Maryland's Jerry Claiborne was told Friday by the University of Kentucky's primary radio network that he could earn as much as $75,000 above his coaching salary next year if he leaves College Park to become the Wildcats' football coach, sources said yesterday.

Officials of the Kentucky Network, which has the rights to the football broadcasts of the Southeastern Conference school, reportedly were encouraged by the University of Kentucky athletic department to call Claiborne and begin what a source called preliminary discussions.

But there were no indications from Kentucky or Maryland officials yesterday that Claiborne is about to be offered the job of replacing Fran Curci, fired last month. Cliff Hagan, Kentucky's athletic director, said the screening committee was still working and had not taken a poll to determine a leading candidate.

A source close to the university administration and its boosters said he had heard that Claiborne, 53, was not a clear-cut choice among members of the selection committee. Hagan maintained last night that Claiborne is "a popular candidate. He's a forerunner, among two or three (candidates)."

Meanwhile, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported last night that Navy Coach George Welsh has accepted an offer to become the University of Virginia's football coach. Welsh could not be reached for comment last night, although he reportedly met with Navy Athletic Director Bo Coppedge and the athletic board after being interviewed at Virginia last week.

Dick Bestwick, Virginia's athletic director, called the report "speculative," but confirmed the school had reached agreement with a coach, whom he said was its top choice. He said an announcement should come Wednesday, enabling the coach to speak with his players.

A source at Virginia said the finalists were Welsh, Carmen Cozza of Yale and Herb Deromedi of Central Michigan.

A source said the Kentucky Network official told Claiborne he could make $65,000-$75,000 for three radio broadcasts per week -- pregame and postgame shows and a one-hour midweek call-in program. Although the Kentucky Network has the rights to Wildcat games, it must negotiate against rival stations for the coach's shows.

It also was learned that Claiborne was told he could earn another $55,000-$65,000 for a once-a-week coach's TV show. Sources said most of the candidates for the coaching job had talked to two Lexington television stations about the coach's show.

But sources in Kentucky said Claiborne was the only candidate who was contacted by the radio network, which has more than 100 outlets, primarily in Kentucky, but also in Tennessee, West Virginia, Ohio, Florida and Indiana.

Tom Stevens, general manager of the Kentucky Network, was quoted by the Lexington Leader yesterday as saying, "We haven't talked to anybody else. We told Cliff Hagan all along we weren't going to barge in without the university's go-ahead."

Sources close to the athletic department told The Washington Post that the radio network's officials had told Hagan that he could inform any of the candidates that the network would be interested in talking to them. Friday, Hagan reportedly called the network office and suggested that its officials call Claiborne, who had returned to College Park following a Thursday interview with the selection committee.

Jim Chafin, the president of the Kentucky Network's parent company, reportedly called Claiborne and told him how much the radio shows would enhance his salary package if he got the job. Claiborne reportedly would make between $45,000 and $50,000 for coaching at Kentucky.

Attempts to reach Chafin last night were unsuccessful. Claiborne's salary package at Maryland is believed to be about $100,000.

Claiborne, who just completed his 10th season as head coach at Maryland, was said by his office to be on a recruiting trip yesterday and unavailable for comment.

Claiborne, a Hopkinsville, Ky., native and Kentucky alumnus, said Sunday that he would consider taking the job if it were offered. Claiborne appeared to become the leading candidate when Howard Schnellenberger decided last week to stay at the University of Miami.