Coach Joe Krivak suggested yesterday that Maryland's football fortunes might get worse -- or remain about the same -- before they get better.

Krivak will lose 18 redshirt seniors off this season's team, which is 4-6 going into Saturday's finale against Vanderbilt.

That could bring the kind of pressure that apparently led to the firing of Ohio State Coach Earle Bruce, a move that Krivak said disturbed him. Asked if he had received any similar pressure, Krivak said, "No. Just the usual letters. Some alumni write that I should do the university a favor and quit.

"I don't know Earle Bruce . . . But I think it's reflective of some of the inequities in the intercollegiate athletics scene," Krivak said. "I read what the president of the university {Edward Jennings} said, about how they had to fire Earle Bruce because of outside pressure. When the president of the university, who is supposed to be running the show, can't make his own decision, it's a pretty sad commentary. Earle Bruce was 80-26-1, been to two Rose Bowls, just won the Cotton Bowl, and is 5-4-1 in a pretty tough conference . . . .

"Earle Bruce will survive . . . There's no question whether he can coach. He didn't win 80 games sucking his thumb. The guys I worry about are the nine assistants. I know one of them well, and his wife has been sick and in the hospital for a long time. Now he's got to deal with this because some alumni who contribute a lot of money forced the president to make a decision. I think that stinks. And I'm not saying that as a representative of the University of Maryland, just Joe Krivak, citizen."

Joe Krivak, football coach, has some concerns of his own.

"If you look at it realistically," said Krivak, "I think there will be a two-year period where we have to do some digging. We've lost 18 or 19 kids out of our program the last two years for a variety of reasons. That's almost a full recruiting class. So we'll have to do some digging. If people think times are tough now, we're going to have to suck it up for another year or two . . . .

"We've got some deficiencies and we have to try to rectify those deficiencies. At the beginning of the year, I said I thought we would have a problem at running back and in the secondary and those problems have manifested themselves. The offensive line was a case of an unusual number of injuries, and I have no answer for that. It's part of the game."

Krivak said the Terrapins have lost some players because of other causes, too.

"That is one reason," Krivak said of higher academic requirements in the last year or so. "The next most prevalent reason is that after a year or two, some kids look at themselves and say to themselves, 'I can't play in this program' or because they can't play soon enough."

Asked if Maryland might have more success recruiting this winter because it can offer high school seniors a better chance to play early, Krivak said, "A lot of kids want to play in a good program. Some want to play early. It depends on the individual. But I would much prefer to recruit from strength than to tell a kid he can play right away."

Fullback Dennis Spinelli (knee) is "very questionable," for Saturday, according to Krivak, so the Terrapins will go with Carl Morton and Richard Shure at fullback. Morton (seven carries, 31 yards this year) had a touchdown run on the last play of Saturday's loss to Clemson, but he only rejoined the team in midseason after being dismissed from school last winter because of bad grades. Shure, who was just named to his third ACC all-academic team, has no carries and no receptions this season.