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ACC football kickoff:
Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen
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By Steve DeShazo
"We're back to where we were when I got here," Friedgen said. "When I got to Maryland, I had 32 years as an assistant coach. I was 52 years old, and I was coming to a place that had won one bowl game in 18 years. We did some pretty good things, but we couldn't sustain it."
After winning 31 games (and the 2001 ACC title) in his first three seasons, Friedgen is just 35-38 in his last six, and attendance has dropped correspondingly. His wide seat is now white hot, no matter who makes the decision on his future.
Rest assured, though, that there will be no Gipper speeches this fall.
"Our kids, they feel the scrutiny, too," Friedgen said. "I don't have to push that button."
Even if he did, it might not be necessary. Said junior receiver Torrey Smith, a Stafford High School graduate: "We're playing to win in 2010. Whatever that means for coach Friedgen, we're playing for 2010."
Through it all, Friedgen has remained the people's coach. He said he's been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support and encouragement he gets from fans, many of whom surely remember the dark ages under Joe Krivak, Mark Duffner and Mark Vanderlinden.
But fickle Maryland fans began calling for basketball coach Gary Williams' head just a few years after his team won the 2002 national title. So success has a relatively short shelf life.
Friedgen was asked yesterday what suggestions he would give to his new president. He wouldn't specify them, but he did say: "I hope he understands the importance of revenue sports and what they can do for a university."
Left unsaid was that it's successful revenue programs that make the difference. (Just ask the folks at Virginia). So no matter who's making the call on his future, Friedgen can convince them with a seventh bowl trip this fall. The pressure is on, and everyone knows it.
"I think the coaching staff feels it," Friedgen said. "It's not something we talk about, but they know the score. I kind of enjoy that kind of motivation."
If so, it should be a fun season for Friedgen.
Steve DeShazo: 540/374-5443