For weeks, the word out of College Park has been the same- Athletic Director Kevin Anderson was looking for offense, for big ticket sales, for a splashy hire that would draw the attention of devoted fans and casual alumni alike. A hire that would create a buzz unseen in a decade at the University of Maryland, and one that could reinvent the Terps’ place on the national stage- but more importantly, on the balance sheet. A hire that would pay immediate financial dividends might have to emphasize style over substance.
In the end, however, Anderson fooled us all and went with the head coaching candidate with the most substantive hire of all in Randy Edsall.
Last week, I dismissed Randy Edsall out of hand, since it didn’t make sense on a couple of essential levels: Why would Edsall make the lateral move from UConn to Maryland? Both had strong basketball programs that overshadowed the football program, had had 8 and 9 win seasons but never really reached the upper echelon of college football, and seemed to have the same ceiling. Edsall was a candidate at Miami and would have been a candidate at a number of big name jobs around the country. Why bounce for Maryland? Why would Maryland hire a tough head coach with a traditional offense and didn’t have an explosive resume?
In the end, it seems, cooler heads prevailed, ones that emphasized stability and growth over big headlines. No, Edsall doesn’t fit the mold- but if he is willing to make the job to College Park he is a poor man’s Jim Harbaugh at this point in his career. He spent 12 years of his career turning UConn from a 1-AA program to a BCS Bowl team, albeit in the Sick Man of College Football, the Big East. His 74-70 record is not impressive in and of itself, but he has managed to reach at least 8 wins each of the last 4 seasons. No, he is not one of the most successful coaches in college football, but he is probably the most successful one who would consider jumping to Maryland.
All that said, I am a bit more cautious about the long-term. Edsall has shown he can create an 8 win program, but so did Ralph Friedgen- at least early on. I wonder whether his ceiling was reached at UConn, or whether with more resources (albeit slightly more) at Maryland he will be able to recruit better and reach that 9 or 10 wins. For the longest time, 8 wins would be as many as anyone could expect for Maryland. But nowadays in college football, every program wants to become a BCS team every year. Can Maryland reach those heights? In the ACC, maybe that’s possible.
This is a surprising hire but as solid one Maryland could have hoped for. When the biggest question is why that coach would have entered this situation, that should be considered a good hire. I’m not sure Edsall will ignite more excitement among fans than a Leach or Malzahn- if I didn’t care about Maryland football I would still tune in to watch a Leach-coached team or Malzahn-coached team, not for Edsall. But for a safe hire that will ensure bowl eligibility almost every year? They couldn’t have done much better.