In "Finally yanking the Band-Aid off" news, Maryland fired Ralph Friedgen (although he will be allowed to coach them in the Military Bowl Presented By Northrup Grumman, a bowl that might have more words in the title than non team affiliated viewers). The school also announced that former Texas Tech coach Mike Leach is on the list of potential replacements (which, if it happens, will probably not get the Terps a whole lot of ABC or ESPN coverage for a while).
So why fire a coach that went 8-4 and won Coach of the Year for the conference? To quote James Carville, "It's the economy, stupid".
Putting aside the fact that Maryland's turnaround from 2-10 in 2009 to 8-4 in 2010 is really a lot of smoke and mirrors (beating Morgan State and Florida International is not equivalent to taking on Ohio State), the team was not selling the seats (or more importantly the luxury boxes) at Byrd Stadium. This lack of local support pushed the Terps out of consideration for bigger bowls this season (NC State, a team that the Terps beat this year, were asked to go the Citrus Bowl), and relegated the team to basically a glorified home game at RFK against an East Carolina team that barely finished bowl eligible). Bowl games bring schools money (which is why we will never have a playoff system in college football, but that is a rant for another time). Athletic departments for 99.9% of Division 1-A schools rely on football and men's basketball to supply the revenue that funds the rest of the sports (I like water polo as much as the next guy, but there is no bidding war to televise the games).
I like Friedgen a lot as a coach and respect what he has done for the program in the last decade. But he has not been able to follow up on his early success (accomplished mainly with players brought in by the previous coaching regime), and the program has suffered for it. AD Kevin Anderson knew he wasn't going to bring Friedgen back in 2012 when his contract expired (in any sport, when you change the top decision maker the coach is often one of the first things to go). Once Maryland lost James Franklin to Vanderbilt, the program lost it's ability to offer continuity to the recruits (kids don't like to go to schools w/coaching uncertainty because unlike coaches they cannot jump from program to program without losing eligibility). Anderson walked into an uncomfortable situation at Maryland. He had a coach that didn't want to leave and a coach in waiting that was promised something that he felt he deserved (I made an allusion in a previous post to this paralleling the Jay Leno / Conan O'Brien cluster[bleep], and in many ways it really is eerily similar). Franklin taking the Vanderbilt job gave Anderson the opening he needed to make the change he felt was bet for the program, and by extension the entire department.
This is Kevin Anderson's make-or-break moment. He has decided to oust a respected coach that was doing a good job (7 bowl games in 10 years is a ratio that a lot of schools would gladly accept), who never had a whiff of impropriety (a claim that Mike Leach cannot make), and one that was liked by a lot of fans. If Friedgen's replacement doesn't make this team a legitimate (and consistent) top 25 team, he could be looking back on this in a few years when he is clearing out his office for HIS replacement.