Bitter memories of leaving UM Return of ex-coach: Now a contented QB coach for Virginia, Joe Krivak recalls unhappy departure from Terps.

November 08, 1995|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,SUN STAFF

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. -- The Virginia football team had a bye two weeks ago, so quarterback coach Joe Krivak went recruiting. Hopping between high schools in Prince George's County, Krivak took a shortcut through College Park and stopped to admire the new upper decks at Byrd Stadium.

Those additions are among the many changes made to Maryland football since Krivak was forced out as head coach at the end of the 1991 season, and he wondered how his regime would have fared with a renovated stadium, a softer nonconference schedule and looser admissions standards.

"It's a whole different ball of wax," Krivak said. "I've said many times that our staff did an incredible job under very difficult circumstances. Everybody was saying 'Suck it up.' Well, I sucked it up, and when it came time for people to stand up and support me, they didn't do it."

It was the morning after the biggest victory in Virginia history, a 33-28 win over Florida State. Krivak thought ahead to Saturday, when the Cavaliers will play at Maryland and he will work the visitors' sideline at Byrd Stadium for the first time since 1969, when he broke into the college game as an assistant at Syracuse.

Krivak, 60, said he doesn't dwell on the past, but it was clear during an hourlong interview that he remains rankled by his exit from Maryland. He still won't utter the name of Andy Geiger, the athletic director who hastened his exit and brought in Mark Duffner to pick up the pieces.

Krivak resigned on Dec. 6, 1991, but he was forced out.

In 1990, Geiger, who left for Ohio State last year, gave Krivak a contract extension through 1994, but a year later the Terps dipped to 2-9, their worst record in two decades. Krivak had a five-year record of 20-34-2, and disgruntled players coming out of interviews with Geiger and repeating their gripes to the press.

Encouraged to fire some assistants, Krivak refused to make them scapegoats. Told to enlist the help of influential politicians, he passed.

"You want me to get involved with a politician so I can save my job?" Krivak said. "That has nothing to do with coaching and my responsibility to kids. I'm not a political animal."

Geiger could not be reached for comment for this article, but in the past he has admitted that admissions standards at Maryland loosened some after Krivak left. Geiger began to back off on the nonconference schedule, and successor Debbie Yow has taken the same approach.

Krivak had two stints as an assistant at Maryland. He still has a home in Bowie and many friends in the area, but he doesn't miss being a head coach.

"There are a lot of things about being a head coach that I enjoyed, but you spend a lot of time dealing with things that have nothing to do with football," Krivak said. "The administrative thing, the radio and TV things you have to do, the academic and other concerns of 85 players. You really don't have the close contact with kids that I've got now."

Krivak is comfortable at Virginia, where he has been reunited with George Welsh and the staff that created the best Navy teams of the post-Roger Staubach era. The coordinators, Rick Lantz and Tom O'Brien, worked for Welsh in Annapolis. So did three other assistants, and, from 1977-81, Krivak.

There are more reminders of Maryland than Navy or Virginia in his office. His desk faces a large caricature of a golf hacker. To the left are photos of his three sons, and to the right hang autographed mementos of the five Maryland quarterbacks he ushered to the NFL.

Krivak left Maryland after the 1976 season when the staff was reduced. He didn't want to uproot his family, so he went to work for Welsh in Annapolis. When Bobby Ross took over the Terps from Jerry Claiborne in 1982, he hired Krivak as his offensive coordinator, and Maryland became a hotbed for quarterbacks.

There was Boomer Esiason, Frank Reich, Stan Gelbaugh, Neil O'Donnell and Scott Zolak. Krivak had the similar plans for Scott Milanovich, one of three quarterbacks in his last recruiting class at Maryland. The other two left along with a dozen other players from that class, and Milanovich is the only Krivak recruit who starts for the Terps.

Krivak's current pupil is Mike Groh, a coach's son who in spring practice was declared the starter over Symmion Willis, who had set Virginia passing records in 1993.

"Good or bad, Coach Krivak is always on my side," Groh said. "He's meant a lot to the whole staff, given us a lot of insight into offensive football."

Krivak nearly went to work for the San Diego Chargers and Duke, but instead was paid settlement money by Maryland in 1992 and '93 and for part of 1994. He did clinics and consulting work, got his golf handicap down to 14, traveled with his wife, Jean, and caught up with former players.

There was exhilaration watching Esiason against O'Donnell in Bengals-Steelers games, and more private satisfaction a year ago when six players from his next-to-last recruiting class at Maryland took him and Jean to dinner.

"Without him, none of us would have been at Maryland," said Jamie Bragg, a Terps captain last year. "It was sad to see him go, because he got a raw deal. He would let you know where he stood on everything."

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