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Parasiliti: Terps' Edsall breaks mold

June 03, 2012|By BOB PARASILITI | bobp@herald-mail.com
  • Bob Parasiliti
Bob Parasiliti

Image is everything.

That’s what they say ... at least when they are selling cameras.

But image is more than just a picture. It’s also a perspective.

It’s a focus, even in camera land.

And at times, it is even a stereotype.

Certain words conjure up their own images — and stereotypes.

Let’s take professions, for instance.

Sportswriter. Right away, it’s an overweight guy who gets paid to watch games, spends too much time in front of the television and always seems to have a hot dog or a beer in his hand.

Wait. Bad example.

OK, let’s try lawyer. They are often portrayed as a ruthless person in an expensive suit, slicked back hair with a personality that rivals a shark moving in for a kill.

I know lawyers who don’t dress that well.

How about football coach?

He’s usually perceived as a big guy with a vast wardrobe of shorts and T-shirts, who constantly yells at his players. He grits his teeth a lot and preaches — using a gravelly voice — motivation, focus, team and discipline at all times.

He’s a drill sergeant with a bunker mentality because football is warfare. Don’t say anything that will give the opponent an edge because it’s “us against the world.”

And the attitude is to win at all costs. Nothing should stand between you and victory. Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.

Then, spend 10 minutes with University of Maryland coach Randy Edsall.

He breaks the mold.

He’s rather soft-spoken and engaging. He knows there are times for coaching shorts and times for slacks. And he doesn’t always speak in military clichés.

He has a different belief about winning, though. Winning isn’t everything, it tops the list when weighed against many things.

“If coaching is about winning at all costs, they got the wrong guy,” Edsall said Thursday during Maryland’s Terps on Tour stop at Hagerstown’s Greene Turtle. “Everything these days is about instant gratification. Everyone wants wins yesterday. College football is all about winning, but I’m not going to compromise what I believe or the beliefs of the University of Maryland to do it.”

It’s a noble stance, but it has put Edsall in the crosshairs. He stands on the execution line, without a cigarette or blindfold.

First, Edsall replaced Ralph Friedgen, a Maryland graduate who spent 10 years on the job before the school elected not to rehire him for the 2011 season. The rejection came just after the Terrapins went 9-4 and Friedgen was named ACC coach of the year.

It opened the door for Edsall, who surprisingly was available, especially considering he had just guided the University of Connecticut to the Big East title and a berth in the Orange Bowl. He was hired on Jan. 2, 2011, coming in after many schools had all but finished the bulk of their recruiting process.

And Edsall’s worst offense? The Terps finished 2-10 last year — losing the last eight games — and had 24 players elect to transfer out, including starting quarterback Danny O’Brien.

The upheaval turned Edsall into a piñata.

Fans and the media have taken whacks at him, calling for his firing and/or resignation while questioning his ability, on both personal and professional levels. Some of the criticism came from writers he had never met.

The 2011 season was an unfortunate casualty of change. Unlike new Coke, it was a choice that was made with full knowledge of the possibilities, but there was really no turning back.

“I think when you come into a new situation, you hear what everyone else did and you have your own philosophy,” Edsall said. “I’ve been in coaching for 30 years and I know that when you go into somewhere new, you have to establish an identity and the philosophy right away. Otherwise, there will be problems down the road.”

As Edsall implemented his program, change was inevitable.

It is also a signal of society as we now know it. If you don’t get what you want, complain or quit as opposed to trying to conform.

Like many new coaches, Edsall lost a number of established players. Some left out of loyalty to Friedgen. Others opted out because Edsall’s approach was different. Still more left because they didn’t like Maryland’s new direction and style of play.

Without a full recruiting season, the loss of experienced players and injuries forced the Terps to play green freshmen and sophomores.

It was strangely similar to Friedgen’s 2009 season, when he went 2-10 and lost his final seven games, only to have fans and media calling for his head.

Despite all the flak, Edsall is diligent in his work to firmly establish and improve his program. He made changes on his coaching staff and started getting players who fit and bought into the system.

In the old days, coaches would have three to five years to accomplish that. Now, with fan and television demands, it must be done yesterday.

College coaching is entering a new era. It is a kinder and gentler period. More than ever, coaches are required to make sure players cross the graduation stage as well as the goal line.

“When you have change, this is all natural,” Edsall said. “We can’t worry about the guys who aren’t there. We’ve got the guys who are on board now.

“We have put in a philosophy of doing the best you can do on and off the field. All we are asking them to do is what their parents would want them to do.”

The truth is because of the money, exposure and pressure in college football now, Edsall’s every move is magnified.

Winning yesterday will help fans and media forget about Edsall’s first year at Maryland.

After all, image is everything.

Bob Parasiliti is a staff writer for The Herald-Mail. He can be reached at 301-791-7358 or by email at bobp@herald-mail.com.

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