'Name' candidates missing for Terps Alumni, supporters concerned by Geiger's low-profile cast

December 22, 1991|By Mike Preston | Mike Preston,Sun Staff Correspondent

COLLEGE PARK -- Some of the alumni and supporters of Maryland's football team are starting to become concerned about the lack of big-name prospects mentioned in a search for a head coach, and others say athletic director Andy Geiger is creating a smoke screen, waiting until the last minute to unveil a "name" coach.

Geiger came to Maryland from Stanford in October 1990 with the reputation of being a heavy hitter, but in two weeks of trying to find a new football coach, only William & Mary's Jimmye Laycock and Holy Cross' Mark Duffner are known to have been interviewed, and Clemson defensive coordinator Ron Dickerson has expressed interest.

Laycock, Duffner and Dickerson are not exactly household words.

And according to one college head coach who applied for the job but is not a candidate, Geiger told him there was going to be only a short list of three to four candidates.

"I'm surprised that there are no big names mentioned, like a Dennis Green or a John Robinson [who has announced his resignation as coach of the Los Angeles Rams]," said Ken McDowell, a Terrapin Club member for the last 25 years. "I thought Andy would have some NFL assistant coaches lined up or something. Somehow, though, I feel Andy is going to pull it off. If he brings in somebody from a smaller school or an assistant from another major college, they better win right away. If this coach can't win, then a lot of people are going to say we might as well have kept Joe Krivak. Joe said he was only about two years away."

Don James, a 1975 graduate of Maryland who runs the Western Maryland chapter of the Terrapin Club, echoed McDowell's sentiments. "Both Laycock and Duffner have great records, but no one knows if they can succeed on this level," James said. "If Andy brings in a name guy and he loses, he can say he brought in the best, and it's going to take some time. If he brings in a lower-division coach, and he loses, then I think all hell is going to break loose and Andy is going to be under the microscope."

It is understandable why supporters and alumni are concerned. Check Geiger's background at Stanford.

He arrived at Stanford in 1979 and reorganized the athletic department. In many ways, Geiger assembled the nation's most successful program: His teams won 27 national championships while the athletes matched and, in many cases, exceeded the graduation rate of the general student population.

But he has never had much success in hiring football coaches. Geiger went through four -- Rod Dowhower (5-5-1 record), Paul Wiggin (16-28), Jack Elway (25-29-2) and the aforementioned Green (16-17) -- at Stanford.

During an interview with The Sun last April, Geiger said, "I admit that I could never figure football out."

From an economic standpoint, it is hardly surprising that some of the bigger-name candidates have withdrawn from consideration. East Carolina's Bill Lewis was a serious candidate until it was disclosed that he had a buyout clause in his contract and another school would have to pay East Carolina $380,000 (four years at $95,000 per year) if he left.

Maryland faces a $5 million deficit in the athletic department this season, and had to reach a settlement with Krivak, who had three years left on a contract worth $94,000 per season.

"The economic crunch is definitely a factor," James said. "The university has had budget cuts, classes eliminated, other rifts and students were picketing. A lot of people keep talking about bringing in a Dennis Green, but he's going to have to pay Dennis Green what he's making at Stanford [reportedly $275,000]. If Andy hired Dennis Green and Green loses, can you imagine the kind of pressure Andy is going to get? Those chemistry students who have had their labs cut are going to be pretty mad."

The other known big name to withdraw was Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky. But Sandusky had been a Nittany Lions assistant for 23 years, and there has been strong speculation he is heir apparent when Joe Paterno steps down.

What may be scaring away some big-name prospects, though, is Maryland's schedule, the number of special admissions allowed (only eight to 10 per year) and the way Krivak's resignation was handled.

Maryland opens its 1992 schedule with Virginia, North Carolina State, West Virginia, Penn State, Pittsburgh and Georgia Tech. A coach has to look at the overall picture and wonder if he will be given enough time to build, or if he could be forced out in the early years of his contract like Krivak.

"The evaluation of Joe Krivak, and the way it was handled publicly, stunk," said James. "I admit that if I were a coach, I'd have to look at that situation and also the number of athletic directors that have been at Maryland the past few years."

So Geiger is working with limitations, some self-imposed. Geiger was annoyed by the criticism from Krivak and his staff about the school's standards hurting their performance on the playing field.

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