COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Randy Edsall's enthusiasm over the prospect of becoming Maryland's head football coach was a big reason why he got hired for the job.
That, and his ability to win.
Edsall, who enjoyed unprecedented success during his 12 years at Connecticut, beat out former Texas Tech coach Mike Leach and several other applicants in a search that began immediately after Ralph Friedgen was fired on Dec. 20.
"What really brought things home is that Randy is not just another football coach," first-year athletic director Kevin Anderson said Monday. "There was no one — no one — who came forward and said, 'I want to be the head football coach at Maryland and that's my dream job' but Randy Edsall."
The first college football game Edsall saw in person was at Byrd Stadium in the 1970s. And now, he will walk the sidelines as Maryland's head coach.
Hired Sunday night, Edsall was formally introduced Monday at a crowded news conference in the football team house. After donning a red baseball cap emblazoned with the script letters "Terps," he spoke excitedly about the direction his life had taken during a very busy weekend.
"It's not every day that you can go do something that you like, 70 miles away from home, at an institution that I think has everything that you need to be successful," Edsall said. "For me, it was a dream come true."
Friedgen did well during his 10-year run, guiding the Terrapins to an Atlantic Coast Conference title in his first season and earning bowl bids in six other seasons. But Anderson wanted more.
"I had to make hard decision when we decided to make a change," Anderson said. "We know that we are good, but we want to be great and we want to take this football program to another level. That's why Randy is sitting here — because his body of work has demonstrated that."
Edsall took UConn from what was then called Division I-AA (now FCS) to the Division I level and won Big East titles in 2007 and this year. Hours after the Huskies lost to Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl, the 52-year-old Edsall was on a plane headed toward Maryland to interview for the job he always coveted.
"When he got into football coaching, he always said, 'Maryland is my dream job,'" said Eileen Edsall, Randy's wife for 27 years. "I was like, 'Really?' I'm not from this area, but I figured it would be Penn State or Michigan or Notre Dame or something like that. But that really comes from the heart, because as a small child, this was his first exposure to it and he's always kept any eye on what was going on here."
Now that Edsall has the job he always coveted, he has every intention of being successful at it.
"I came here to win championships. I'm a coach and I want to win at the highest level," Edsall said. "Every year our goal is to win the ACC championship. That's what we're going to shoot for each and every year, because if you don't, there's no sense for me to be here. Every place I've been, we've won."
After enjoying success as an assistant coach at Syracuse in the 1980s, Edsall went on to coach with Boston College, the Jacksonville Jaguars and Georgia Tech (with Friedgen) before taking over at Connecticut in 1999.
The Huskies went 33-19 over the past four seasons and played in two bowl games.
The Terps went 9-4 this season and finished tied for third overall in the ACC but ended up playing in the Military Bowl — reserved for the eighth-place team in the conference. Anderson has no desire for that to happen again.
"What we're looking for is to elevate from being a third-place team to competing for the ACC championship. We feel that if we accomplish that, we feel that we can be in the hunt for the national championship," Anderson said.
He believes Edsall has the ability to make it happen.
"There's no question in my mind we hired a person who's going to win," Anderson said.
And what of Leach, who enjoyed great success at Texas Tech?
"Coach Leach came in here, did a great job. I had a wonderful experience with him," Anderson said. "But there were some other opportunities out there that I wanted to pursue. Fortunately, we waited long enough for Randy to become part of our pool."
Edsall felt bad about leaving his players at UConn, but hoped they understood the reason for his abrupt departure.
"That's always the toughest thing," he said. "When you make a change, the timing is never good."
Soon after signing his contract, Edsall met with his new group of players and made an immediate, positive impression.
"I was very impressed," quarterback Danny O'Brien said. "He seems like a guy that can lead us to an ACC championship. I'm really excited about that. I asked him when I can get a playbook so we can just get rolling."
Hank Hughes, who has been a member of the Connecticut football staff for the past 10 seasons, was named the team's interim head coach Monday. Hughes spent the past six seasons as assistant head coach for defense.