To a man, the Maryland Terrapins say they find Coach Joe Krivak to be a fine fellow and hope the uncertainty over his future is resolved to his satisfaction. They also insist improving Krivak's job security is not what motivates them heading into the 1990 season.

"Everyone just wants to win, if it helps his job, good I'm happy, but overall we just want to win," said defensive tackle Larry Webster.

"That's between him and the university," said wide receiver Barry Johnson of Krivak, in the final year of his contract. "We're more worried about winning for ourselves. I know that sounds kind of selfish, but going into our fifth year without a winning season . . . we'd like to have at least one."

When Krivak breaks into his fire and brimstone oration in Maryland's locker room before Saturday's season opener against Virginia Tech, there will be no mention of his contract status, or the departure of former athletic director Lew Perkins, or even the funding for the improvements taking place around him at Byrd Stadium.

According to Krivak, such matters have only been mentioned once and will not be brought up again during the season.

"I addressed it at the start of the year because I think everyone is entitled to an explanation of what's going on," he said. "But after that, why fight World War II or the Korean War over again? You don't live in the past, you live in the present and what we have to do is prepare for Virginia Tech -- that's going to be the crux of anything we talk about."

There have been times during the last five years when it seemed that wins and losses were the least of the Terrapins' problems. The lack of adequate facilities, budget crunches, the comings and goings of assorted personnel and of course, the 1986 cocaine-induced death of basketball player Len Bias have been well-documented.

The cumulative effect of those woes has been the apparent sinking of a program that was ranked first in the nation by one national publication before the start of the 1985 season.

"There's some pressure there" because of what's happened in the recent past, said Webster. "It's just something that you can't seem to ditch. Everyone's always asking you about what goes on here and you just try to explain it all to the best of your knowledge.

"This is still a great university. Right now it just seems like we've been having one problem after another. You talk to old players, from '84 and '85, the teams that won a lot of games, and you want to be able to express those feelings . . . {to talk about} stuff like bowl games, the respect, but it's not there yet."

Webster insists "that day is coming," and perhaps little things like the successful eligibility appeal of H-back Frank Wycheck, or an even bigger one, like basketball point guard Walt Williams's decision to stay at Maryland, is evidence of that.

A more tangible sign is the presence of talented performers like flanker Gene Thomas from Montgomery College-Rockville and running back Mark Mason from Churchill High. Not only did both local players choose Maryland over bigger football powers, they did so despite being virtual eyewitnesses to the turmoil of the last few years.

"Every football program goes downhill for a couple of years but the right recruits can bring it back," said Mason, who rushed for 2,961 yards during his high school career. "It has to start somewhere; this is a great school. All you hear about are the negatives but I would come to the games and I saw that they were only losing by a couple of points each game.

"That could be just one or two players to make the difference."