Decision whether to retain Krivak belongs to Geiger, not players

John Steadman

December 02, 1991|By John Steadman

Athletic directors, as with department heads in any line of work, are hired for their ability to provide leadership, shape policy and make decisions. They don't generally invite the players on a varsity team to evaluate the head coach, either before, during or after the season. But at the University of Maryland, there is a distinctly different approach.

Andy Geiger, who is the reigning AD, is introducing a new method to try to determine what's wrong with a losing football program. Of all things, he's entertaining comments from players, allowing input, before deciding the fate of head coach Joe Krivak.

Earlier, Geiger expressed himself as "95 percent sure" Krivak would be back for the second season of the four-year contract that Geiger awarded him. Why not go the other "5 percent"? This kept ajar the door of wonderment and added to speculation Krivak was in deep trouble? Geiger could have taken him off the hook by standing tall behind the coach but instead created doubt in the minds of the squad, student body and alumni.

A statement from Geiger saying he was in full support of the coach would have extinguished the fires of unrest that always follow a losing season. But he didn't do that. Was he trying to cover his own tracks and protect himself if push came to shoving Krivak out the door?

Now Geiger, in an astonishing statement for any athletic director, is saying he's interested in what the players have to say about the head coach. Their comments must be viewed as prejudicial to begin with. Few athletes anywhere like the coach or manager.

At Maryland, the players were recruited to play football by Krivak and have only one obligation -- to perform all duties, on the field and in the classroom, in return for the right to a free education, otherwise known as a scholarship.

They should never enter into the hiring or firing of a head coach. Geiger has spent the season watching Krivak practice the team and going to the games on Saturdays to see Maryland win two and lose nine. Certainly, his own perception, if he knows anything about football, should allow him to make up his mind as to whether he made a mistake in signing Krivak to a four-year deal following the 1990 schedule.

Admiration of a coach is never a pre-requisite to winning. One of the most respected of present day college football coaches, destined for the Hall of Fame, is liked by only a comparatively few of his charges. Yet he wins consistently. The name some players and others have for him, behind his back, is "Rat Man."

At the professional level, two Hall of Fame coaches, Paul Brown and George Halas, were often despised by their players and called much worse than "Rat Man." Yet they won games, compiled a long run of championships and contributed much to elevate the entire sport. Again, what the players say, unless the charges are of a serious legal or ethical nature, should never be regarded as pertinent to dismissing or retaining a football coach.

In the Maryland situation, it should be Geiger's call all the way. Imagine the captain of a ship asking the enlisted crew to come to his quarters and provide him with an efficiency rating of the commissioned officers? This would erode respect and create chaos. And the same would prevail in any office or industry.

The bosses are in charge because they are officially invested with the authority to determine the course of action for said organization. Asking the Maryland players to provide their reaction, be they seniors or sophomores, pro or con, on Krivak is unfortunate and blatantly unfair. It puts the head coach and the players who came out against him, in a tenuous position -- one that doesn't lend itself to being a part of an educational institution.

Geiger, it's felt, didn't deliberately attempt to put Krivak in such an embarrassing role but that is indeed the end result. It's almost as if the players are being requested to ready the gallows for Krivak while the chief executioner is given the chance to escape the full responsibility of rendering the verdict.

Either Joe stays or goes. Interviewing players is one thing a smart and able athletic director doesn't do. Will the same procedure -- athletes, past or present, sitting in judgment of the coach -- be followed for track, basketball, lacrosse, golf, tennis and all other sports on the Maryland program if losing seasons ensue?

Geiger should come to a verdict now, yes or no, without introducing the scenario of involving players. Is it going to come down to a show of hands? How degrading that would be.

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