It Was All a Dream

AD Anderson appoints Randy Edsall as Terps head coach

It was a move about character more than buzz, winning more than fast-paced offense, being great more than settling for good.

The move was to ultimately hire Randy Edsall, the 12-year head coach of the Connecticut Huskies, was announced Monday afternoon, a decision made after a two week-long search. Maryland Athletic Director Kevin Anderson personally selected Edsall because of his impressive body of work, highlighted by resurrecting the Huskies football program.

But what stood out to Anderson, who was on the losing end of many matchups with Edsall’s teams, was the passion Edsall displayed about the prospect of becoming the next Terps head coach. It was something that Edsall had aspired to be since watching Maryland face off against Villanova in the 1970s when he was just a kid and watched Larry Marshall in the rain at Byrd Stadium.

“This is a dream job for me,” Edsall said. “It’s not every time in your life that you get to go and have an opportunity that you’ve always wanted to do something that you really wanted to do once you entered the career field that you chose.”

Anderson said that during the interview with Edsall, he was the only candidate to come forth and bluntly affirm he wants to be the head coach at the University of Maryland. Edsall was one of two candidates that came to College Park for an interview, according to Anderson. The other: Mike Leach, the former Texas Tech head coach who many considered to be the odds-on favorite earlier in the race.

More often than not, Anderson referred to Edsall’s complete body of work as a determining factor for his hire, calling him a builder, a winner and a champion.

With the Jacksonville Jaguars, under the tutelage of then-head coach Tom Coughlin, Edsall served as a defensive backs coach. After three years, the team went from an expansion team to champions of the AFC.

After accepting the head coaching job at Connecticut in 1999, Edsall was an integral part of the Huskies transformation from an FCS (formerly Division 1-AA) to an FBS program. Over a decade later, he became the winningest coach the school has ever seen. Most recently, he became the Big East Coach of the Year after taking Connecticut to the Tostitos BCS Fiesta Bowl.

On the other hand, Maryland finished third in the Atlantic Coast Conference, but was relegated to the Military Bowl after executing the second largest turnaround in college football history. The 8-4 Terps, Edsall said, will no longer have to suffer similar fates going forward, as he envisions them competing for not only ACC championships, but national championships.

“Life is about opportunity. When you have the opportunity to compete at the highest level and to win at the highest level – you can do that here at Maryland. You can’t be afraid to talk about it, and you can’t be afraid to say it.”

Edsall’s winning attitude comes from a long lineage of successful coaches. Aside from playing and coaching under Coughlin, Edsall has been surrounded by both Geno Auriemma and Jim Calhoun. Auriemma is the winngest active coach in women’s college basketball, and most recently led his team to 90 consecutive wins. Calhoun, the Basketball Hall of Fame coach, has over 800 wins and two national championships to his name.

And with Maryland’s own Gary Williams in attendance, Edsall was sharp enough to mention he would like to pick the Terps legends’ brain to continue his success.

“I’ve been around a lot of great people. I’ve learned from some of the very best,” Edsall said. “There’s going to be times when they don’t like the things I might say but they’re going to get the truth.”

Edsall will have to use that approach to the number of recruits in limbo after Maryland elected to make the coaching change. Many have reopened their recruitment and were awaiting a decision on the new coach before they cemented what were verbal commitments.

Recruiting is a top priority, Edsall said, and announced he would work diligently to maintain the commitments while also reintroducing himself to the high schools. Edsall, a Glenn Rock, Pa. native, considers Maryland, in addition to Pennsylvania and New Jersey, to be a hotbed for talent.

“You don’t have to go too far to get a lot of quality student athletes. I look forward to the opportunity to be able to recruit those young men. You put a compass around a five-mile radius of the campus; there’s a lot of outstanding football players.”

Maryland currently sports the 49th best recruiting class in 2011, according to The lack of five and four-star recruits was a major criticism of former head coach Ralph Friedgen and recruiting coordinator James Franklin. Another: the fan’s interest in the program.

Aside from competing with a collection of local professional sports teams in the Washington, D.C. and Baltimore areas, Maryland also had to contend in the ACC. The Terps proved to be merely average after Friedgen’s initial three seasons, hovering around the .500 mark and rarely challenging for a division title on a consistent basis.

So in what Anderson dubbed a “business decision,” the A.D. chose to appoint the coach who made Connecticut football relevant. Edsall created a 40,000-plus fan base in Storrs, Conn., largely due to the mounting success his teams had since entering the Big East. However, winning is far from the only ingredient to generate that same support in College Park.

“The way you do is you go about you become visible, you go out and you speak, you go out and you visit with people. You get out there and spread the message,” Edsall said, adding that he will collaborate with the athletic department to send his message: “It’s great to come here on a Saturday afternoon and to tailgate and to watch these great young men go out and compete and win.”

The success of Edsall’s players expands beyond on the gridiron though. Connecticut’s academic progress rate was 949 last year. In 2009, the graduation success rate was the third-highest of state universities that competed in a bowl game. And in cooperation with Maryland’s objective to be a diverse campus, African American student-athletes’ graduation rates were second to none in 2008.

Edsall’s work as Maryland’s new head coach begins immediately; finalizing a recruiting class and compiling a coaching staff top the list of duties. Thus far, no final decisions have been made. Edsall said some of Maryland’s current staff will stay onboard, in addition to coaches from Connecticut and other schools.

As for Anderson, his legacy will inevitably be tied to the success of Edsall. The former Connecticut head coach may have an impressive resume, but he will follow in the footsteps of a beloved figure in Maryland football history, as well as elevated expectations of a passionate fan base.

Many members of Terp Nation were disappointed when they became aware Edsall was Anderson’s selection. They wanted a big name, an exciting offense and a lot of attention. Instead, they must settle for integrity, intensity and wins.

Twitter: @samspiegs

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