The 2013 Military Bowl will mark the first time that Maryland and Marshall will meet on the football field.
But coaches Randy Edsall and Doc Holliday are hardly strangers. In fact, they're old friends and rivals, having crossed paths repeatedly during their careers as assistant coaches while out recruiting. Their friendship goes back three decades, even though this is the first time they'll meet as head coaches.
That familiarity is no surprise, considering where the two have worked since their playing days at Syracuse and West Virginia, respectively. Edsall, a Susquehannock High School graduate, has served on the staffs at Syracuse, Boston College and Georgia Tech before becoming the head coach at Connecticut and now Maryland. Holliday has worked as an assistant at West Virginia and N.C. State (as well as Florida) before taking over as the head coach at Marshall before the 2010 season.
Both used to hit the recruiting trail hard in Florida, trying to snap up whatever good players in-state football powers like Miami, Florida and Florida State had overlooked.
"We've kind of cut our teeth together in the coaching profession as assistants, spending a lot of time on the road down in Florida recruiting and getting to know one another," Edsall said. "We used to run into each other all the time in the spring. I recruited Florida and Doc recruited Florida. When you become head coaches, you lose track a little bit. But you see each other every once in a while."
Lots of coaches from the Northeast would head down to the Sunshine State in search of talent each offseason. In fact, when they came to South Florida, almost everyone wound up staying at one particular Marriott (now it's a Renaissance hotel) on 17th Street in Fort Lauderdale.
"It was like a coaches' convention down there," Edsall recalled.
Each knows the other well enough to understand what he's in for when the two teams meet on Dec. 27 at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in a game that will be televised nationally on ESPN.
"I know what kind of coach he is," Edsall said. "It's always a dogfight with him, it's always tough. You have to go win the game; they're not gonna give it to you. We've had a lot of games against each other. He stands for all that's right with college football. If you're gonna play game like this, I'm glad I'm going against a guy like Doc."
Holliday was just as complimentary of his counterpart.
"We go back to (when we were in) our early 20, when we started recruiting against each other down there In Florida)," Holliday recalled. "I have such great respect for him because I know whether it's recruiting or coaching or whatever, that we were in for a battle and we'd have to work extremely hard to try to find a way to win. Nothing's changed 30 or 40 years down the road."
Holliday's no stranger to the Maryland football program or the Baltimore-Washington area, either. He estimated that he's gone up against Maryland a total of 27 times as a player and coach during his football career. So it's fair to say he knows the local territory. Over the years, Marshall has plucked a lot of good players from the metropolitan area. It has proven to be a fertile recruiting ground since Holliday took over the program as well.
One of the top players in school history - future NFL quarterback Byron Leftwich (Marshall Class of 2003), was recruited out of Washington, D.C.'s H.D. Woodson High school. This year's team features 1,000-yard back Essray Taliaferro, who played his high school football at Briar Woods in Ashburn, Va., just a few miles from Redskins Park. He's one of seven current Marshall players with roots in the Washington metropolitan area.
The Military Bowl venue is familiar to both coaches as well. Holliday coached at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium while at both West Virginia and N.C. State.
Edsall, meanwhile, was witness to a bit of college football history in Annapolis. When he was playing for Syracuse in a 1977 game against Navy, then-teammate and future NFL Hall of Famer Art Monk caught a school-record 14 passes for 188 yards and a pair of scores against the Midshipmen. That standard for catches in a game remains a school record.
"It's a tremendous honor to be able to play here," Edsall said. "Being here as a player, you walk in and take a look around. To me, it's something that's very, very special. There's a respect you have for the young men and women who go here to the Naval Academy."