Terps search for Duffner's replacement Notre Dame assistant has held interview with a UM official; Irish, Purdue also like Davie; Miami's Davis scoffs at idea he's candidate


COLLEGE PARK -- Maryland's football game against Florida State tomorrow will apparently be Mark Duffner's last as the Terrapins' coach.

Athletic director Debbie Yow previously had declined to comment on Duffner's future, but yesterday she did not deny that a representative of Maryland has interviewed Notre Dame defensive coordinator Bob Davie as a possible replacement.

"I've received several inquiries in the last month about whether the position would be available," Yow said. "I've responded to the inquiries. I told Mark [Duffner] I would respond to them. It would not be professional to not respond. I suppose those people are waiting to see what happens."

Yow said she will meet with Duffner early next week to discuss his contract, which is guaranteed through next year. Maryland has won three of its past four games, but an earlier four-game losing streak led to speculation that Duffner would be fired and the final year of his contract bought out.

"There have been a lot of rumors the last couple of weeks, and they don't matter much to me," Duffner said. "All I'm concerned about is winning this game on Saturday."

An upset of No. 3 Florida State at Pro Player Stadium near Miami might save Duffner's job, but the Terps are 34-point underdogs. A loss would leave them 5-6. Duffner is 20-34 overall and has had four losing seasons.

If Maryland intends to replace Duffner, it must move quickly. There are at least a dozen other vacancies in Division I-A, with more to come, and the jockeying for candidates will be intense.

Yesterday, Northwestern's Gary Barnett told Notre Dame he wasn't interested in replacing Lou Holtz, which increased Davie's chances to coach the Fighting Irish. When Holtz underwent neck surgery in September 1995, Davie served as acting head coach in a 41-0 win over Vanderbilt.

Davie, who could not be reached for comment, is also a front-runner for the Purdue vacancy.

Maryland boosters have also mentioned East Carolina's Steve Logan, Kansas' Glen Mason, Miami's Butch Davis and San Diego Chargers offensive coordinator Ralph Friedgen as possible candidates if Duffner is fired.

Asked yesterday if he was interested in Maryland, Davis, who reportedly would leave Miami only for a head coaching position in the NFL, said, "I haven't heard that one. That's almost laughable."

East Carolina's independent status often places Logan's name in the rumor mill. Mason is mentioned because one of Yow's assistants, R. D. Helt, was his recruiting coordinator at Kansas. Friedgen, who apparently is not high on Maryland's list, played for the Terps in 1967-68, and followed former Terps coach Bobby Ross from Maryland to Georgia Tech to the Chargers.

Duffner is coming off of one of his most meaningful wins, a 13-10 upset of Georgia Tech on ESPN eight days ago. Since that game, there has been an outpouring of support for Duffner, including an abnormally high volume of mail to the athletic department.

His supporters say that Duffner shouldn't be judged harshly for a season in which his quarterback, left guard and top running back were sidelined by injuries. Maryland's offensive woes date to last season, however, and Yow apparently will judge Duffner on his full five years at Maryland.

The Terps had two wins in the Atlantic Coast Conference in 1992, Duffner's first year. They're 3-4 in the ACC this year, the sore spot being a 34-8 loss to N.C. State at Byrd Stadium that quarterback Brian Cummings missed with a shoulder separation.

A loss tomorrow would make him 0-18 against ranked teams. Duffner is graduating 12 senior starters and a kicker. This would be the sixth straight year that Maryland has to recruit without the benefit of a bowl -- the longest such drought in the ACC.

On the plus side, Maryland has won 11 games over the past two seasons, its best two-year stretch since 1984-85, albeit with a weakened non-conference schedule. The seniors are disappointed that they never got to a bowl game, but players have graduated at rates well above the NCAA average, and his players say that Duffner runs a clean program.

"To say, 'He struggled on the field; let's dismiss him,' I don't think that would be an accurate assessment of what Coach Duffner has done here," senior safety Andre Hentz said. "At this level, it's a business, but those in position to make decisions need to consider that Coach Duffner has integrity, and so does this program."

Duffner has been blamed for a drop in ticket sales this year, but with Clemson, North Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia coming to Byrd Stadium in 1997, attendance is likely to bounce back.

Pub Date: 11/22/96

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