The mood in College Park was not gloomy yesterday.
As Dick Dull, Maryland's athletic director, talked about the kind of football coach he will hire to succeed Jerry Claiborne -- one who loves to pass and uses a pro-type offense -- starting quarterback Boomer Esiason shook his fist, bit his lip and generally found it hard to restrain his joy.
The Claiborne era is over, Dull pronounced. Nobody in the trophy room of Cole Field House cried, least of all Esiason.
Although noting, "It's sad to see a guy leave a place where he's spent 10 years of his life," Esiason said he is excited about playing under an offensive-minded coach.
"It sounds like Mr. Dull's going to bring a guy in who likes to throw the football 40 or 50 times a game," Esiason said. "This is the greatest thing I've ever heard of. The receivers and I have already started thinking about passing and receiving records. Maybe for the new coach, I won't have to block, too."
Dull's said that his search for that new, pass-oriented coach will begin immediately. He said he hopes to fill the vacancy -- left by Claiborne's departure to Kentucky yesterday -- within one month.
"I am not predisposed," Dull said. "It's a wide-open search. I will begin to draft a list of names. I would welcome the application of any of the current assistants. And there are people on the outside I may be interested in -- people with professional experience, people who are head coaches at the college level, people who are assistants on the college level.
"We must look at football as entertainment. First, we want a winning program. But we also want wide-open football. Entertainment. The bills have to be paid," said Dull. "We have not had great success playing before packed houses here."
Youth would not be a major factor in his selection, Dull said, adding, "By the way, I'd be happy to take Bear Bryant if he were interested." The ability to deal with what Dull called "the sophisticated Washington- and Baltimore-area media" would be a factor, he said.
Dull declined to name any candidates for the vacated job, saying he needed to maintain secrecy to protect applicants.
"Mr. Dull knows what he's doing," said Esiason, who is already pushing for Jerry Eisaman, the Maryland quarterback coach, to be the next head coach. Eisaman said yesterday he would be interested in the job.
Several Maryland players, while appearing upbeat and optimistic about performing under a new coach next season, said they were perturbed with the way Claiborne handled his departure.
Eric Wilson, a freshman defensive lineman, said, "It is upsetting to me that the team had to find out about his leaving by reading the newspapers or watching television. We still haven't been told about this as a team. Coach Claiborne always preached how to be first class. But the way he went about this was not first class at all."
Claiborne issued a prepared thank-you statement to the team and to a number of current and former university officials yesterday.
"I hope he can live with his decision. One thing he sold me on in recruiting me was not having to worry about any coaching changes," said Wilson. "He contradicted all of that. It leaves a sour taste in the mouths of the freshmen . . .
"But let me put it all into perspective by saying that I don't blame him for going to Kentucky. The money opportunities sound good, and he's returning home to Kentucky, where his family is and where he met his wife. We have an adjustment to make right now, but I'm not going to panic. This football program is going to be all right."
With Claiborne's departure, the most notable change in Maryland's football philosophy likely will be the disappearance of the wide-tackle-six defensive alignment. It was exploited by opposing passing attacks frequently in 1981, in large part due to a slow secondary.
When asked if he would like to offer an assessment of Claiborne's defense, Esiason said: "Now that he's gone, I can say it. I would love to throw against the wide-tackle-six. I would just love it to death."