The expected resignation of University of Maryland Athletic Director Lew Perkins, who sources say will be named to a similar job at the University of Connecticut as early as Monday, will give him an escape from a turmoil-ridden program that has drained his energies and eroded his support on campus and around the state.

Yesterday Perkins was in Connecticut, where he apparently was completing contract negotiations before formally resigning from College Park. He could not be reached for comment, and a Connecticut spokesman said no news conference has been scheduled.

William E. Kirwan, president of the College Park campus, said that Perkins had told him Tuesday he would be visiting Connecticut this weekend, but that he has not resigned. The other two finalists, athletic directors Jack Kvancz of George Mason and Kevin White of Maine, withdrew from consideration Friday.

The Hartford Courant, in its Saturday editions, reported that Perkins would be named Monday and quoted interim UConn president and search committee chairman Harry Hartley as saying details have "not been finalized."

If he resigns, Perkins will leave behind an athletic program that has not fully recovered from the aftershock of the 1986 death of basketball star Len Bias by a cocaine overdose.

Perkins was hired in the spring of 1987 by the university's Board of Regents, who hoped he could cleanse the Maryland program as he had Wichita State's as that school's athletic director.

Instead, his troubles started the first day on the job, when he walked into a dispute between basketball coach Bob Wade and Phil Nevin, a reserve center who claimed the coach was trying to take away his scholarship. Wade and Perkins never had a close working relationship, and when the NCAA began investigating Wade's program, the coach's allies accused Perkins of not being supportive. When Wade was forced to resign in May 1989, his supporters unsuccessfully sought Perkins's removal as well.

The NCAA investigation resulted in a three-year probation, with a two-year ban from the NCAA tournament and no live television this season, which Maryland is appealing. Also, the NCAA Committee on Infractions will decide next month whether allegations that first-year coach Gary Williams and his staff conducted practices before the Oct. 15 starting date are true and, if so, whether they will be treated as major or secondary violations.

At the time of Wade's resignation, Kirwan gave Perkins a strong endorsement, but the athletic director's support among senior administrators began what one source called "a continual erosion" early this year: "Everybody works hard many hours a day, and you get hit by wave after wave after wave" of athletic problems.

Twice in recent months, Kirwan rejected key proposals from Perkins. The first involved increasing the number of admissions of at-risk athletes. Sources said Perkins wanted several more exceptions for football. Kirwan passed the proposal to the Athletic Council, which recommended rejecting it. Perkins also wanted to indefinitely suspend four non-revenue sports to help solve the budget crunch. That was rejected, and a plan approved that keeps all 23 sports, but eliminates scholarships in eight.

Kirwan decribed reports he suggested Perkins find another job as "just that, rumors."

Perkins also has lost support in recent months among important alumni and state political leaders.

State Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, one of Perkins's early supporters, said yesterday he hadn't talked with him in about six months. He said he had grown frustrated by Perkins's inability to stave off budget problems, defections of key players, and severe sanctions by the NCAA.

"Everybody who watched him come in wanted him to succeed . . . but he's been a purveyor of nothing but bad news for the past year," Miller said. "Now we have sunk as low as any athletic program can sink. It is time to look for another captain."

In 1988 Miller was chief sponsor of a bill in the General Assembly that gave the athletic program state funds to renovate facilities.

But he said he has been so upset with the athletic program that, for the first time, he has not yet sent in a check to renew his season football and basketball tickets. Miller also said, "I know a number of alumni who are really unhappy with him."

"Maryland has to return, and it does not look like Perkins is the man to bring it up. . . . Maryland needs someone with determination, someone with vision, someone -- most of all -- with enthusiasm, a cheerleader. Lew has been besieged by so many problems. It is very hard to put on a happy face when you are faced with so much adversity."

Perkins recently has seemed to want to get out.

Charles F. Sturtz, vice president for administrative affairs, said Perkins had told him in several conversations during the last few months that he felt beleaguered by the problems. "I know his feeling has been that life was tough. . . . I would guess it is the accumulated effect of things that would cause him to look positively at other opportunities."

A source said Perkins began falling into disfavor with the Athletic Council, an advisory group to Kirwan, in the last several months because he did not attend several meetings at which key issues were discussed, "and there are a lot of powerful policy-makers on the council," the source said.

At Connecticut, where he reportedly was the preferred candidate when its athletic directorship became vacant in 1987, Perkins would inherit a program that made big strides in three years under Todd Turner, who got the job when Perkins opted for Maryland. Turner, who went on to North Carolina State, leaves a program in the black with its basketball team favored to repeat as Big East champion.

"It's a win-win situation for everybody involved," said a Division I athletic director familiar with the circumstances. "From {Perkins's} point of view and {Maryland's} point of view, they avoid a sticky situation. Lew avoids the football situation this year {of deciding whether to renew Coach Joe Krivak's contract}. The university faces a situation in two years of what to do with Lew" when his current contract expires.

At Connecticut Perkins also would be reunited with basketball coach Jim Calhoun, a close friend since their youth, and try to show he can succeed as he had earlier at South Carolina-Aiken, Penn and Wichita State.

Kirwan declined to discuss possible replacements for Perkins, saying, "He has not resigned, so it would be premature." If Maryland replaces from within, acting associate athletic director Sue Tyler's name is prominently mentioned. She has been a successful lacrosse coach who is said to emphasize the importance of academics.

Sturtz served as interim athletic director in 1986 and '87, following the resignation of Perkins's predecessor, Dick Dull, four months after Bias's death. But Sturtz said that he did not want to step in again and that Kirwan had agreed not to assign him the task. "That was an emergency kind of situation. We are clearly not in that circumstance."