COLLEGE PARK -- University of Maryland football coach Joe Krivak, criticized by alumni and supporters of the team for most of his five years as head coach, resigned yesterday, saying pressure from a recent evaluation of the program has eroded his credibility as a coach.
Krivak, 56, met with his assistant coaches and players before attending a one-hour news conference at which he announced his decision.
Krivak, dressed in a dark blue suit, tried to remain upbeat during the session that lasted more than an hour, but it was evident that some of the recent criticism, especially from players, still stung.
Some said Krivak wasn't a motivator, and veteran players said the younger ones wanted him replaced.
"What has transpired in the last three or four weeks -- whether it was done inadvertently or whatever the case may be -- it got to a point where it eroded my credibility as a football coach. I think the search could have been handled better," Krivak said. "You'd have to be foolish to say it doesn't hurt. That hurts more than anything.
"I felt that what has transpired, and what has been in the press and the kind of year we went through, that if this happened again for another year, I couldn't put up with it," Krivak said. "I just think it's time for me to step back and just do something else."
Krivak compiled a 20-34-2 record at Maryland and recently completed the first year of a four-year contract worth $94,000 per season.
Maryland athletic director Andy Geiger said arrangements for the final three years of Krivak's contract were not finished, and did not rule out the possibility of Krivak returning in some capacity to the university.
Krivak's nine assistants will continue to work through June 30 and can interview for coaching jobs at Maryland once the new coach has been named, according to Geiger.
Geiger also apologized for the way the evaluation was conducted. He said he had made no decision on whether Krivak would be retained or fired during the process.
A week before the evaluation Geiger said he was 95 percent certain Krivak would be retained for the 1992 season.
"I no longer deal in percentage statements," said Geiger. "I was asked by the media several times as the season went along, what the status was concerning our coach. I had three options. Say everything was fine and go about reviewing the program under those circumstances. I could say no comment, or I said what I said [the evaluation]. The result has been anguish for Joe Krivak and his family, and I regret that very much."
Geiger said he would form an interview committee to conduct an open search for a replacement for Krivak. He said he had no timetable or preferred candidates.
"Just the best coach we can find," said Geiger. "We have procedures to follow, procedures that must be approved. We will go forward as quickly as we can. It is important that we do it correctly and that doesn't necessarily mean fast. I think our location, conference and facilities are just a few positives we have to offer."
Geiger would prefer hiring someone with academic standards similar to those at Maryland. Candidates for the job are Holy Cross' Mark Duffner, Stanford's Dennis Green, East Carolina's Bill Lewis, Villanova's Andy Talley and William & Mary's Jimmye Laycock.
"Academics should not be used as a barrier for wins and losses," said Geiger.
Maryland's stringent admission and academic policies, along with its schedule, were the two basic reasons Krivak said the team struggled during his five years. Krivak, an assistant at Maryland for eight years, became the head coach Dec. 10, 1986, replacing Bobby Ross.
Ross left when the athletic department was in turmoil after the death of basketball player Len Bias, which eventually caused the stiffer admission policies and reduced the number of special admissions.
Krivak was hired to restore order and respectability in the football program. Asked if he felt underappreciated, Krivak nodded his head slowly in agreement.
"I think I accomplished the things that were expected of me except win a few more games," said Krivak. "I worked within the standards of the university and I thought our graduation rate was above normal on the national level. With the exception of one incident, our players stayed out of trouble. But putting them in the 'W' column is the most important, I guess. I have no animosity toward the university.
"There are a lot of assistant coaches that labor their entire life and never get a crack. I got a crack," he said. "I did the best that I could. But if I ever get a chance to be a head coach again, I'd make sure I'd go to a place where I had a great chance of winning."
Krivak had only one winning season at Maryland, last year when the Terps finished 6-5-1 and tied Louisiana Tech, 34-34, in the Poulan/Weed Eater Independence Bowl. Krivak signed a four-year contract after the regular season, Maryland's first winning season and bowl appearance since 1985.
The program seemed on the move with the bowl appearance and renovations to Byrd Stadium.
But Maryland finished 2-9 this season, its worst since 1971. The Terps lost four starters before the midway point with injuries and had three more defensive starters declared academically ineligible before the ninth game against Penn State.
Krivak, though, came under intense criticism after the eighth week of the season, when the Terps lost to North Carolina, 24-0, followed by losses to Penn State, Clemson and North Carolina State.
Krivak met with some of his critics yesterday, the players, who gave him a standing ovation after his final speech.
"We're all a bit sad," said Maryland senior center Mitch Suplee. "Coach Krivak was one of the nicest men in the world, dedicated and honest. The players just feel we needed a change. It was kind of an emotional farewell, but I think Coach Krivak was relieved. He wished us luck and told us he was going to get on with the rest of his life."
Krivak said he won't make any plans until after the holidays, including the possibility of returning to coaching.
"I'm not going to roll up my sleeves, sit in a rocking chair and pull a blanket over my lap," said Krivak, smiling.
Year, team .. ..W .L T
1987 Maryland ..4 .7 0
1988 Maryland ..5 .6 0
1989 Maryland ..3 .7 1
1990 Maryland ..6 .5 1
1991 Maryland ..2 .9 0
Totals .. .. ..20 34 2