Lew Perkins, escaping a stormy, controversial three-year tenure at the University of Maryland, will be named athletic director at the University of Connecticut this morning, a day after signing a five-year agreement. The school called a news conference for 10 a.m.

Officials at the Big East Conference school gave its 23-member search committee a sneak preview of its new athletic director at a small reception on campus yesterday in Storrs, Conn., after Perkins and university officials completed the paperwork, a source said. Sources said his annual income will be in the $125,000-$140,000 range, similar to his deal at Maryland, which had two years to go.

Perkins apparently was in the process of trying to reach William E. Kirwan, president of the College Park campus, to resign. But Kirwan, who spent the weekend at his mother's house in Kentucky, had not heard from Perkins by last night. "He knows I'm visiting my mother who's ill, and maybe he doesn't want to bother me," Kirwan said. He plans to be back in his office this morning.

It also was unclear who would replace Perkins at College Park. A source close to Kirwan said the campus president wants to get an interim director in place "quickly but deliberately" before naming a search committee to recommend a permanent replacement.

Kirwan said he would not talk about the situation surrounding Perkins's departure until it is official, or about the replacement process.

He also said that Maryland did not make a counteroffer to Perkins, whose support among campus administrators has undergone "a continual erosion" in recent months, a source said.

Maryland is on three years probation and two years of sanctions for NCAA infractions that occurred mainly during the regime of former basketball coach Bob Wade, whom Perkins did not hire, and faces a multimillion dollar deficit.

Perkins, 45, is expected to assume his duties at Connecticut on Aug. 15, but it was unclear how much longer he would serve at College Park. A source close to him said he most likely would take a vacation before reporting to Storrs. Perkins did not return messages left at his hotel room in Hartford.

As far as replacements are concerned, the source close to Kirwan said former quarterback and Board of Regents member Jack Scarbath would be one of 12-15 persons on a list to be considered by the president as an interim replacement. Another interim possibility is Jim Kehoe, 72, a two-time former Maryland athletic director who one source said "has made more comebacks than Sugar Ray Leonard."

But Scarbath, a successful businessman expected to be supported by Maryland alumni, said he is not interested in the job, as he was in 1987, when he made the cut to eight finalists.

"I've opened two new warehouses, and I have a great deal of money and people invested in them," he said from his Rising Sun home. "At this juncture, it's not in my best interests or theirs to let down these people."

Kehoe, who has served twice as athletic director and once as a consultant at College Park, said: "I'd be receptive to a call . . . I've competed at Maryland. I've graduated from Maryland. I've worked 50 years at Maryland. My wife and four children graduated from Maryland. I never wanted to work anywhere else than Maryland. I'm all Maryland. If there is any way, shape or form I could lend a helping hand, I'd do it."

But he also said he had no idea what current Maryland administrators have in mind.

From talking to several sources, there seems to be a consensus that no one currently working in the athletic department has enough experience for the job. Kirwan's list, the source said, likely will include other campus administrators, but not Charles F. Sturtz, vice president for administrative affairs who served when Dick Dull resigned in October 1986 until Perkins took office.

Perkins was Connecticut's top choice three years ago to replace John Toner, who retired. But Perkins chose Maryland. Now he replaces Todd Turner, who became athletic director at North Carolina State on July 1.

Perkins called several friends in the Washington area to tell them he would leave College Park. Tom Fields, longtime athletic fund-raiser who officially retired from Maryland June 30, was one of them.

"He wanted me to know he was talking to them, {the offer} looked good, they have a new facility, they're operating in the black and they made him a real good deal," Fields said.

Another friend, who requested anonymity, said Perkins had lost his enthusiasm at College Park. "If you're not enthusiastic or excited, it's hard, even if you're good, which he is."