University of Maryland Athletic Director Andy Geiger began "reviewing" College Park's football program yesterday. The Terp won only two of 11 games this season. Mr. Geiger has implied that although he now believes he made a mistake in giving head football coach Joe Krivak a four-year contract last year, he almost certainly will not fire him and pay off his contract.
Coach Krivak should not be fired. That would compound the original mistake and create a worse problem than a 2-9 season.
College Park President William Kirwan was in to discuss higher education problems with The Sun's editors last week. He said cuts in his budget were much too deep. He said he wished the political climate would change so these cuts could be made less severe. If, in this climate, he were to agree to pay Mr. Krivak three years' salary for doing nothing and hire a new coach at $100,000 or more a year, the reaction of politicians and taxpayers would be outrage. After all, Maryland is still paying off basketball coach Lefty Driesell.
Coach Krivak's overall record (he has won only 20 games in five years) has been underwhelming. If he does not greatly improve his won-loss record over the next three years, a search for a winning coach will be a foregone conclusion.
Yet as President Kirwan points out, "character building" and academics are far more important than winning football games. And in those areas, Coach Krivak excels. Given the recent turmoil in Maryland's sports programs, the Terps' winning record isn't nearly as important as returning integrity to the athletic department's programs.
Can Maryland stress character-building and academics while producing first-rate sports teams? Absolutely, once Mr. Geiger and his coaches lay a firm foundation. President Kirwan cites three large state universities as academic role models for UMCP -- the University of California at Berkeley, the University of Michigan at Anne Arbor and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. All three have outstanding and nationally competitive football programs. These schools have learned an important lesson: Winning football and basketball teams, when untainted by scandal, create the public and political goodwill and support that often prevent raids on state higher education budgets.