The pall hasn't lifted from the Maryland athletic department, days after a disheartening 34-10 loss to North Carolina. Coach Joe Krivak said he's put it behind him but still wonders how his team could have played so poorly in such a big game.

Perhaps more importantly, Athletic Director Andy Geiger is wondering the same thing, which surely will be a factor in the postseason evaluation that will determine whether Krivak is rehired.

Geiger looked disheartened as he was walking to the Maryland locker room after Saturday's loss and the sense of bewilderment has barely declined this week.

"I think I just share the disappointment everyone feels," he said. "We had a 'statement game' opportunity and I don't think we made the statement we wanted to make."

However, Geiger said yesterday that while it won't take long to make a decision on Krivak's future, he reiterated it won't be made until the conclusion of the season.

Krivak's four-year contract expires at the end of the season and his record, 17-24-1, has disappointed many Maryland fans and alumni.

"I would not think that we would sit around and wait too long {after the season}. We would like to decide one way or another -- with the coach -- which direction we're going to go," Geiger said.

"Sooner or later we'll have to make some decision that will be popular or unpopular and then I'll have to deal with the consequences. . . . I think it's important to be consistent. We've said we'll wait -- that didn't change after a couple of victories and it won't change after a loss. It's still important to view the football team and program in a continuum rather than event by event."

According to athletic department sources, Geiger expressed disappointment at the Terrapins' lack of intensity in the game. A victory would have given them a 6-3 record and clinched their first winning season in five years. That may have given Maryland enough momentum to beat either No. 24 Penn State or No. 1 Virginia in its final two games -- which likely would have brought an invitation to a bowl game.

Now, however, the Terrapins stand at 5-4, and that winning season seems in jeopardy because of those two, tough opponents.

The question of game preparation by Krivak and his staff has been raised more often as the season has progressed. With the exception of a 41-13 victory over Wake Forest, Maryland has struggled at the start of every game.

With all sides in accord that Krivak possesses most of the qualities desired in a college coach -- bringing in academic-minded students who graduate and are credits to the university -- some in the athletic department have suggested that if he is retained he should make changes in his staff.

Yesterday, Krivak said he likely would balk at such a suggestion.

"That would be tough for me to do. As an assistant coach I always looked unfavorably at that, guys who make changes just to save themselves. I'd be a hypocrite if I did that."

As to a charge that he overemphasized the current week off, Krivak said he didn't discuss the topic with the players until just before the team left for the game and only then in terms of setting up the upcoming practice schedule. Regardless, he added the subject wasn't a factor in how the Terrapins performed.

"There is no one more disappointed in what happened than the coaches and players," he said. "We had talked on Thursday about opportunities, about how sometimes in life people don't get their chance, but this was something that we had been talking about for four years.

"Since Sunday I've been asking myself why things happened the way they did. . . . These are bright, articulate guys -- they should know what's at stake. We've been to the trough nine weeks in a row -- how many hits do you have left after that, how many more times can you get up for a game?

"We left a lot of good players at home. A lot of guys are playing hurt. All of a sudden you drop off a few notches. Maybe you don't have the same intensity you had a few weeks ago. You look at the film and see where a guy misses a block or takes a guy on head-on, but backs away or doesn't make a tackle -- maybe that's too many hits."