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For Maryland, pressure of making the right hire is high

Randy Edsall

It would appear the end of the Randy Edsall Era at Maryland is in its final days. Multiple reports have said Maryland will let go of Edsall as head coach of the Terrapins, although the exact timing of the decision becoming official is unknown. For now, Edsall will be the head coach with Maryland heading to Ohio State this weekend, with the bye week looming. That will mean a second Big Ten school will have made a coaching change before mid-October, with the Terrapins now joining Illinois on this season’s coaching carousel. Maryland’s next coaching hire will be an important one.

Maryland is in a position in which it must make a coaching hire with minimal chance to backfire. Projecting the success of a coach can too often be a guessing game, because there are not as many coaches like Nick Saban or Urban Meyer out there to be hired as athletic directors would prefer. Sometimes you hit a home run, other times you strikeout. With Edsall, Maryland worked the count before grounding out to short.

Any time a coach is forced out of a job, the quick thing to do is come up with a list of potential replacements. Over the years it seems these instant lists contain some of the same names over and over again, suggesting not much thought has gone into the creation of the list. Perhaps it is a saved document that can be amended quickly when needed. So far, it seems few have chosen to dive into the world of coaching candidates for Maryland just yet, and that is refreshing. Just throwing out names people know may make for some quick content, but you can only hear Jon Gruden’s name so many times. Hey, at least we have moved on from the Bill Cowher rhetoric. Maryland would benefit from being able to bring in a coach people know, but that does not always mean it will be the right hire.

Consider Maryland’s placement in the Big Ten. The program is lumped in the same division as defending national champion Ohio State, a consistently strong program in Michigan State, and potential rising blueblood programs at Michigan and Penn State. Urban Meyer is a three-time national champion. Mark Dantonio is one of the most successful coaches over the past decade. Jim Harbaugh has already shown the ability to turn the Wolverines around. James Franklin, once destined for the Maryland job, has the ability to inject fuel into a Penn State program with loads of potential moving forward. That puts Maryland in tough competition, no matter what coach takes over. It is competition that could force Maryland to make a splashy hire even if it is not ultimately the best possible hire.

In the coming months it will be important to realize what is best for Maryland. It needs a coach that sees Maryland as a destination job. It needs a coach who understands what it takes to win on the recruiting trails in Maryland, Washington D.C., North Carolina, Virginia, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Ohio. It needs a coach that can put together a winning formula in the Big Ten and can develop talent. If Mike Leach of Washington State becomes available, it would be unwise for Maryland to jump right into bringing him in. That would be a big name hire destined to fail from the start.

Alex Kirshner of Testudo Times lays out a couple of solid bullet points that suggest Maryland has in its favor when it comes to attracting head coaching candidates; solid and innovative business relationship with Under Armour, plans for an overhaul to the football facilities, and always fertile recruiting territory and the benefits of being in the Big Ten. I could not agree more on each. Maryland’s football program has the potential to do some very good things, which I said was the case when the program accepted an invitation to join the Big Ten. Maryland does have the burden of being in the same division as Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State and Penn State, but the right coach can make a huge difference in how Maryland compares against these programs in the years to come.

Rising Coaching Candidates?

So you may be asking yourself, who are some of the coaches we should be keeping an eye on as Maryland prepares to make a coaching hire? A couple of coaches I think could be worth taking a look include Memphis head coach Justin Fuente, Navy head coach Ken Niumatalolo and Houston head coach Tom Herman. All three have their current programs off to undefeated starts in the American Athletic Conference and should be looking at a solid season as we continue on this fall.

Justin FuenteFuente has turned Memphis around from almost nothing and carries himself incredibly well as the head coach of the program. I had the chance to watch him make his debut at the Big East media days a few summers ago and got an early feeling he was going to be a good coach for the Tigers. He is among the coaches from the Group of Five that will likely be coaching a power conference program in short time.

Niumatalolo needs no introduction at this point. His work at Navy has been splendid since taking over for Paul Johnson when Johnson left for Georgia Tech. Could Niumatalolo be next to make that jump after years of success with the Naval Academy? Maryland would certainly have a good leader if they plucked him away from Annapolis, but there is part of me that also thinks Niumatalolo has no desire to leave Navy anytime soon.

Herman is still a bit raw as a head coach, in his first season at Houston, but Maryland should absolutely be interested. The quarterback whisperer on Meyer’s coaching staff at Ohio State may not stick around in Houston for very long, and Maryland should absolutely have interest. Herman has Big Ten experience and can make Maryland’s quarterback situation a pleasant one.

Whatever happens at Maryland, whenever it does, will be fascinating to watch because this program is currently at a crossroads that can lead to Big Ten success or continued misfortune as a doormat in its new conference home.

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About the Author

Kevin McGuire
Contributor to College Football Talk on NBCSports.com. Also a contributor to Athlon Sports and The Comeback. Member of Football Writers Association of America and National Football Foundation. Follow on Twitter @KevinOnCFB.
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  1. […] dismissal of Edsall broke, so I will not go too in-depth with my thoughts again. In brief, Maryland is at a critical point in its program’s development and there are reasons to be optimistic about the future if — IF — they manage to make a […]