Sure, he's a good Joe, but it's no longer enough

Phil Jackman

November 11, 1991|By Phil Jackman

The way it worked out, Maryland was decked out in an appropriate color: black. If the fans who squandered good money to watch had known what was about to transpire, they could have shown up in funeral garb, too.

The Terps-Penn State game at Memorial Stadium Saturday was listed as a sellout and 57,416 people actually appeared. They came, they saw, they guffawed.

It wasn't pathetic; that was the way the Terps performed at TTC North Carolina the week before. It was more like embarrassing. The Nittany Lions simply did what they wanted, brushing aside these Division I imposters in the hideous uniforms.

Afterward, Maryland coach Joe Krivak said, apparently seriously, think our team gave a pretty good effort." What is this, Joe, "the Comedy Hour," the final tally was 47-7?

The schedule dictates that Maryland be required to absorb two more defeats before stowing the shoulder pads and helmets. It's likely the season's log will read 2-9, bringing to 20-34-2 the record over the past five seasons.

That's an average of four victories per year, which is fine if you're Vanderbilt, Tulane, Rice, Northwestern or any of countless other institutions of higher learning that field teams mostly for the benefits derived from competition and involvement. But that is not Maryland's bag and it never has been.

For the last half-century, the idea in College Park has been not only to compete but to win, win big, make lots of dough, carpet practice fields and locker rooms, outfit weight rooms, build facilities, provide players for the pros and live happily ever after high off the hog.

It has become painfully apparent that, all things considered, a Democrat might be in the White House again before these delusions of grandeur have any hope of materializing in the football department.

The Terps have been spinning their wheels for so long, they look upon any little lunge forward as a breakthrough. For example, there are those who still refer to last year's appearance in the Poulan Weed Eater Independence Bowl in Shreveport, La., as a turn toward the glory days of yore.

Krivak, for one, obviously thought it was the equivalent of reaching the top when, after being gifted with a new four-year contract off just one winning season in four, he said, "This just means we'll have to go out and do it again."

What, a 6-5 season and a tie game against Louisiana Tech was that big a feather in his cap?

If you've heard it once, you've heard it a thousand times: Joe Krivak is a wonderful fellow, a great guy, the salt of the earth. But after all that, one thing takes precedence, and that is the performance of the football team Saturday afternoons in the fall.

Another of the coach's pronouncements following the sad farewell to a series of fine showings at Memorial Stadium was "I thought some of our young kids played pretty well. That's encouraging to see."

The inference here, of course, is that under Joe and his spiffy new long-term contract handed him by crackerjack athletic director Andy Geiger, he was able to go out and recruit a bunch of terrific players. But it's going to take time for the young studs to mature, understand, and the watchword until further notice is patience.

Fact is, after a couple of nondescript but not embarrassing seasons working the talent brought in by former Maryland coach Bobby Ross, the Krivak Era has been marked by mediocrity and less.

These are the players Joe and his staff have recruited, yet he is the first to suggest they're not the top of the line when he points out "we're going with the best we've got" while suggesting Maryland carries entrance requirements equal to those of Harvard, MIT and Cal Poly.

There have been times in the last several games when the team not only came across as a gang of underachievers, but appeared less than well grounded in the fundamentals and ill-prepared to the point of disorganization, disillusionment and discord.

Repeatedly over the last few years, as another unsatisfactory season staggered toward a close, players and coaches were heard to wish for big efforts in November "to give the team something to build on for next year." It has become almost as famous a line here as the famed "Wait'll next year" cry of the Brooklyn baseball fans years ago.

Clearly, Maryland didn't appear to be playing with much emotion from the outset Saturday. Penn State took the opening kickoff and rumbled 80 yards against only token resistance. Linebacker Mike Jarmolowich said, "I thought we were ready, but I guess we showed we weren't."

All of the blame can't be laid on the head coach and his staff, of course. But it's folly to think the long-standing situation is going to correct itself with good times just around the bend simply by wishing it.

"We're going through a tough phase now," said Krivak, adding it was time to "roll up the sleeves" and work harder. Pray tell what has been going on to this point?

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