COLLEGE PARK -- University of Maryland football players said they are convinced head coach Joe Krivak will be back for another season, but they are less certain that all of his assistants will be retained.
The players said they based their opinions on two days of meetings with athletic director Andy Geiger, who is in the second week of evaluating the program after Maryland's 2-9 season, its worst since 1971. At least 20 players have been interviewed.
"All the questions are geared to problems within the program, not too many dealing with Coach Krivak," said Mitch Suplee, Maryland's senior center. "From every indication I've gotten, they want him back.
"Geiger has even told me he wants to build the program with Coach Krivak. I've already told the younger guys to be prepared for him to come back. He won't be dismissed unless there is an extenuating circumstance. So unless a tornado or hurricane hits, he'll be back."
Krivak, 56, came under intense criticism from alumni and supporters of the program after the eighth week of the season, when the Terps lost to North Carolina, 24-0.
His critics have said he is unable to motivate and relate to his players, which they believe has led to a 20-34-2 career record in five seasons at Maryland.
Geiger has said he is 95 percent certain Krivak will remain as coach for the 1992 season.
The players feel that the percentages are in Krivak's favor, too.
Senior linebacker Greg Hines said: "Coach Krivak's status was never addressed specifically. I really don't know what the purpose of the meetings were except for about a few problems."
"The basic questions range from attitude to the training table, not what some of the players feel is the main issue, Coach Krivak," said Frank Wycheck, Maryland's sophomore H-back. "They keep talking about internal issues. I think he is going to return, that's my gut feeling. As for some of his assistants, well . . ."
According to the players, Geiger and associate athletic director Jeff Gray, who began interviewing players yesterday, have focused questions on Krivak's nine-man staff. Krivak was given a four-year contract after the 1990 season; his assistants have one-year contracts.
"I was specifically asked about how the players would feel if Coach Krivak had to shuffle some of his assistants," said Wycheck. "I was asked about the offensive assistants and a lot of players have been asked about the defensive ones. I've heard from some of the players that Greg Williams [defensive coordinator] might be asked to leave."
Suplee said: "Geiger told me he wants to keep all the assistants. I think he's throwing around a lot of ideas."
Williams has been the Terps' secondary coach for 10 years and the defensive coordinator for the past five. Maryland was last in total defense in the Atlantic Coast Conference this season, allowing nearly 413.2 yards a game.
Geiger said recently the university could not afford to buy out Krivak's contract, but it would become void if Krivak resigned.
The players said Krivak might resign if forced to fire his assistants.
"That would be awfully tough on Coach Krivak if that were to happen," said Wycheck.
Suplee said: "Coach Krivak walks if they want a mass exodus of the coaches. He always said the three things closest to him were his family, assistants and players. If they ask him to get rid of two or three coaches, then I have no inkling what he might do."
Regardless of what happens, the players are eager to find out who the coach will be next season, and are tired of the interview sessions. Some were interviewed for the second time yesterday.
"Either they bring him back or they don't. What's so hard about it?" said Wycheck. "This is starting to turn into a soap opera. We do this interviewing every year. What happens if we go 4-7 next year? Do they bring in the guy who runs the concession stands to interview us? Let's make a decision and began preparing for next season."
Asked if the team could have reasonable success next season with all the recent criticism of Krivak by some of the players, Wycheck said: "I don't know. Coach Krivak isn't going to change and he has told us so. He said he is what he is, and there's nothing he can do about it."