Monday, October 10, 2011

SORRY MARYLAND, IMAGE ISN'T EVERYTHING.

You can't really fault the University of Maryland buying into the whole
image thing, can you? After all, our society has long favored style over
substance. Didn't Andre Agassi and the Cannon company pound that
into our heads in the late 80's with the, "Image is everything" campaign.
Forget about winning, if you looked cool and had people talking that
was enough. Agassi, outfitted in neon-trim, acid washed shorts, and
a wig, complete with a bobby-pin to hold it on, made millions by
being the "rebel".


Did he ever win anything with that image? Hell, no. But nobody cared,
Agassi was cool, got the woman, and partied in Vegas. Funny how
Agassi didn't win anything of significance until he threw away that ridiculous
get-up and became real. He became more focused on getting in
phenomenal shape and working on his game. Agassi also became
more likable.

Ralph Friedgen was real,  a likable guy, and a success as a head
coach at the University of Maryland, his alma mater. In 10 years, he
compiled a record of 75-50. Leading the Terps to 7 bowl games in
10 years. In the 13 years before Friedgen arrived, Maryland football
had a record of 55-88, a winning percentage of .385. That's 3-10
just about every year, with a 4 win season mixed in every now and then.
The program was an utter disaster.


Despite all  his success, Friedgen didn't have the right image for
Maryland. He looked he stole a keg of beer from a frat party and
buried it under his shirt to conceal it and the nearly 400lbs that he
was carrying . Friedgen wasn't a smooth talker like Slick Rick Pitino
and didn't have the sophistication of Mack Brown, who is more
CEO than coach at Texas, helping produce triple-digit revenues
in the millions. Friedgen was real and all he did was win. But he
wasn't pretty, and Maryland wanted pretty, sophisticated, and
smooth. So after leading the Terps to an 8-4 record and being
ACC Coach of the Year in 2010, the University of Maryland
fired Big Ralph.The football team was good under Friedgen,
they wanted it to  be great. Nothing wrong with that, but at a
place like College Park, Maryland, greatness in football is hard
to achieve.

Maryland unceremoniously dumped Friedgen and hired Randy
Edsall. The former UConn head coach and Maryland native,
looks more like a movie star than leader of a football program.


He is tanned, clean-cut, well-spoken and always says the right
things, which in the world of college football (politics) that means
a lot when it comes to fundraising and getting boosters to show
the program the money.  Edsall turned UConn, a basketball school
into something respectable, but hardly dominant in college football
They made it to a BCS game last year, but they showed they weren't
quite ready for the big stage when they were humiliated by Oklahoma
by1,000 points in the Fiesta Bowl.

Seeking to make a big splash this season, Maryland, with the help
of former Terp player and founder of Under Armour, Kevin Plank,
broke out new uniforms. About eight of them to be exact. A few of
us liked them, the rest of the clear thinking people in the world hated
them. It was as if Andy Warhol rose from the dead, took a hit of LSD,
and designed uniforms in so many different colors and patterns that
they made your head spin, stomachs churn, and eventualy vomit.


If Maryland wanted attention, they certainly got it. Everybody was
talking about the uniforms after they debuted against Miami back
in September. Twitter blew up, even LeBron James chimed in and
actually said something that made sense, "EWWWWWWW, look
at those uniforms", he tweeted. Talks shows were abuzz, SportsCenter
led with them, and everybody debated about their style, or lack of
it. The uniforms haven't helped much. The Terps are 2 and 3, having
beaten in-state power Towson, and losing to that perennial national
juggernaut, Temple.


I realize that Edsall's in his first season and overhauls take time,
but Maryland is kidding themselves if they ever think they are going
to be a perennial power. Oh, sure. They might catch lightning in a
bottle one season  during a weak year in the ACC, where everyone
shoots themselve sin the foot like the Big East did in Edsall's last year
in Storrs. But as far as being a annual top-10 team? Not going to
happen.

First of all, Maryland is not a state dripping with talent like Louisiana.
When Nick Saban was in Baton Rouge, he just put the proverbial
fence around the state, kept the gifted from leaving, and hello, national
championship. Les Miles might have a problem with clock management,
but he's not stupid. He followed Saban's recipe and won a national
title, as well They will be great every year with that formula. Even
Miles can't mess that up. The best athletes in Maryland play lacrosse,
not football. Name five players from Maryland who stayed in-state
and became all-Americans. Name just one. Exactly.

The facilities at Maryland are average, at best. Every kid who gets
recruited, wants to walk into a place like Clemson where the weight-room
is bigger and spiffier than Camden Yards. They want to run out of a
tunnel and see 80,000 screaming fans, not empty seats. They want
to walk the lawn at Virginia, not pass by the dorm where Len Bias
died 25 years ago. They want to see tall pines in Chapel Hill and
not have to worry about the seedy characters that ooze into
campus from Washington D.C.

Ralph Friedgen was good enough for Maryland. It's just too bad
his image wasn't good enough for the Terps.

No comments:

Post a Comment