Don't let Joe go: Give Krivak 4-year contract

JOHN EISENBERG

November 20, 1990|By JOHN EISENBERG

Three words of advice to Andy Geiger: Bring him back. Don't just give him a two-year contract for being a good guy, either. A coach with a two-year contract is temporary help in the eyes of recruits. He doesn't have a chance. It isn't fair. A football coach needs a four-year contract. Recruits don't seek out instability.

Yes, Maryland needs to make a strong commitment if it is going to do the right thing and bring back Joe Krivak. Give him four more years. Give him the peace he deserves. Don't give him Michigan. Let him go about his business without his every move being weighed.

More than a few alumni won't cheer if Geiger, the Terps' athletic director, gives Krivak such a lasting vote of confidence. Joe's 18-25-1 record since 1987 isn't the kind that builds broad support. Most coaches with such numbers do get fired.

Krivak is the right man for this job, though. His presence, and players, make a statement of which the school should be proud. He doesn't cheat. His players go to class. He also knows what he's doing. Those who want his head don't understand what a feat it was for the Terps to go 6-5 this year. It warrants a second chance.

See, the odds are stacked high against any Maryland coach winning big these days. The schedules are tough, and recruiting top players is a fourth-and-long shot. The school's athletic name has been sullied by years of controversy. The campus isn't alluring. The stadium and football house don't rate with the competitors'. If you're a top recruit, why go to Maryland?

Krivak isn't without fault -- if the team were better, yes, maybe the recruits would be -- but the school deserves a fair portion of the blame. Recruiting disadvantages plus killer scheduling equals mediocrity. The Terps weren't overly talented in 1990. Bill Walsh probably couldn't have coached more than 7-4 out of them. The players let Krivak down at North Carolina, and in the second half at Penn State. Joe didn't lose those.

Despite it all, the Terps had their first winning season in five years, finishing with the 35-30 stunner Saturday at Virginia. Despite it all, four of their five losses were to ranked teams. Despite it all, Krivak has recruited decently. There are holes in next year's team, but below that are a couple of classes that won't embarrass anyone.

It may be hard to tell next year, but the program is in respectable shape, particularly considering the roadblocks Krivak has faced. deserves a chance to recruit with a Byrd Stadium upgrade beginning, and with that 35-30 win in his pocket -- the kind of win that opens kids' eyes, tells them that maybe you can indeed go to Maryland and play on a winning team. Krivak does know a ton of football.

Had the Terps not beaten Virginia, though, the pro-Joe lobby had a tough sell. A coach who goes 0-for-4 in winning seasons is in trouble. Re-hiring him is self-defeating, tells recruits you'll settle for mediocrity. The hunch here is that Geiger always wanted Krivak back, wanted to make the statement about priorities, but that another 5-6 finish -- ending with three losses -- lacked that necessary glimmer of on-field hope.

Beating Virginia provided that glimmer. Some will say it is wrong to put too much stock in one game, but until Saturday, Geiger had every reason except a football reason to re-hire Krivak. Now his set of reasons is complete. The win was a stamp of legitimacy, and it produced an effect similar to Magic Johnson's -- made everything around it look better.

The Terps were tied or ahead at halftime in three losses this year. They outplayed Clemson, knocked Penn State around for 40 minutes (and State beat Notre Dame the next week). They lost seven games by a touchdown or less the past three seasons. They can play ball. They just needed to show they can close a big deal, finally did, and weighing that with Krivak's attributes tips the scale.

Those attributes provide a strong argument. The change in the players since Krivak took over is startling. Bobby Ross' teams won more games, but there were more than a few questionable characters in uniform. No longer. Krivak's Terps are well-spoken, intelligent, polite, real students -- truly an advertisement for the school. Bet they aren't saying that about Ross' Georgia Tech team.

The people who want Krivak's head probably haven't visited the locker room lately. They also probably don't know that Virginia's George Welsh, one of the current coaching geniuses, won 22 games in his first four years -- just four more than Krivak.

The alumni who want more wins should instead be thanking Krivak for giving them a team that does justice to their degree and plays competent football most of the time. Rare is the school that can make such a claim these days, and Maryland hasn't exactly taken the high road the past few years. The school could stand to try cleaning up its name.

Rehiring Krivak doesn't mean the Terps are doomed to years of losing football. They demonstrated that Saturday. Maryland is not a football wasteland, and it could be. For that, the school should want Krivak back, and any coach that a school wants deserves a reasonable commitment. Four more years.

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