This is like a tonic for a beleaguered university. Maryland can rally around it, because now, for a change, something positive has happened.
On Sunday at 7:30 a.m., athletic director Andy Geiger and football coach Joe Krivak will fly to Shreveport, La., into the embrace of the Independence Bowl committee. There, on Dec. 15, the Terps will play Louisiana Tech in their first bowl appearance since 1985.
Geiger and Krivak will return at noon Monday, after which Krivak will be saluted at a news conference as Maryland's coach of at least the early 1990s. Whether Krivak's new contract will be for two years, or three, four or five, will be hammered out by the two men during their trip to Shreveport.
"That's one of the things still to be ironed out, but I don't see any real problems," Krivak said by phone from Weirton, W.Va., where he spent Thanksgiving with his wife's relatives.
"I've been at Maryland a long time -- what is it, 13 years? It's where I want to be. I'd like to end my career there."
The combination of the bowl bid and Geiger's endorsement of Krivak represent a shot in the arm for Maryland football and the university as a whole. Geiger called it a base on which to build.
"The last five years Maryland has been struggling to get athletics in the right context within the university," Geiger said. "The bowl, and the fact that a university advisory group voted that we should go, is clear evidence of the school's support for the football team."
Everyone from university president William Kirwan down is aware the Independence Bowl falls during exam period, Dec. 13-21. That the Terps are still being allowed to go suggests, in Geiger's estimation, how important the bowl is to the entire school.
To a man, the Terps were ecstatic when they heard the bowl news. When the father of Rick Fleece's girlfriend said he heard it on TV Wednesday night, the nose guard was so stunned that he called assistant coach Dennis Murphy for confirmation.
"I've been here five years, but I was never part of a winning season and a bowl until now," said receiver Barry Johnson, who caught a touchdown pass in the win over Virginia that enabled Maryland to finish 6-5. "It's fantastic."
When defensive back Scott Rosen was called by his roommate, Michael Jarmolowich, with the bowl report, Rosen thought "maybe it was a joke." When Krivak himself then called, Rosen knew it wasn't.
So when Rosen went to yesterday's game in Philadelphia between his high school, George Washington, and Archbishop Ryan, Terps teammate Frank Wycheck's alma mater, he could swallow it when his school lost for "about the 26th straight year." He sought out Wycheck at the game, and they celebrated.
"It's like a new life, like being reborn," Rosen said.
Even the assistant coaches were caught by surprise. Quarterbacks coach Jerry Eisaman said he looked at his morning paper yesterday and "blinked twice."
The players feel it only just that Krivak is being retained. He's 18-25-1 in four years, but he finally posted a winning season.
"I've said all along it takes time to become a head coach," said junior kicker Dan DeArmas. "He turned around what was supposed to be a terrible season for us. We had the 10th toughest schedule in the country and Coach was due a reward for getting us to a bowl.
"It'll have a big effect on recruiting. I know the local kids haven't been too sure about Maryland because of the uncertainty over Coach's status."
"People said he couldn't win, but he proved them wrong," Johnson said. "The university is committed to not scrapping its academic standards, and we showed it could be done within that framework. Just like at Stanford, where Mr. Geiger came from. There are examples all over the country."
Geiger would like to think that Maryland is on the march, with the renovation of Byrd Stadium under way and with the stability and continuity provided by retaining Krivak.
"Joe is excited, animated, vociferous," Geiger said. "I talked to a lot of people and sifted their advice. When I had a feel for it, I decided Joe had earned the position by playing an ambitious schedule that included six teams that are going to bowls.
"Going 6-5 in that company is a sign of progress. Maryland has generated enough respect to be invited to a bowl."
If Geiger has his way, complaints about Maryland's stiff schedule -- including Krivak's -- will subside now.
"We're in a bowl because of that schedule," Geiger reasoned. "We can tell recruits we play the best. We must concentrate on recruiting the best people."
Geiger indicated there will be no lowering of academic standards to enable Krivak to get a blue-chip athlete. It is something "we've got to work through" by being more selective.
"We've got to join the team," Geiger said. "If we're to improve our image, we've got to do it together and not complain that the academic people don't reinforce athletics."
Krivak will talk to his players Monday afternoon and work them at an easy pace -- "running, pitch and catch" -- the rest of the week. The team will put on pads again Dec. 3.