Everyone deserves a second chance. On Tuesday night, the University of Maryland made it official that Mike Locksley was getting his.
Maryland made the decision to bring Locksley, who has served as Alabama’s offensive coordinator this season, back to College Park for the third time in his professional career (1997-2002, 2012-2015), this time to take over as the new — and permanent — head coach. The Washington, D.C. native has connections that run deep in the Maryland soil and he’s known as one of the top recruiters in the business. He’s also been the operator behind one of the most prolific offensive powers in the country this year.
Alabama’s offensive success landed Locksley the Frank Broyles Award, presented to the game’s top assistant coach. The Crimson Tide offense ranks seventh nationally in total production (527.6 yards per game) and second in scoring (47.9 points per game). They’re a perfect 13-0 and headed to the College Football Playoff as the No. 1 seed.
That resumé was enough for athletic director Damon Evans to entrust Locksley with repairing a broken program. And after one of the most tumultuous years in history for a college football program, the Terrapins are finally getting a leader and a direction.
“As we narrowed the search for the individual best suited to lead our program, Michael not only stood out for his talent as a coach, but most importantly for the role he has played as a mentor to student-athletes throughout his career and his deep commitment to helping them grow into leaders on and off the field,” Evans said. “On the field, Michael orchestrated one of the country’s most prolific offenses at the University of Alabama and has long been regarded for his recruiting prowess. Today, he was recognized as the nation’s top assistant coach in the country, and I’m excited for him to be leading our program.”
Is College Park — in 2019 — really the best place for Locksley to receive his second chance, though? Did Evans make the best decision for Maryland? Or was he distracted by the script “A” that’s been ironed on Locksley’s chest for the past three years?
Locksley’s past is anything but glamorous, plagued by poor performance and bad decision making. His first attempt at running a program at New Mexico failed miserably and resulted in his termination not even halfway into his third season.
While with the Lobos, Locksley’s teams posted a 2-26 record. He was fired after New Mexico suffered a 48-45 overtime loss to FCS foe Sam Houston State, falling to 0-4 on the year. The calendar hadn’t even reached October.
The product on the field wasn’t the worst part, though. Locksley had a fiery temper and struggled to keep his cool. He was accused of punching one of his former assistant coaches in the face and creating a hostile work environment. There was a report of a non-physical brush-up with a student journalist who made unflattering comments about the state of the program. Locksley allegedly went on a profanity-laced tirade at a local bar, blasting the student for his comments. An administrative assistant filed a complaint accusing the head coach of sex and age discrimination that was later withdrawn.
All of it happened nearly a decade ago. A man can certainly change in the span of 10 years. But that’s a lot of baggage to ignore, especially given the current circumstances in College Park.
Maryland didn’t have to make the move, either. Matt Canada was a prime candidate to take over the program and proved he could navigate through rough water. Despite all that occurred, The Terrapins were one win, one play, away from reaching bowl eligibility.
Canada would’ve been the safer call for Evans to make.
The reasons behind Maryland’s decision to bring Locksley back to his old stomping grounds are justifiable. He’s familiar with the area and has established deep personal and professional relationships in the region. Because of those connections, Locksley is revered as one of the top recruiters in college football, especially in the DMV (D.C., Maryland and Virginia). Keeping the most talented prospects at home has always been critical for success in College Park.
DJ Durkin was also a renowned recruiter, though. He, too, was able to rope off access to some of the region’s rising stars.
Recruiting isn’t everything. On some level, you are what your record is. And for Locksley, that’s not a shining endorsement.
The other factor that worked in Locksley’s favor was the astounding success the Alabama offense has enjoyed this season. But that doesn’t always translate, either. Jim McElwain’s offenses in Tuscaloosa were good enough to win two national championships (2009, 2011) in his four seasons as the offensive coordinator.
Just ask Florida how well the offense operated while McElwain ran the show in Gainesville.
Assuming a scheme, a strategy or an ideology travels from Alabama to another program is a dangerous mindset. Locksley is currently working with the best athletes in the entire country. How efficiently will his offense run without a bevy of blue-chip players on the field?
Maryland players, alum and fans — past and present — seem to be all-in on bringing Locksley back to College Park. There’s been an outpouring of support on social media regarding the hire. Even ESPN host Scott Van Pelt, a proud Terrapins alum, provided his stamp of approval after the announcement was official.
“People outside the DMV won’t get it, but people from there absolutely will,” Van Pelt wrote in a tweet. “Especially his former Terp players. Unrivaled local respect among HS coaches, he can help heal and unite the factions like no other.”
Locksley may very well be prepared for his another shot. The mistakes he made nearly a decade ago are now in the rearview mirror. If you believe in second chances, Locksley is certainly deserving of one.
Considering all that’s transpired over the last seven months, Maryland just doesn’t seem like the program that should’ve granted Locksley that opportunity.