COLLEGE PARK -- Maryland athletic director Andy Geiger points to the successful transition by other coaches from smaller schools to larger universities. There's Dennis Green, from Northwestern to Stanford; and Dick Sheridan, from Furman to North Carolina State. And look at Maryland itself. The Terps once gambled on an upstart from The Citadel to start the 1982 season. His name: Bobby Ross.
Almost 10 years later, Maryland is hoping another coach makes a successful transition. Geiger named Holy Cross' Mark Duffner the Terps' new head football coach yesterday.
Duffner, 38, and Geiger appeared at a news conference yesterday ending a three-week national search that Geiger said started with a list of 60 to 70 prospects and was cut down to six to seven candidates, including finalists Duffner, William & Mary's Jimmye Laycock, Youngstown State's Jim Tressel and Clemson's Ron Dickerson.
Duffner will earn $120,000 per year in base salary for the next five years. He replaces Joe Krivak, who resigned on Dec. 7 after five years and a 20-34-2 record.
"You can look at quite a few of the top Division I-A coaches and see that a number of them got a start in smaller programs," said Geiger. "There are many examples of rising stars in this business, and they have gotten an opportunity at a place like Maryland.
"I think Mark Duffner has prepared himself extremely well for this position," said Geiger. "He's excited about being here, committed to being here. It's obvious the skill of his craft is very present."
Geiger said the focus of his search was not on Division I-AA
candidates, but the field reduced itself. Prospects such as East Carolina's Bill Lewis and Kansas State's Bill Snyder were locked into buyout clauses, and others such as Penn State's Jerry Sandusky and Kansas' Glen Mason decided to stay at their respective schools.
Duffner, however, fits the description of the coach Geiger said he wanted. Duffner is enthusiastic, knowledgeable, a motivator and came from a school that had just as strong academic standards as Maryland.
"Sure, money was a consideration," said Geiger, whose athletic department faces a $5 million deficit. "There are some coaches who don't want to be interviewed unless they are offered the job, and some who want to get paid for just getting on a plane. The economy, including the housing market, even played a part. I can't say Mark Duffner was a runaway candidate but I thought we had an excellent pool of candidates, and we took the best from the pool. Obviously, winning and losing, Mark Duffner has a phenomenal record at Holy Cross. "
"As with every single coaching job in the United States, academic integrity is an important situation, and Mark is an innovator who graduates student athletes [91 of 95 seniors]," said Geiger. "He did a great job of stepping into a program that was low, and elevating it."
Duffner enjoyed immediate success at Holy Cross, replacing Rick Carter, who committed suicide in February 1986.
Duffner was 60-5-1 at Holy Cross, and his .916 winning percentage is best among active college football coaches. Holy Cross won the Patriot League championship in five of Duffner's six years and last season the Crusaders were 11-0.
Duffner didn't portray himself as a savior yesterday, saying it could take every bit of his five years to bring the program to its potential.
But Duffner did express confidence.
"This strategy we have is not going to be a 40-yard --," said Duffner. "I think you could probably equate it more to the mile run. It won't be a quick fix. Our goal is to bring Maryland football back into a position of prominence, and we will do this with great honesty and integrity."
Duffner said he saw no major difference in coaching at Holy Cross and Maryland, and was not intimidated by Maryland's schedule next season, one of the toughest in the country.
"To be the best, you've got to beat the best," said Duffner. "You still have to be able to motivate 21 year olds on and off the field. The key word to our success has been attitude. We worked very, very hard in our program to develop a team that has a 'refuse-to-lose' attitude.
"I'm not sure that we were always faster, stronger or bigger than the people that we played against, but our football team believed in themselves and had great commitment."
Duffner, who ran variations of the run-and-shoot offense and an attacking 5-2 defense at Holy Cross, said he can still sign some top-notch recruits even though he is off to a late start.
"We plan to dive in. We've got our sprinting shoes on," Duffner said. "I can't control the timing, but we're off and running and looking forward to really getting after the recruiting effort."
Duffner grew up in nearby Annandale, Va., and was recruited briefly by Maryland. But he ended up playing defensive tackle for William & Mary and served there as a graduate assistant in 1975 and at Ohio State (1975-76) before taking over as the defensive coordinator at Cincinnati (1977-80).
He then served as a defensive coordinator at Holy Cross for five years before being named head coach in 1986.
"As a youngster, I grew up in the shadow of this university," he said. "I always wanted to coach here. Now, I've finally made it to this campus."