It has been two years of defeats and points allowed. Entering the third season under coach Mark Duffner, the Maryland football program is still experiencing. GROWING PAINS

August 28, 1994|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,Sun Staff Writer

COLLEGE PARK — College Park--The waiting, something Mark Duffner admittedly doesn't do well, has been the hardest part.

Duffner begins his third season as the football coach at Maryland Saturday, when the Terps play at Duke. Maryland remains a program in transition, as Duffner shuffles his roster and coaching staff in search of a mix that once more will make Maryland a player in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Through an inaugural 3-8 season and last year's 2-9 campaign that his then-boss described as a "nightmare," Duffner has seen a couple dozen players leave because they couldn't cut it on the field and in the classroom, brought in what the experts have rated as two good recruiting classes, and reassembled the coaching staff that made Holy Cross the winningest Division I-AA team in the nation from 1986 to 1991.

How much time will it take to start winning?

Fact: The Terps probably will start one senior on defense. Duffner says he demanded too much from some of the seven freshmen who got starts on defense in 1993, when he vainly attempted to accelerate a developmental process that often takes three or four years.

"He knew when he came that the program was pretty far down, and that it needed a major overhaul," said Andy Geiger, the Maryland athletic director who hired Duffner. "But there were still times last season when I had to remind him, 'Mark, it can't be done in a nanosecond. It's going to take time.' "

Geiger was speaking from his new office at Ohio State; he became the Buckeyes' AD in April.

Debbie Yow begins her duties as Maryland's new athletic director this week. She sounds as eager as Duffner to turn around Maryland, which has had only one winning season in the past eight -- 6-5-1 in 1990.

"I appreciate Mark's work ethic and his value system regarding athletes," Yow said. "I know the schedule was rated the toughest in the nation last year, and that's really not a good combination with a rebuilding year."

Duffner said he has never looked at his third season as being more pivotal than the others, but he knows that coaches with .227 winning percentages don't last in Division I-A, and that it's time for the record to improve.

He said he doesn't want to knock his predecessor, Joe Krivak, but Duffner said he didn't necessarily find a higher caliber of athlete when he moved from Holy Cross to Maryland.

"We didn't see bigger, faster, stronger players than we had at Holy Cross," Duffner said. "At some positions, we still don't have the caliber of player we had there.

"I learned very quickly that recruiting is the answer. From a talent standpoint, we weren't able to hold up in this league. . . . Anyone who takes inventory of what the situation is, and was, knows what we had to do. The hardest part of this whole thing is trying to establish depth."

At the moment, Maryland is closer to the I-AA scholarship limit (63) than the I-A limit (85). Transfers, academic ineligibility or suspensions by Duffner -- in short, normal attrition -- have cut into the Terps' numbers.

With Larry Washington, Andrew Carter and Charles Cannon leaving the team last week, Maryland is down to 72 scholarship players. Washington's departure means that only four players from Krivak's last recruiting class, the one that entered in 1991, remain with the Terps.

"Obviously, I'm concerned because we inherited a program in which the numbers were down," Duffner said. "We'd like to keep everybody, but any time there's a new program there are going to be players coming and going."

According to Geiger, it has gotten easier for Maryland to recruit.

At the same time, Maryland basketball coaches complained that the university wouldn't admit Donyell Marshall, even though he was eligible to play as a freshman and did so at Connecticut. Krivak worked under higher admission standards than the Terps have now, Geiger said.

"There's a good relationship between Mark [Duffner] and the athletic department and the admissions office," Geiger said. "Without abandoning its own goals in regard to maintaining standards, the university has tried to help football."

Even if the Terps enjoy a supportive admissions office, a renovated stadium, a new football team building and a slightly easier schedule, it's all relative.

Maryland won six ACC championships and played in 10 bowl games from 1974 to 1985, but its base eroded along with the rest of the athletic program in the late 1980s. Duffner arrived at the same time Florida State came into the ACC. Maryland finished tied for seventh place in the league last year. It was eighth in the nine-team conference two years ago.

Duffner knows what it's like to direct a dynasty; Holy Cross went 60-5-1 under him from 1986 to 1991. That program was in the process of phasing out scholarships, but the Crusaders did more than just beat up on the nonscholarship teams from the Patriot and Ivy leagues. In those six years, the Crusaders lost only once to another I-AA school.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.