COLLEGE PARK — Three University of Maryland football players were declared academically eligible for the 1991 season yesterday by an academic board of appeals within the athletic department.
The board heard the cases of starting inside linebacker and sophomore Louis Johnson and tackle Derek Steele and outside linebacker Joel Goode, both senior reserves.
Maryland's grade requirements are higher than those of the NCAA. They require freshmen to have a grade-point average of at least 1.29 on a 4.0 scale. Sophomores must stay above 1.7, juniors above 1.85 and seniors above 2.0. Students must also compile a certain number of credits after a specific amount of time in school.
The news didn't come as a surprise since Gerald Gurney, head of the Academic Support Unit, said on Tuesday that he did not expect any football or basketball players to be ineligible.
"It's unofficial yet, because I still have to fill out a report," Gurney said last night. "Basically, though, it's just a matter of crossing the T's and dotting the I's."
Goode and Johnson had been working out with the team on a restricted basis, but Steele has yet to practice. Maryland will open its season Sept. 7 against Virginia at Byrd Stadium.
Maryland head coach Joe Krivak said last night: "This is beginning to be old hat, and you never know what's going to happen. It's really tough preparing a team with all these distractions. I'm really happy for the kids because they have helped themselves. Two of those guys are seniors, and this will help them to get their degrees. Louie is a younger guy and now he has learned what he has to do to play football. I'm also happy for us because they are kids who can help this football team."
Johnson, 6 feet 1 and 217 pounds, was the most important of the three. He had been working out with the first and second units because of his academic standing, and is expected to split starting time with junior linebacker Dave Marrone. Johnson had 26 tackles last season including a sack of Virginia's Shawn Moore at the Terps 2 on fourth down with 1 minute, 47 seconds left in the game. Maryland won the game, 35-30, to have its first winning season since 1985.
"He's a player, and if he doesn't start, he will play a lot because he's in the rotation. More importantly, he's just a nice kid and you'd like to see things work out for him," said Maryland inside linebacker and head assistant coach George Foussekis.
Goode, 6 feet 2 and 222 pounds, spent last season at a college in Pittsburgh improving his grades after failing out of Maryland after the 1989 season. Maryland coaches are expecting an outstanding season from Goode, who led the team with five sacks in 1989.
He also had 35 tackles in 11 games, and along with senior outside linebacker Greg Hines, is considered one of the best pass rushers on the team.
"I think he got a C and a B during the first summer session and two B's in the second, which shows he has been working hard in the classroom," said outside linebacker coach Kurt Van Valkenburgh. "On the field, he has shown some rust, but he has also sharpened his skills.
"This has been a slightly tough situation for him and the coaching staff because you really don't know who will be available. But we've got to go along with school policy and do what is considered right."
Steele, 6-4, 265 pounds, probably is Maryland's quickest defensive lineman. Steele had 23 tackles last season, including three sacks. He is listed second on the depth chart behind Lubo Zizakovic.
The Terps don't know if they can get Steele into shape fast enough to play him regularly against Virginia.
"The biggest thing will be conditioning," said Maryland defensive line coach Dennis Murphy. "He hasn't completed a workout for a while. We hope to have him ready to play a role in the Virginia game, maybe special teams and as a pass rusher. Three weeks down the road he should be ready for any situation."
NOTES: Maryland's 6-5-1 record and appearance in the Poulan/Weed Eater Independence Bowl last season is paying off at the gate. Maryland ticket manager Jack Zane said the university has sold slightly more than 10,000 season tickets, at least 1,000 more than last season and third best in program history. "It hasn't been that big since 1985 when we were ranked preseason No. 1 and then the following year," said Zane. . . . The Terps' closed scrimmage Wednesday ended 2-a-day sessions, but Krivak said the team won't be focused fully on Virginia for a few more days. . . . Reserve TE Joe Cooper cut his finger. He got a few stitches and is expected to practice today.