The search committee seeking an athletic director for the University of Maryland has selected at least five finalists and will begin interviewing them next week, sources said yesterday.

The finalists include four current athletic directors -- Cory Johnson of Long Beach State, Dave Hart Jr. of East Carolina, Charles Harris of Arizona State and Oval Jaynes of Colorado State -- plus Maryland alumnus and Harvard Law School graduate Len Elmore, a lawyer and CBS Sports commentator.

The interviews could begin as early as Tuesday and the university hopes to name the successor to Lew Perkins within three weeks after that.

William E. Thomas, vice president for student affairs and chairman of the search committee, was unavailable to comment yesterday. He has said his committee would recommend three names to campus president William E. Kirwan, who will make the final decision.

Elmore, reached at his home in New York City, said he had not applied for the job, had not been informed by Maryland officials that he was a finalist and had not decided if he would take the job if it were offered.

"I'm flattered" to be on the list of finalists, he said, adding he was undecided about a possible response because of personal reasons that include his law career and his family.

"A lot of things are involved, being a father and partner in a family," he said. "Moving to Washington would interfere with my wife's job {at a major New York bank}. After living here five or six years, where does that leave me from a career standpoint? . . . There are alternative roles in helping the university."

He said that his comments when Perkins, who had been embroiled in controversy during his three years at College Park, resigned to become athletic director at the University of Connecticut were misinterpreted and that at that point he only wanted to discuss the job with university officials.

"I accomplished what I originally started -- to find out more about the job and talking about it," he said. "I'm interested in talking with them again."

Sources said his inexperience as an athletic administrator may be a negative he cannot overcome, especially in the aftermath of the disastrous career of former basketball coach Bob Wade, who was hired by former president John B. Slaughter despite no experience as a college coach. The source said such a hiring might be too risky a gamble for Maryland.

Elmore disagreed.

"It's a gamble not as risky when things have gone as far downward as you can go," he said. "The College Football Association said 65 percent of its schools are losing money. . . . There's a new {reform} direction in college sports. Experience will bring in people wedded to old ways. . . . You don't have to have experience as an AD to be an athletic director. You need to be a manager."

The university is expecting a $6 million deficit at the end of this fiscal year, partly due to a $2.7 million shortfall in expected revenues because of NCAA sanctions against the basketball program for violations that occurred mainly during Wade's tenure. To help ease the crunch, the university this spring decided to operate eight of its 23 varsity sports without athletic scholarships. Five other sports are limited to a total of $125,000.

A source said Thomas was pleased by the credentials of the four current athletic director finalists and the belief all four are strongly interested in the job. Another source said the search committee especially has been impressed by the credentials of Johnson, who has rebuilt the Long Beach State program from ruins in three years.

"When he took over, that athletic department was in chaos," said Joe Harrington, the University of Colorado's new basketball coach who was one of Johnson's first hires at Long Beach State. "The boosters had all pulled out because they wanted the president {Steven Horn} out of there. They had threatened to drop football and basketball was losing."

Johnson, 40, is starting his fourth year at Long Beach. Before that he served four years at Miami, one as Howard Schnellenberger's administrative assistant and three as an assistant athletic director.

Hart, 41, son of the former Missouri athletic director and currently commissioner of the Southern Conference, was the only one of the four athletic directors to return a phone call yesterday. He said he did not feel that he should be considered a serious candidate at this stage because he has had not met with any one committeeman personally. He said he got a phone call three weeks ago telling him he had been nominated for the job.

"I'd been put in nomination with several others and they were going to explore the names they had been given," he said. "Yes, it's flattering because Maryland is an outstanding institution, but it's stretching it at this point to say I am a serious candidate."