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Terps earning respect

December 03, 2002|by BOB PARASILITI

There used to be a belief that the University of Maryland football team would get a bowl bid only when cows began to dance.

In fact, it wasn't all that long ago.

So, it might be a sign of the apocalypse, but a cow was actually kicking up its heels in the middle of the Byrd Stadium field on Saturday.

OK, so it was a guy dressed up in a Chick-Fil-A mascot costume that looked like a dalmation with a thyroid problem. But it was supposed to be a cow and it was doing a jig over the Terps accepting the bid to play in the Peach Bowl, which is sponsored by the cow/dalmation's company.

So what did you expect on such short notice? The bovine that did a lunar Fozberry Flop hadn't landed yet and wasn't able to be booked for the gig.

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That's not the point. What all this silliness means is maybe Maryland has arrived to start a new era of football tradition. An Orange Bowl and a Peach Bowl in the course of 364 days doesn't exactly confirm that, but it doesn't hurt.

What it does is it starts an interesting - and for Terps' fans, an exciting - prospect for the future.

Just two short years ago, the Terps were considered the Cincinnati Bengals of the Atlantic Coast Conference. Opposing teams looked at Maryland the way that the Terps now look at the Eastern Michigans, Woffords and Akrons of the world.

In the 15 years between Bobby Ross' departure and the hiring of Ralph Friedgen, Maryland went through a series of changes in both the head coaching and athletic director positions. With each change, a different philosophy brought on change and uncertainty.

In any business, particularly in sports, consistency and continuity are the hallmarks of success. Now, during the tenure of AD Deborah Yow and the addition of Friedgen, who has the organization and system for success, Maryland has made huge strides over the last two years.

On the Friedgen front, he also brought two other intangible attributes to the table - an unwavering confidence in his ability and that of his team, along with an uncanny feel for players.

That feel is an instinctual judgment that separates good coaches from great coaches. He can look into players' eyes and know what they are feeling and thinking and turns it into a way to motivate them.

That is a huge piece of the puzzle for getting Maryland to the level it is today, especially when you consider that 45 of the players Friedgen is taking to Atlanta for New Year's Eve were recruited to Maryland before he took the job.

"I have to say thanks and give a lot of credit to the seniors," Friedgen said Saturday after defeating Wake Forest and accepting the Peach Bowl bid. "There are a lot of seniors in this class that aren't here. They couldn't see the light at the end of the tunnel. The only ones who are here could.

"I can't thank them enough. It was maybe even harder this year than it was last year because when you're dealing with expectations and a young football team, senior leadership is the reason why we were successful. I think they will always be remembered by me but they need to be remembered by the Maryland faithful for two great seasons of Maryland football."

To date, Maryland is 20-5 - two consecutive seasons of at least 10 wins - under Friedgen. Those 10-win seasons are bookmarks usually reserved for programs coached by guys like Bear Bryant, Joe Paterno and Bobby Bowden.

Ralph Friedgen and the Maryland football team - just like Gary Williams and the Terps' basketball team before them - has given the state a rallying point.

Going to the Peach Bowl is nothing more than a payoff or deposit in the Friedgen account.

"It's amazing, when I first got here, we wanted to go to any bowl. Now we have got to go to the two most prestigious bowls in one year," he said. "Going to the Peach Bowl is an investment in us."

And yearly trips to high-profile bowls does wonders for one's importance and disposition.

"We don't do this to make money," Yow said. "We do it for the prestige."

So, next time you see the inhabitants of a cattle farm acting like the Rockettes, don't be too afraid.

Bob Parasiliti is a staff writer for The Morning Herald. His column appears every other Tuesday. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2310, or by e-mail at bobp@herald-mail.com

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