This is a tough time to be a fan of the Terps. Head football coach Randy Edsall, coming to the program off of a BCS bowl appearance last year at UConn, notched a win in his first game out of the gate, against Miami, and then watched his team lose 10 of the next 11, with the lone win coming against Towson. The ripple effect of this past season is already being felt (no doubt due in part to the circumstances under which former coach Ralph Friedgen left the program). Offensive coordinator Gary Crowton will not be back next year, replaced by Mike Locksley, who brings his own fair share of baggage. In addition to the shakeup on the coaching staff, 8 players have now decided to transfer from the program. Not all of them are marquee names or players that got significant playing time, but if you couple the 8 transfers with 15 seniors, there’s suddenly a very real depth problem. As if the issues with the football team weren’t enough, there are more problems in College Park.
Last month, school president Wallace Loh cut 8 varsity sports programs. The affected sports were indoor and outdoor men’s track and field, men’s cross country, men’s and women’s swimming and diving, men’s tennis, women’s water polo, and aerobics and tumbling. All athletic scholarships will be honored, as will the contracts of coaches, but this was a difficult blow for many Maryland students and fans. In fairness, the university was sponsoring 27 varsity sports, which is 6 more than the average in the ACC. 27 is easily too many, and the expansion of the athletic department on the heels of a BCS bowl berth and Final Four appearances was unsustainable. One thing Maryland fans can take solace in is the fact that the reason for most of these expansion/funding issues is now in Raleigh, and she’s NC State’s problem.
Turning to Maryland’s other flagship program, basketball, one finds a rough road ahead there as well. Last night the Terps held on to beat what looked to be a scrappy Isiah Thomas coached FIU team by a scant four points. So far, FIU has been blown out by Georgia State, and lost to a NAIA school. And they almost downed the Terps in College Park. The reported attendance last night was 11,679, but if you saw the game on ESPN or follow noted alum Scott Van Pelt on twitter, you’d know that’s comical. The Comcast Center seats 17,950, and well, this picture speaks for itself. If brighter days aren’t in store for this year’s Terps team, they should fare better in the seasons to come. I think Mark Turgeon and his staff will do a better job of recruiting the VA/DC/MD area than Gary Williams did, and there’s talent aplenty in that region. For the here and now though, the basketball program is part of the general malaise that has settled over the entire athletic department.