The University of Maryland has decided to expedite its search for a new athletic director and hopes to have Lew Perkins's replacement chosen by Sept. 15, sources said yesterday.

As a result of this decision, the sources said, it is now likely that an interim director could be named from within the department. But the sources said university president William E. Kirwan had not begun discussing names of possible interim replacements for Perkins, who resigned Monday to accept a similar job at the University of Connecticut.

The senior administrators in the athletic department are acting associate director Sue Tyler, the women's lacrosse coach who was named to the position when Kevin Weiberg resigned last year to become associate commissioner of the Big Ten Conference, and associate director Gerald Gurney, who oversees the academic support unit and is the university's compliance officer.

Kirwan is expected to name the search committee by the end of this week or early next week, wants it to aggressively pursue candidates identified as strong possibilities and is hopeful of wrapping up the process in six to nine weeks, sources said.

Kirwan was not available for comment.

"This decision changes the parameters for an interim director, because under the alternative we wouldn't be wrapped up until spring," said one source. "He wants to get this thing all wrapped up in September.

"You have to identify who you want to go after. It's got to be a top {leadership} guy or a leader in the athletic community . . . {Kirwan} can't afford to make a mistake."

Administration sources believe that Kirwan seriously will consider Len Elmore, even though he has no experience as an athletic administrator.

Elmore, a 1974 Maryland graduate who played 10 years in the NBA before going to Harvard Law School and becoming an assistant district attorney in Brooklyn, N.Y., said Tuesday he is interested in the job. He recently resigned his prosecutor's position and works as a sportscaster for CBS.

One administration source said, "You look for people who are bright, talented and articulate. Those people can acquire the skills of the job. When the President of the United States appoints a housing secretary, for instance, the person doesn't have to have experience in that field. He wants someone who is a leader and is articulate. That's a good lesson for higher education to learn.

"I think Len Elmore would be a good candidate."

Other names mentioned in recent days include Charles Harris, athletic director at Arizona State and formerly at Penn, and Tom O'Connor, athletic director the past five years at Santa Clara and 10 years prior to that at Loyola of Baltimore.

Harris is out of the country this week; O'Connor, who was approached by the search committee that recommended Perkins three years ago, said Tuesday, "The job intrigues me this time" and said he would like to discuss it with Maryland officials.

According to sources, Kirwan has asked Perkins, who was scheduled to begin work at Connecticut in mid-August, to stay on until the end of the month if needed. If that happens, an interim director might have to oversee operations for only a couple of weeks.

Gurney said yesterday that although being an athletic director "has never been a professional goal of mine, in the interim, if Dr. Kirwan feels the need to have {an interim athletic director} and he wishes for me to fulfill that capacity, I would respond to that."

Tyler's name has been mentioned as a possibility for both the interim and full-time positions. Earlier this week, she said that while she would be willing to take the interim job, she did not believe she was ready to take it full time.

"I've done things like run budgets as a coach but {being the athletic director} is dramatically different," Tyler said. "I think people at most universities still identify with the image of a football or basketball type as their athletic director.

"I also think that we may need a stronger, more prominent national figure for things like alumni support and capital campaigning -- I'm not sure a woman would draw that support."

After a year filled with monetary crises, one issue the incoming athletic director may not have to deal with immediately is money. The work on the 1990 fiscal year is coming to a close and the 1991 budget -- which has been under study since February -- is almost complete. In addition, Maryland has formulated a 10-year plan designed to get the program -- currently operating at a $3.7 million deficit -- back into the black.