COLLEGE PARK -- It was an old friend, Maryland ticket manager Jack Zane, who phoned Jerry Eisaman with the news that Joe Krivak was looking for a quarterbacks coach.
Steve Axman had left for Northern Arizona University and Krivak, the head coach with one year left on his contract, was in no position to make promises. He needed a man willing to take a chance.
Did Eisaman want a job that might evaporate in a year? During their interview, Krivak offered him the position and then drove him to the airport.
"I'll bite the bullet with you," Eisaman told Krivak before he departed.
That was last year. For Eisaman, "it was like coming home." From 1972-81, he had been Jerry Claiborne's quarterbacks coach at
Maryland. When Claiborne jumped to Kentucky in 1982, Eisaman went with him, but Claiborne retired from coaching in 1989. It was then, by a happy coincidence, that Krivak needed a quarterbacks coach.
For almost two decades, Eisaman has had a hand in the development of most of Maryland's quarterbacks. It was Bob Avellini at first, then Mark Manges, Larry Dick, Mike Tice, Boomer Esiason, Frank Reich, Stan Gelbaugh, Scott Zolak and now Jim Sandwisch and his understudies. The only ones he didn't have at least a brief association with were Dan Henning and Neil O'Donnell.
Just as Penn State is known as Linebacker U., Maryland has earned a reputation as Quarterback U. Krivak, now in his 13th year here, and Eisaman have been the backbone of the faculty.
Avellini went on to play for the Bears, Manges for the Rams and Cardinals, Dick for Saskatchewan of the Canadian Football League. Tice became a tight end in the NFL. Esiason is with the Bengals, Reich is with the Bills and Gelbaugh, after an od
yssey that included the World League of American Football, is with the Cardinals. Henning was with the Patriots, Zolak is with them now and O'Donnell is with the Steelers.
Eisaman expects to be around for a while now that Krivak has a four-year contract. Seldom has he been more tested. The Terps are 1-2, unsure from week to week about the identity of their starting quarterback.
Sandwisch, a former walk-on and a fifth-year senior, came into the season with little experience. He is clearly the Terps' best, even with a sore arm.
Tony Scarpino is a redshirt freshman and Scott Milanovich is a true freshman. John Kaleo, the national junior college player of the year last season at Montgomery-Rockville, was ahead of the two freshmen, but has now been dropped behind them on the depth chart.
"Jimmy does more with a sore arm than the others do with arms that don't hurt," Eisaman said after Sandwisch, with his elbow and shoulder bothering him, came on in relief of Kaleo in the West Virginia loss Sept. 21. "Kaleo had a great year in junior college, but he and Scarpino never did rise above Sandwisch in practice last spring."
The coaches have cooled on Kaleo. At 5 feet 11, he lacks the desired height, doesn't have as strong an arm as Sandwisch and lacks his scrambling ability. He is limited. Scarpino and Milanovich are getting most of the practice work now in case Sandwisch is reinjured. Until last week, Kaleo was getting what coaches call the "reps," or practice repetitions.
Maryland has a problem at quarterback in part because high school hot shots spurned the Terps before the 1990 season, when Krivak had only a year left.
"We went for five quarterbacks, four of them coached by their dads," Eisaman said. "We didn't get any of them because of Joe's situation. We got Scarpino, but he wasn't one of the five. That's why we brought in Kaleo, figuring he could help us for two years until the young ones were ready."
Eisaman, 54, played quarterback and safety at Kentucky, was chosen for the Blue-Gray game and then had a brief experience in the Canadian Football League. He coached under Claiborne at Virginia Tech and joined him at Maryland in 1972.
"I picked our quarterback recruits from film," Eisaman said. "Jerry never second-guessed me. Tom Groom, our backfield coach, had brought in Avellini from Long Island before we got here and then we stockpiled quarterbacks -- Manges and Dick from this state, Tice from Long Island.
"One day Groom brought in film from Long Island of Boomer. Groom said he could get him, that he wasn't that highly recruited. I said, 'I want him!' "
After spring practice of Esiason's freshman year in 1980, Claiborne and Eisaman were impressed enough to project the blond lefthander as their starter. But Boomer reported in August in such poor shape that he used to vomit on a grassy bank after running 40-yard sprints.
Esiason was redshirted, putting off until 1981 the start of a career that would send Maryland's reputation as Quarterback U. soaring.