Maryland athletic director Andy Geiger met with Holy Cross football coach Mark Duffner yesterday, according to two athletics officials at Holy Cross, and Geiger is expected to meet soon with Clemson defensive coordinator Ron Dickerson.
Duffner, Dickerson and William & Mary coach Jimmye Laycock are at least three candidates interested in the vacant Maryland head coaching job.
Laycock met with Geiger on Wednesday.
"Geiger first said this was a long search, one that could last until the end of January," said one Holy Cross official. "But with this interviewing taking place, he may have moved his timetable up."
Duffner, who is expected to make recruiting visits in eastern Massachusetts today, was not available for comment. Geiger declined to comment.
But Dickerson, reached in Florida, where the Tigers are preparing to play California in the Florida Citrus Bowl on Jan. 1, said early yesterday that he was calling Geiger to set up a meeting.
Dickerson, 43, is the only black candidate of the three. Geiger has stressed hiring more blacks in the athletic department since becoming athletic director in October 1990.
"No question about it, I'm interested," said Dickerson, in a brief statement.
Laycock, 43, also spoke only briefly.
"Basically, all I can say is that I talked to Maryland, and anything else in regard to their situation would have to come from them," said Laycock. "Other than that, I have no comment."
Duffner, 38, was one of the first candidates contacted by Geiger to replace Joe Krivak, who resigned two weeks ago. Duffner, from Annandale, Va., has a 60-5-1 record since taking over at Holy Cross in 1986.
Dickerson has held assistant jobs at Kansas State, Louisville, Pittsburgh, Colorado and Penn State before joining Clemson last year.
Laycock recently finished his 12th season as head coach a William & Mary, where he has a 73-62-2 record. The Tribe was 5-6 last season, but, in the past six years, William & Mary has a 44-25-2 record. The Tribe has participated in the NCAA Division I-AA playoffs three of the past six years.
Two other candidates, Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky and East Carolina coach Bill Lewis, withdrew their names for consideration this week.
Bowling Green coach Gary Blackney, though never considered a serious candidate, dropped out of the running yesterday when he agreed to a five-year contract extension. He still has three years remaining on his old contract.
"I'm very happy Gary has agreed to the extension of his contract," Bowling Green athletic director Jack Gregory said in a prepared statement last night. "He put together one of the greatest seasons in the history of our football program. And we would like to reward him for all of his hard work."
Of the search process, Geiger said: "If anything, I'm very encouraged with the way things are going. I haven't read the papers, so I really can't comment on who has said they're interested and who has said they're not.
"Of the few I know about, one [Lewis] had a buyout clause in his contract, so he didn't actually withdraw," said Geiger, "and another [Sandusky] has been at his present job something like 20 years [actually, 23] and has some strong ties to his school."
Blackney, 47, recently completed the first year of a four-year contract as Bowling Green went 10-1. Blackney spent 21 years as an assistant at seven different colleges, the last at Ohio State as an outside-linebackers coach.
In a prepared statement last night, Blackney said: "I think this shows the kind of commitment the athletic department and the university has for the football program. Their offering me an extension to my contract is just another example of that."