Sources: Ralph Friedgen buyout on tap?

Maryland is strongly considering asking coach Ralph Friedgen to retire and accept a buyout, according to multiple sources.

Maryland athletic director Kevin Anderson said Friday he would not address whether Friedgen was guaranteed to return in 2011.

"Next week, everyone will understand where we're going," Anderson said.

Maryland (8-4) faces East Carolina (6-6) on Dec. 29 in the
Military Bowl presented by Northrop Grumman.

Anderson was addressing reporters on the departure of offensive coordinator James Franklin, who took the head coaching job at Vanderbilt on Friday.

At one point during this season, Maryland told Friedgen he could return next season, but the coach has been pushing for a contract extension.

Franklin had been Maryland's coach-in-waiting. At least three Maryland assistant coaches are aware of the likelihood Friedgen will not return for next season and have committed to follow Franklin to Vanderbilt.

Sources said that former Texas Tech coach Mike Leach would be the leading candidate to replace Friedgen if he is forced into retirement, with former Washington coach Tyrone Willingham and current New Mexico coach Mike Locksley also candidates for the job.

Leach has a close relationship with Under Armour, which is run by a former Maryland football player and has offices in nearby Baltimore. Willingham was the head coach at Stanford while Anderson was a member of the athletic department at California. And Locksley is from Washington D.C. and has recruiting ties to the area.

Franklin's departure means that Maryland won't have to pay $1 million if he was not named head coach by the end of next season, giving the school some financial flexibility in looking for a possible replacement.

Joe Schad covers college football for ESPN. The Associated Press contributed to this report.