COLLEGE PARK -- Joe Krivak told everybody within earshot four years ago that Maryland would be his last stop, unless he was dismissed.
"Retire from here or get fired," Krivak said. He hesitated a moment yesterday, and then smiled. "Right now I think I have a better chance to retire here."
It was touch and go for a while. But when Krivak spoke so optimistically yesterday, it was with a new contract in hand for four more years at an annual base salary of $94,000.
"This shows our confidence and belief in Joe, and our appreciation for what he's done," athletic director Andy Geiger said in announcing the terms of the football coach's contract. "It was clear to me that anything less than four years was not a real commitment. Joe needs a support base from which to recruit."
Krivak came into this season with a three-year record of 12-20-1, and his job was on the line. The Terps edged Virginia in their finale, finished 6-5 for their first winning season since 1985 and earned a date with Louisiana Tech in the Independence Bowl Dec. 15.
Did the victory over Virginia salvage Krivak's job? He doesn't think so.
"I felt before that there was a strong possibility I'd be back," Krivak said. "I didn't think it would hinge on one game."
Geiger strove mightily to screen out the intoxicating effect of that game and to put it in perspective.
"I tried not to be euphoric about it," he said. "I didn't want to make an emotional decision on the spot. I wanted to go through with the plan -- have a series of talks with Joe and then decide."
After three years, Geiger will assess the progress of Maryland football and, if all is going well, conceivably extend Krivak's contract.
"He'll be 58 and I'll be 54, so we'll moan a bit about our ages and then see how the program is doing," Geiger said. "I don't like to get into this one-more-year thing, and that's what it would be at that point. We would consider a contract extension then."
It has been a hectic but heady 10 days for the Terps. Maryland football hasn't buzzed with such excitement since Bobby Ross' next-to-last Terps team went 9-3 in 1985.
"There's been a dry spell," Krivak said. "We've made progress, but there's still work to do. We've got to continue to recruit, and we can get good athletes. That's where our efforts will be concentrated. The bowl should serve as a springboard."
Krivak's contract and the bowl bid will be handy recruiting tools. Assistant coaches are devoting all their energy to recruiting this week and will continue to focus on it even after the team resumes workouts next week.
"This makes Maryland so much more credible -- the win over Virginia, the bowl, Joe's contract and the start of stadium renovation," said defensive ends coach Kurt Van Valkenburgh. "For a while, things were negative. Now they're positive. I can see it in the calls from recruits. Now they say they are interested in Maryland."
Said junior center Mitch Suplee, "Four more years, that provides continuity and stability. Krivak always was good with Xs and Os. Now he has learned to deal with all the players. He had rapport with his group of players when he was an assistant, but not the whole team. This year he did.
"The bowl shows Maryland is indeed on the rise. We're a force to be reckoned with."
Quarterback Scott Zolak put it this way: "People thought we wouldn't be diddly, but we proved them wrong and won six games and we're going to a bowl. Things are on the upswing at Maryland."
University president William Kirwan and lesser officials thought a bowl would be so beneficial to the school's general health that they voted for it even though it falls during exams period, Dec. 13-21.
"We feel this makes a statement to the community that we want a strong athletic program and that the university is behind us," Geiger said. "But the players and band members know they must make up any exams they miss before Christmas."
For bowl ticket information, call 301-314-7070 or 1-800-462-TERP. For information on reduced airline fares to Shreveport, La. -- available only through this Friday -- call Travel-On (a College Park agency), at 779-2100.