Andy Geiger took the high road with Joe Krivak last year, and now he's reluctant to exit. Morally, he's right. Ethically, he's right. Realistically, his problem won't go away.
If Krivak remains football coach at Maryland, he's almost certain to face renewed questions about his job security next season. As any baseball manager can attest, once these things get rolling, they're hard to stop.
Geiger, the Maryland athletic director, was praised for giving Krivak a four-year contract a year ago, but now the Terrapins are 2-8, and a grisly 2-8 at that. In many ways, Joe must go. But it's not that simple.
So here's Geiger, his program a mess, saying he's "95 percent" certain Krivak will stay. Frankly, he doesn't have much choice, not with Krivak fulfilling his overall mission, not with a contract guaranteeing him nearly $300,000 over the next three years.
But how long can this go on?
Geiger plans to start reviewing the entire program Monday, and plain speaker that he is, he dismisses the notion of "blind loyalty." In fact, he admits it's "not unfair" to question his decision to extend Krivak four years.
"That's what he wanted so he could go out and recruit, sit in the living room and assure prospects and their moms and dads that, 'I'm Joe Krivak. I'm a person of integrity. I have values. They've given me time to build this thing, and I'm going to be there,' " Geiger said Tuesday.
"If I had known then what I know now, maybe all of us would be thinking about something different," Geiger said. "But that's impossible. You have to go with the evidence at hand."
A year ago, the evidence at hand was Maryland's first winning record and bowl appearance since 1985, the promise of new facilities and the belief that a coach with long-term security would boost recruiting.
A year later, the situation is as unsettled as ever. Geiger's honesty is refreshing, but rival schools no doubt will advise recruits hat Krivak is on shaky ground -- exactly the opposite of the original plan.
Naturally, Geiger would prefer to be more supportive, but Maryland has lost its three most recent games by a combined score of 111-14. The season mercifully ends Saturday at No. 22 North Carolina State. Another rout seems likely.
Yes, the young players might develop. Yes, the injured players will return. But the first six opponents next year are Virginia, N.C. State, West Virginia, Penn State, Pittsburgh and Georgia Tech. An 0-6 record is possible; 3-3 would be a miracle.
Krivak, 56, is 20-32-2 at Maryland, with only one winning season in five. The level-headed alumni types at the Terrapin Club already are howling for his dismissal. Even some Maryland players are saying it's time for a change.
"It's a tough business, but I've been in it a long time," Krivak said. "I think I can handle that stuff. It's ups and downs. It's part of the game. If you treat it any other way, you drive youself crazy."
Coaches, of course, occasionally reverse such sentiment, but not often. For that reason, Geiger probably wants to fire Krivak now. It's not that he's afraid to admit his mistake. It's just the wrong climate to make a move.
First, dismissing Krivak would be a cynical admission that his only job is to win. Maryland is the state's flagship institution at a time when education is a national concern. Krivak consistently draws high marks for keeping his priorities straight, no small matter in the post-Bias era.
Second, Geiger can hardly justify paying off three years of a contract as the university increases tuition and state workers lose their jobs -- and as the self-supporting athletic department faces a $4.75 million deficit as it upgrades facilities.
Thus, Geiger is stuck, with no relief in sight. It would help if he could schedule a couple of easy wins, but that too is easier said than done. Next season Maryland begins an eight-game conference schedule that includes Florida State, leaving only three open dates.
No one wants to drop a non-conference rival like West Virginia or Penn State. And no one wants to risk playing a I-AA patsy, for the NCAA now requires bowl teams to post six I-A wins. North Carolina is one short entering its finale with Duke Saturday. So much for beating William & Mary.
Geiger wants to increase the home schedule from four games to five. He insists Maryland won't play on the road for money after getting "crushed" at Michigan last year. But he concluded, "I don't think you can look at the schedule necessarily to make the coaching job at Maryland an easier job."
An overmatched coach. A long-term contract. A brutal schedule. It's a fine mess Maryland is in, and it's not likely to improve anytime soon. Joe must go, Joe will go. One way or another, these things always turn out the same.