Washington Ralph Friedgen soaked in the chants and fought back a few more tears. He gave a parting gift to his alma mater — the highest point total Maryland has ever posted in a bowl game — then followed it with a parting shot at the administration that fired him.
Already the Atlantic Coast Conference coach of the year, already the engineer of the second-biggest regular season turnaround in the country, Friedgen ended his 10-year run with the Terrapins on Wednesday with a 51-20 victory over East Carolina in the Military Bowl.
“It’s been real surreal,” Friedgen said. “To be honest with you, I’m a little bit overwhelmed by it. I really had no idea that people even thought that much of me.”
Patrolling the Maryland sideline one last time, holding his customary playsheet and wearing a white cap with the word “Terps” in red, Friedgen wound up a 9-4 season and a 75-50 Maryland decade that includes a 5-2 record in bowl games. Fans held up signs and banners proclaiming “Thanks Ralph” and chanted his name through much of the second half. He got the customary ice-bucket bath from his players with 21⁄2 minutes left in the game.
“If you have to go out,” Friedgen said, “this is the best way to do it.”
New Maryland athletic director Kevin Anderson announced last week that Friedgen was being dismissed, effective after the bowl game, with the school buying out the final year of the 63-year-old coach’s contract for $2 million. Friedgen said preparing for the game was like “a slow death.” He found it hard to hold back his emotions and was concerned that his players wouldn’t be focused.
He needn’t have worried. Running back Da’Rel Scott (13 carries, 200 yards) spoke for his teammates when he said they were determined to “make sure coach Friedgen went out with a bang.”
Then, his eyes dry for a moment, Friedgen fired a cannon himself near the end of his news conference when asked: “How good is the Maryland coaching job?”
“I can tell you this — it’s not an easy job,” he answered. “There’s a lot of things that really have to change to help it reach its potential. And, to be honest with you, I don’t know if the university is willing to do that. You’ve kind of got to know that going in. ... What happens to a lot of coaches who come to Maryland, they think it’s like every other place, and after their third year they realize it isn’t, and they’re stuck.
“People are concerned about my legacy, and my legacy is what it is — 75-50 ... I gave it the best I had for 10 years, and obviously that’s not good enough right now, and that’s what hurts. ... I leave the job a lot better than when I got it, so if someone else can come in and do better, my hat’s off to them.”