Anyone interested in truth, justice and Maryland football, in that order, had to be heartened by the Terps' upset win Saturday at West Virginia. Certainly, Joe Krivak was. He needed that win the way you need air.
Krivak holds several singular distinctions. Of the five men who have coached the football or basketball teams in what may be remembered as the Len Bias era at Maryland, Krivak alone has managed to steer clear of controversy. On the other hand, he is also the only one of the five never to have managed a winning season.
We know the fate awaiting honest losers, which may explain why so many become dishonest. The lucky losers get to hang around to the end of their contracts before being thanked for their high standards as they're shown the door. Others get the news the hard way, right in the teeth.
At Maryland, where there is no money to pay off anyone else, honest guys stay on, meaning Krivak has survived. But, this being the fourth year of a four-year contract, it was generally thought to be his last. Face it, his principal achievement to date has been that the NCAA investigatory folks don't know his name, which puts them in the mainstream. Krivak, who doesn't cause much excitement for good or ill, had made almost no impact.
As this season began, there was no sense of an impending watershed. With an overloaded schedule and an underloaded team, Maryland figured to go 3-8, 4-7, maybe 5-6 if everything fell into place. You don't renew a coach who loses four years in a row, do you?
Some people thought maybe you could. Some people thought that in an athletic program consumed by scandal, it would nice to reward integrity, especially if the one coach who seemed to specialize in it showed any sign of turning his program around.
We have seen the sign. Maryland is 2-0. It has upset a ranked team, playing exciting football with solid defense and an offense that may continue to improve. This could be the turnaround, and it's certainly excuse enough for the new athletic director to extend Krivak's contract for a year. Do it now. Give him a lift. Give the team a lift heading into the big game against Clemson Saturday at Memorial Stadium.
In the modern game, where most players redshirt their freshman year, a coach needs five years to see his way through one graduating class. Since Krivak is going to be here for four years, anyway, Maryland might as well give him that fifth season to put the program in order, especially since Krivak is the kind of coach any school wants to succeed.
Krivak followed Bobby Ross, who spent his tenure at Maryland complaining about the conditions and looking for another job. He could never quite bring himself to believe that academic achievement was central to a successful program. He didn't like limitations. He didn't like the facilities. In fact, what he wanted was to run his own show the way he wanted it run, football-wise. And so he left to return to the pros as an assistant, only to turn around and take the Georgia Tech job before he ever made it to Buffalo.
Of course, Krivak isn't perfect. He is not above whining about toughened entrance requirements at Maryland. He complains that he loses recruits even to Virginia, which has significantly tougher standards in the general school population. But he copes. And maybe someday he'll understand that Virginia is always among the top five schools in the nation in graduation rates for football players. You earn exceptions. If you recruit people who can handle the schoolwork, then you gain the trust of he admissions people. It's a simple enough formula.
Certainly, it's one that Andy Geiger, the new AD, fresh out of a decade-plus at Stanford, understands. Stanford's average college board score exceeds 1,350, dwarfing Maryland's. And yet, Stanford was able to dominate nationally in sport after sport. We can only assume that many scholarship baseball players did not approach 1,350. We can also assume that most of them graduated. At Stanford, they wouldn't accept anything less.
It will take Geiger a while to learn the Maryland situation. He will find that the psychic damage is far worse than he could have imagined. He must live it first. He must come to understand the fear, the paranoia, the low morale. It is part of his job to heal these wounds. What could be a better start than to reward the one coach who, for better or worse, has hung in?
Sure, it may take Geiger a while to figure out the problems in the football program. But, if he risks another season under the same management in what would be, at worst, a temporizing move, he can at least feel assured anyway that it will not blow up in his face.