COLLEGE PARK FROM FIRST impressions, Andy Geiger, now the newest "big man" on the campus, will win friends and influence people, which a troubled, slump-ridden University of Maryland hasn't been able to do much of lately. He offers the absolute textbook public relations approach -- eye contact, frequent use of first names in conversation, eloquence, knowledge of his subject, good manners and a convincing commitment to do what's right.
As the scouting reports that preceded him pointed out, he uses all the right words and projects impressively. The test of his ability will be determined in how he plays for the long haul, not so much the quick-to-engage personality of the man who cleaned out his office at Stanford University after 12 years and made a lateral move to Maryland as athletic director.
His physical appearance is imposing and facially he resembles Bob Ferry, the former general manager of the Washington Bullets. As to how the Maryland position "found him," Geiger explains he was invited as a consultant to the search committee that was seeking an athletic director. All the while, he was being measured for the job. To use his word, as with most athletes in any college or university program, he was "recruited."
Gene Corrigan, commissioner of the Atlantic Coast Conference, encouraged him to take a look at the Maryland job but claims it wasn't a case of being "anointed" by him. As for Maryland, he says administrative heads consider trying to emulate Michigan, California, UCLA and Wisconsin when it comes to elevating its academic/athletic standards.
He doesn't believe in having exclusive athletic dormitories but prefers an integration with the rest of the student body. "The athletes are deprived when segregated in that kind of an environment," he said. He also believes, from what he has been told, that too many members of varsity teams at Maryland have to go to summer school to retain eligibility.
"I'd like to see the youngsters have a working experience instead of summer school. This puts a little money in their pockets and, of course, that's good."
As for a football game with Stanford, he says it's a long trip, which means it would be expensive for the visitor. Then he adds, "Stanford has open dates in football in 1999 and 2000. Stanford would like to come here because of alumni in the area. It has three Supreme Court justices and others of interest in the city to the south [meaning Washington]."
He won't rule out a Stanford-Maryland encounter, something that has never happened in football. It was mentioned that the last time a prominent Stanford man made the cross-country trip to Maryland occurred when Clark Shaughnessy came here to coach football in 1942. The first Shaughnessy decision was to change, of all things, the Maryland colors.
He wanted the team to resemble Stanford. So he found red and white in the state flag, and discarded the Old Gold and Black -- which also is in the Maryland banner. The Old Gold and Black had a distinctive style but red and white made them resemble so many other teams -- not only Stanford, but also Oklahoma, N.C. State, Utah, Temple, Indiana, Alabama, Arkansas, Cornell, Western Kentucky and even Austin Peay.
"I understand from Jack Heise, who was around then, that when the uniforms shipment arrived the name Stanford was crossed out on the boxes. So Maryland got the order after Stanford gave up football for the duration of the war. We'll put the color idea in the hopper for later."
Geiger uses all the "in" terms, such as calling football and basketball "flagship sports." The expense of football is enormous but he says it's the "big breadwinner." But he is opposed -- a position that merits applause -- to a playoff that would lead to a national college championship game. It would take away from classroom time, and, in particular, offer problems in picking the participants unless wire service and newspaper ratings were utilized.
"I really kind of like the plethora of bowl games we have and the fact it's kind of unique that 18 schools finish their season with a victory, instead of just one."
Andy Geiger, who was on the crew at Syracuse and coached it at Dartmouth, says Maryland won't officially adopt the same sport, except on a club basis, even though the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries offer all the rowing surface any team would care to utilize. For Geiger and Maryland, it's a new era in athletics and what promises to be a different experience.
He looks and sounds good talking from behind a desk but, personalities aside, the proof will be in the performance of a Maryland program that was once respected, then regressed and now has nowhere to go but up. Discount the past; it amounts to an ideal career opportunity.