Villanova's Andy Talley has heard the rumors before. It was the autumn of 1986. Bobby Ross had just quit as Maryland's football coach and the names of possible successors were beginning to surface.
"I was watching television," Talley said. "All of a sudden Beano Cook [of ESPN] comes on and I heard Maryland and then I heard my name and then I heard I was supposed to be interviewed for the job. There were some people around and they all looked at me and said, 'You must know something.' But I didn't know a thing."
It was just another false alarm in the rumor game. Maryland officials stayed in-house that year and elevated Joe Krivak from assistant to head coach.
Now, a new set of names is emerging in the wake of Krivak's resignation yesterday.
Mark Duffner of Holy Cross, Dennis Green of Stanford, Jimmye Laycock of William & Mary, Bill Lewis of East Carolina and Talley are among this year's first batch of potential candidates for the Maryland job.
"We have procedures to follow," athletic director Andy Geiger said. "We will go forward as quickly as we can. It is important that we do it correctly and that doesn't necessarily mean fast. I think our location, conference and facilities are just a few of the positives we have to offer."
The most intense speculation involves Duffner, who will be named the NCAA Division I-AA Coach of the Year today after leading Holy Cross to an 11-0 record. His 60-5-1 record at Holy Cross gives him the highest winning percentage (.916) among active Division I coaches.
Thursday night, several Maryland players attempted to contact players from Holy Cross about Duffner. Yesterday, when asked by the Worcester Telegram & Gazette if he was a candidate for the Maryland job, Duffner said: "I can't really say. I don't want anything speculated."
But Duffner, who is 38, is one of the hot young coaches in the country. Monday, he turned down the head coaching job at Tulane University and he also has been mentioned as a possible candidate for Northwestern's vacant position.
Duffner and Maryland appear to be a perfect fit. He is a native of Annandale, Va. He is accustomed to recruiting athletes able to meet stringent academic standards. He also is a defensive specialist.
After attending William & Mary, Duffner served as a defensive coordinator at Holy Cross for five years. He became the head coach after Rick Carter committed suicide, Feb. 2, 1986.
Under Duffner, Holy Cross won the Patriot League championship in five of the last six years and currently has a 20-game winning streak. Because of a league rule barring post-season appearances, his teams have never appeared in the Division I-AA playoffs.
Duffner's edge in the Patriot League may be eroding, however. The school has de-emphasized athletics and only grants need-based scholarships. This season, Holy Cross will graduate the last class of players who had athletic scholarships.
Apparently, Duffner will only come to a Division I-A school as part of a package. He turned down the Tulane job in part because Kevin Coyle, his former offensive coordinator, declined to move to New Orleans. Coyle is currently on the staff at Syracuse University.
The other potential candidates for the Maryland job also have superb credentials.
Three years ago, Geiger hired Green to become the head coach at Stanford. Previously, they worked together at the University of Pennsylvania. This past season, Green's team was 8-3 and secured a bid to the Aloha Bowl against Georgia Tech. Green also has a direct link to Maryland -- his daughter attends the university.
But Green's sights may be set higher than Maryland. He has been mentioned as a candidate for the opening at the University of Texas and he may emerge on a short list to become head coach of the San Diego Chargers.
Laycock has a 73-62-2 record in 12 seasons at William & Mary, a Division IAA school. After his team finished 10-3 last season, he was mentioned as a candidate for several openings. But the luster may have worn off Laycock after William & Mary's 5-6 finish in 1991.
Lewis is another hot commodity based on East Carolina's 10-1 regular season and a berth in the Peach Bowl opposite North Carolina State. With a three-year record of 20-12-1, Lewis may be prepared to take a bigger jump to Texas or Arizona State.
Talley began the Villanova program from scratch seven years ago and compiled a 48-21-1 record, reaching the I-AA playoffs in two of the last three seasons. He interviewed for the recent vacancy at New Mexico. He also served as an assistant coach at Brown when Geiger was the athletic director.
"I haven't been contacted," Talley said. "I don't know what the persuasion is at Maryland. I know that a lot of Division I-A schools want a big-name guy. It all depends on who fits."