COLLEGE PARK -- Scott Milanovich might not have received all of the assurances he wanted from Maryland football coach Mark Duffner, but he decided that returning to the Terps was a better option than entering the NFL's supplemental draft tomorrow.
Milanovich, a record-setting senior quarterback who received a four-game suspension for violating the NCAA rule against gambling on intercollegiate athletics, announced last night that he will play for Maryland this season.
The decision, which Milanovich said was "without a doubt, the hardest of my life," came after two lengthy meetings yesterday afternoon with Duffner.
According to a source close to Milanovich, the player, who already has been invited to the East-West Shrine all-star game, wants Duffner to push him for the more prestigious Senior Bowl. He also sought assurance that he would be made the starter when his eligibility is restored.
Asked if Milanovich would start when he makes his season debut in a Sept. 28 ESPN game at Georgia Tech, Duffner said: "We've talked about his situation. For every player, performance is the key."
The source said Milanovich was told that he would start against Georgia Tech, but that Duffner made no assurances after that.
Milanovich had considered leaving Maryland after the 1994 season, but wasn't encouraged by the NFL advisory committee for players with remaining eligibility, which told him he would be a late-round choice had he entered last April's draft.
The gambling suspension didn't help his stock. Milanovich, who tentatively had scheduled a workout for NFL scouts at Redskin Park this morning in case he had decided to turn pro, said he also was aware that, in past supplemental drafts, as many as 17 applicants have been passed over by NFL teams.
Milanovich will report to camp with the other Maryland veterans Aug. 10, and when practice begins two days later, he'll get some work with the first-team offense and help school redshirt sophomore Brian Cummings, who will be the team's only experienced quarterback for the first four games. The other quarterbacks are converted cornerback Orlando Strozier and two freshmen.
Milanovich, a preseason All-American, said he regretted the negative publicity he brought on Maryland.
"The past six months have basically been a nightmare for me," said Milanovich, who read from a prepared statement but took no questions at a news conference. "I made a terrible mistake.
"The one thing that made me a successful player was that I made a habit of making good decisions on the field. It's turned out, recently, I made a bad decision off it. It's something I wish I could take back. It's given people the opportunity to question my level of integrity. That may be what's most disappointing of all."
Milanovich, Maryland's all-time leader in completions (525), touchdown passes (47) and completion percentage (.661), was handed a two-game suspension by Maryland at the end of a three-month investigation into gambling among athletes. The NCAA eligibility appeals staff extended that suspension to eight games, but the NCAA eligibility committee reduced it to four games Monday.
"When I found out I was suspended for eight games, I was really baffled," Milanovich said. "I couldn't believe it. Last night [Tuesday], when I found out it was cut in half, I felt happier, but I still don't believe in my heart that the sanction is fair."
Milanovich thanked the administration and coaches at Maryland, and said: "They helped get me in a position where, at the very least, I had an opportunity to make a decision about my future, one I didn't have a week and a half ago. I'd like to apologize to those people. I put them in a very compromising position the last two weeks."
Milanovich had a third option, using the courts in an attempt to be eligible for the season opener, but his father and an attorney retained by the player said that was never a serious consideration.
Meanwhile, Carrie Doyle, the NCAA director of eligibility, said that there was confusion when the eligibility appeals staff extended Milanovich's suspension to eight games.
Doyle said her office originally thought it had received Maryland's report after it had received a directive from the eligibility committee to be more stringent in penalizing severe violators of fundamental NCAA rules. The NCAA, however, received Maryland's report June 16, before the eligibility committee issued its directive.