Gerald Gurney, who has served as the head of the University of Maryland's academic support unit since 1987, has been removed from his position as the school's NCAA compliance officer in the wake of reported friction between Gurney and some coaches in the athletic department.

"This is a pretty good indication that there were problems; if everything was smooth he'd still be there, wouldn't he?" said one athletic department source.

Gurney's removal from the NCAA compliance post was confirmed by new athletic director Andy Geiger, according to the Baltimore Evening Sun, though the move was planned months earlier, during the tenure of his predecessor, Lew Perkins. Gurney previously said he preferred to concentrate on his academic support duties, overseeing personal and academic development of Maryland athletes.

At one point, Perkins had hoped to offer the job to former basketball star Len Elmore, but when Perkins left Maryland last summer to accept a job as athletic director at the University of Connecticut, Elmore became interested in becoming athletic director.

At most schools, the compliance officer is the liaison between the institution and the NCAA in matters such as recruiting, eligibility, financial aid and rules education of the players and coaches.

At Maryland, sources indicated that some coaches have been upset at what was perceived to be overzealousness on Gurney's part, particularly with regard to the NCAA investigation of violations that occurred during the tenure of former basketball coach Bob Wade. There also were concerns about the investigation of charges that Coach Gary Williams and his staff watched pickup games involving Terrapins players before the official Oct. 15, 1989 starting date for organized practices.

In a self-imposed sanction for violation of that rule, Geiger ordered that Maryland delay the start of its official practices for the 1990-91 season for five days. The Terrapins scheduled their first workouts for this morning. Williams declined comment on the change in Gurney's role.

In a telephone interview yesterday, Gurney acknowledged that there might have been friction because of his role, but he added that the decision to drop the compliance role was originated by him. He said he told Perkins last spring that he did not want to continue in the compliance position.

"There may very well have been friction; a compliance officer's role is a difficult one," Gurney said. "A person in that role isn't likely to be popular if he's doing his job correctly. I'll leave the rest to speculation, but I don't feel as if this was a slap at me.

"I've always made it clear that I would be more than happy to pass along the compliance responsibilities and concentrate on academic support. Both positions demand a full-time person."

Geiger could not be reached for comment yesterday. He told the Evening Sun that the compliance position might not be permanently filled because of the athletic department's estimated $3.7 million deficit for 1991. He said it will now be the responsibility of individual coaches -- with the athletic department providing guidance -- to make sure their programs are in compliance.

"The business of compliance is everybody's job here," said Geiger, adding, "I want to emphasize {Gurney} has done a good job here."

The NCAA does not require that a specific individual fill the compliance position. "The compliance coordinator {position} can be held by anyone on a university's staff; it can be the athletic director, or the university president -- there just has to be a responsibility for compliance," said an NCAA spokesman.

Gurney said he has been appointed to a search committee to find a new compliance officer.

Gurney would not offer specific information on candidates, but speculation has centered on Susan Bailey, an assistant counsel in the school's legal department.