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STEVE DESHAZO: Skinnier Friedgen hopes better health may inspire Terps to more wins
His weight down to 301, Ralph Friedgen says he's adjusting to smaller clothes.
Chuck Burton/ASSOCIATED PRESS
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By Steve DeShazo
GREENSBORO, N.C.--Ralph Friedgen still wears the extra-long belt he received as a gift a few years ago. When he first tried to wrap it around his ample waist, there was a two-inch gap between the buckle and the tip.
Yesterday, Friedgen showed that he now can fasten the belt on the skinniest hole. "I need to get another belt," he said with considerable pride.
Coaches normally can't stomach losing. But when it comes to Friedgen's gut, less is definitely more.
When the University of Maryland begins preseason practice next week, the Terrapins' coach will be far less of a man than he was at this time last year. Roughly 95 pounds, to be exact, thanks to a rigorous diet that may not win him more games, but could extend his life.
"I like the look," said Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer, a longtime friend who worked with Friedgen at The Citadel more than 30 years ago. "I'm proud of him. He looks great. I've got pictures of him when he was about 240."
At 62, Friedgen may never be that slim again. He says he still weighs 306, so he's not exactly a mini-Fridge. Still, he looks--and says he feels--much better than he did a year ago, when his weight ballooned to 401.
Coaching football has never been a job for the anorexic. Long hours, constant travel and intense pressure to win can lead to poor eating habits and an unhealthy lifestyle. And as his duties kept expanding--head coach, de facto offensive coordinator and fundraiser at his alma mater--so did Friedgen's waistline.
But you don't see many obese people in their 70s. And Friedgen comes from a diabetic family, so he had plenty of risks.
Said Beamer: "Everyone, including Ralph, knew he needed to lose weight."
Friedgen has always been a master of game plans, but his strategies were usually designed for someone else. He dieted a few years back, with alumni pledging donations for every pound he dropped. But they reneged, and Friedgen's weight came back--and then some.
Finally last fall, he listened to the advice of his doctors and the pleas of his wife, Gloria, and their three daughters.