The University of Maryland held a press conference today to confirm all the speculation that head coach Ralph Friedgen has been bought out of his contract and will no longer coach the team past this bowl game. Athletic Director Kevin Anderson said that the University made the decision to change course after offensive coordinator James Franklin departed to become Vanderbilt's coach, taking several assistants with him. Once that happened, Anderson made what he called a "strategic business decision" to buy out Friedgen's contract.
"He's raised the bar for our expectations. He leaves Maryland as he entered, as ACC COY and returning us to a Bowl Game," Anderson said. "Today, however, MD has made a 'strategic business decision' to buy out the the final year of his contract, effective January 2, 2011," he said.
Anderson said Franklin's decision to leave forced his hand, because it would have been very difficult to replace several coaches and because Friedgen "expressed concerns" about being a "lame duck coach." When asked, Anderson said he was not willing to give Friedgen the long-term extension he desired.
"I wasn't prepared and I wasn't willing to do that," he said. "I was looking to move the program in a different direction, and I wasn't willing to give him a contract extension."
Anderson said the decision to part ways was a mutual one with Friedgen initially. As of last Wednesday, they were set to meet and discuss how to part ways amicably. But that meeting never materialized, explaining why the buyout happened this way.
"He told me and he looked me in the eye and said he understood. That was Wednesday. Friday, we'd determine what kind of exit strategy we'd have. Somewhere between Wed and Fri, that never materialized. I can't tell you what happened, but I gather he had a change of heart."
Anderson said the program will move forward with a search starting as soon as tonight, and hopes to have a new coach by January 4. He definitively said that nobody has been contacted, but did admit that Mike Leach, who was reported to become the program's next coach over the weekend, was on his list. He did not confirm any other names.
University President Wallace Loh gave a statement as well in which he stood by Anderson's decision.
"When he told me that the best thing is to think long-term strategically, b/c of unexpected change, to move towards a buyout, I said that is proceeding accountably even though it's a very hard decision to make. I admire Mr. Anderson for making that principled decision even though it pained him and it pained me."
Both Anderson and Loh confirmed that Friedgen will receive the full amount of his $2 million contract for next season.
(Video via CSN Washington)