is going to be absolutely critical. ... Kevin Anderson now has the tools to do it. He did not have the tools back then."
Loh echoed the sentiments of athletic director Kevin Anderson, who in announcing his decision to fire Edsall on Sunday said he wanted to find a coach who will "excite the fan base."
"So, the question becomes 'what kind of coach do we want?'" Loh said. "I think ... a coach that plays an exciting brand of football, wide open, that has the personality to relate to the kids. And they are kids — 17, 18 when they arrive. The personality to project themselves well vis-a-vis the boosters, vis-a-vis the media."
Given the type of nationally recognized coaches within the Big Ten's East Division, Loh said there is more to the decision than prior success on the field.
"You have to have an outsized personality here. It's not just knowing the X's and O's," Loh said. "Thats why you have the Jim Harbaughs, the Urban Meyers. But, my sense is that when people see that we're in the Big Ten, we're in the big leagues now, and it's about football. It's not about basketball, it's about football."
Loh said the $155 million project to build a performance center and indoor practice facility on the site of Cole Field House will help attract not only a coach, but players as well. Loh admits that Byrd Stadium is "decrepit" compared to many other venues around the country, "…but you only use Byrd Stadium five times a year or so ... those kids use an indoor facility every single day. What draws them here is the indoor facility, not Byrd Stadium."
Though admitting that Maryland doesn't have the history or tradition of football programs such as Michigan and Ohio State, Loh said he believes the Terps, through their exposure on the Big Ten Network and the connection with Baltimore-based Under Armour, could become the Oregon of the East Coast. The Ducks became a national power with the infusion of money from Nike.
"I would think that this is one of the most attractive jobs in the country for somebody who is ambitious and willing to take risks," Loh said. "I mean, this is not going into a school with an established reputation like Michigan and Ohio State. But the potential for growth, the potential of this being another Oregon."
Among the candidates mentioned as a possible replacement for Edsall is Oregon offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Scott Frost, a former quarterback at Nebraska who is credited with helping develop Marcus Mariota, last season's Heisman Trophy winner and the No. 2 player taken in the 2015 NFL draft.
There has also been much chatter on social media about Maryland pursuing former Oregon coach Chip Kelly if he were to get fired by — or leave — the Philadelphia Eagles. Among Kelly's early coaching stops was Johns Hopkins, where he spent a season before going to the New Hampshire as an assistant and eventually to Oregon, first as the offensive coordinator.
A source familiar with the financial model Anderson will have to work with in getting a new coach said Sunday that the school is expected to significantly increase the package. Edsall will be paid $2.1 million for both 2015 and 2016, as well as receive another $500,000 that was the buyout if he didn't coach past next season.
The buyout was part of the contract extension Edsall agreed to in June.
Other names that have surfaced since Edsall's firing Sunday also include two head coaches with ties to the Big Ten: First-year Houston coach Tom Herman, who served as offensive coordinator at Ohio State from 2011 through 2014, and Temple coach Matt Rhule, a former Penn State tight end who played under Joe Paterno.
An athletic department spokesman said Monday that Anderson has yet to begin the search, and is in the process of deciding whether to use an outside search firm to identify candidates, as he did in 2010 after firing Friedgen.
Loh was clearly in support of Anderson's decision to fire Edsall mid-season.
"It is the decision of the athletic director, but you know, you do talk, you do consult with the president," Loh said. "You touch base. I mean, I don't believe any athletic director's going to fire a head coach in football without at least talking in advance to the president. I think the hiring of the next coach is going to be the same."