College Park, Md.
It's the ultimate room with a view … at least for a college football coach.
And on this late July morning, as Randy Edsall sits comfortably behind his desk peering out of an expansive picture window, there is nothing but blue skies above and an end zone view of Byrd Stadium, his 54,000-seat home at the University of Maryland, straight ahead.
"Can't beat it …" Edsall says before leading the way out onto a balcony overlooking the stadium, where work crews are putting the finishing touches on a new turf field, the latest renovation to the 62-year-old stadium located at the foot of North Hill on campus. "I walk into my office each morning and this is the first thing I see."
Edsall is relaxed and smiling as he awaits the arrival of his players in three days for the start of his second training camp at Maryland. In fact, he couldn't wait to share a conversation he had with one of his former UConn players, Maurice Lloyd, earlier in the day.
"Mo told me, 'I want you to be the first to know that I cut my dreads,' " Edsall says of Lloyd, a four-year starter at linebacker for the Huskies (2001-04) and a former CFL all-star who helped the Saskatchewan Roughriders win the 2007 Grey Cup. "I had told Mo once that when it comes time go out and interview for a job, remember that appearance counts, too. He wanted to tell me he never forgot that advice."
The 29-year-old Lloyd, minus his signature dreadlocks, is now working and coaching at New London High School.
And he, along with many of ex-UConn players under Edsall, will watch with interest when the Huskies visit Maryland on Saturday (12:30 p.m., SNY), the first of a two-game series that will bring Edsall and the Terps to Connecticut in 2013.
Edsall coached against his alma mater, Syracuse, seven times during his 12 seasons at UConn, and seven times he brushed off media questions and refused to concede the games had extra significance because of his close ties to the Orange.
He might have put on his best poker face back then, but that won't be the case this week.
"Of course it won't be [just another game]," Edsall says. "I recruited a lot of those young men and I still follow them during the season. I want them to win every week, except for one …"
There will be handshakes before the game some hugs after, but the 60 minutes between will be all business.
"When that ball is being kicked off, you're going to compete," he says. "You put it all out of your mind. I loved my time at Connecticut, but my loyalty is to the guys that I'm coaching here, and you have to block everything else out."
That shouldn't be a problem for Edsall. He's had to block out his share of criticism in the 21 months since leaving UConn, beginning with his hasty departure the morning after a 48-20 loss to Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl - the program's first BCS bowl appearance - to his first season at Maryland, when the Terrapins went 2-10, 25 players left the program, he changed both of his coordinators after one season and Washington Post columnist John Feinstein called for his immediate firing.
"I'll be the first to admit that I don't have all the answers and never have," Edsall says. "Every year you're going to make mistakes, but you learn from them and then try to do the things necessary to give the program the best opportunity for success in the long run.
"I hate losing, believe me, but sometimes the wins on the field don't come as quickly as you like because you have to make sure everything else is in place … and that's hard. It takes a lot of hard work and teamwork to get it done. We didn't have that here [last year]. We have that now. People understand the concept of team … when you get guys who don't care who gets the credit, then you're going to have opportunities to have success."
Edsall knew there would be resentment back in Connecticut - even by some of his former players - when he hopped on a private jet in Phoenix after the Fiesta Bowl and accepted an offer from Maryland athletic director Kevin Anderson only hours after his job interview.
And he totally understands.
"I would have loved to have talked to the guys in person," he says. "But that's the nature of the profession of which I'm part of. I'm not sure there could ever be a good time. You just try to do what's right and make the best of the situation your faced with."
As for how the how the whole turn of events took place, Edsall says it was pretty simple: "I had an opportunity to interview for the job here at Maryland. They felt the sooner they could conduct the interview the better, so after the [Fiesta Bowl] I got a phone call, and we made arrangements to come here for the interview.
"Now this is nothing against Connecticut, but this was a job I was attracted to from an early stage of coaching just because of where I grew up (York, Pa.). The first college football game I ever saw was here, and I was on this campus as a kid for basketball camp. … I felt like I had to take the interview, and when I was offered the job and talked it over with my family, I accepted."
Did Edsall feel he had taken the UConn program, one he transitioned from I-AA status to I-A and led to four bowl appearances and a pair of Big East titles, as far as it could go?
Not at all, he says. His greater concern was the future of the Big East.
"That wasn't the deciding factor," Edsall says, "but where they're going was concerning. Look at what's happened since I left. West Virginia left … Pitt and Syracuse are leaving … you don't really know what's going to happen.
"We had a tremendous run at Connecticut, and we had a lot of success. I left the program in good shape, and I believe we left it in a better place than when we got there. We had a program that, to me, if I ever decided to leave, whoever came in would inherit a pretty sound program and continue to carry on.
"[Maryland] was just a situation that was too good for me professionally, and in terms of me and my family. We love this area and this school, and if this didn't come up I'd probably still be at Connecticut."
When Edsall called Maryland his "dream job" at his introductory press conference, sarcastic comments immediately followed in print and through social media back in Connecticut. That's never bothered him, but he couldn't disagree more with people who believe his move to Maryland was "lateral" at best.
The Terps have a 54,000-seat stadium right in the heart of the campus, there is stability and marketability in the Atlantic Coast Conference, and a great recruiting base with two cities - Baltimore and Washington, D.C. - less than an hour away.
"When I was at Connecticut, we had a lot of players from this area who came up, contributed and really did a great job for us," Edsall says. "Now, I say this with no disrespect to the state of Connecticut, but there's just not a lot of Division I football players in that state. Down here, there are some high schools where there's as many Division I players as there are in the entire state of Connecticut.
"When you can be in an area where you have all those potential players available to you, if you can keep the guys that are local at home, you've got a pretty good chance for success. We've got quite a few players to choose from in the DMV [District of Columbia, Maryland, Virginia]. … and when our players graduate there's a lot of opportunities for employment."
Maryland had one of the top-35 recruiting classes in the nation a year ago - and a number have already contributed to the Terps' 2-0 start. It has already received 19 verbal commitments for next season, earning a No. 23 ranking by Rivals.com - one of six ACC schools in the Top 25.
"There's a lot of people who are believing in what we're doing and understand that we're going to build something special here," Edsall says. "And even though we were frustrated by what happened on the field last year, I think people saw what we did at Connecticut, so they understood.
"When you go in to recruit a kid, you sit down with his parents and tell them, 'All I'm going to do is the same things you do at home.' They want their son to be successful in everything he's doing, so we want to provide some structure and discipline and work to develop him in all phases of life so he can be successful.
"Those are the same principles I had at Connecticut. That philosophy will never change. Our recruits and their families see that it's genuine … especially when you have your [current] players echoing those same things. There are so many positives here. I would just tell people, 'don't always believe everything that you see or read.'"
As for his tenure in Storrs, Edsall says he was proud to take the vision of former athletic director Lew Perkins and run with it.
"When you take a look at it now," he says. "You think of guys like Dan Orlovsky, who's still in the NFL, Donald Brown … a first-round draft choice … and four guys [Brown, Darius Butler, Will Beatty and Cody Brown] going in the top 63 picks [in the 2009 NFL draft]. Nobody would have ever envisioned those things happening, nobody ever would have envisioned winning at Notre Dame, and nobody would have ever envisioned UConn playing Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl in a BCS bowl.
"It was really nice to work with people who understood what it took to win at that level, and to see the young men that you brought in, see them develop and grow and have those opportunities is mind-boggling. When I'm done and retired, I'll probably look back and say, 'Wow, we really did something special.' "