Andy Geiger, Maryland's new athletic director, is meeting today with a group of black faculty and staff, a session being described by some members of the athletic department as the first step in an attempt to increase minority involvement in the department's programs.

"I don't know if I would say there's any kind of formal plan," Geiger said recently. "We're not swimming in black administrators, coaches and alumni who are partcipating in athletics. We need help and it's silly not to get that help -- it's as obvious as that."

For example, after setting a Maryland career record for rebounding, playing professionally for 10 years and serving as an assistant district attorney in New York, Len Elmore would seem eminently qualified to serve as one of the Terrapin Club's nearly 200 executive members.

However, said Elmore, "I've never been approached -- I doubt if any black has been approached. {Congressman} Tom McMillen is a dear friend of mine but I'd bet he's been approached."

There are no black members on the Terrapin Club executive board and, by most accounts, no more than "a handful" of blacks interspersed among the 3,185 members.

Dwight Williams, the director of the athletic department's business office, is the only black currently serving in an administrative capacity. On the field, Bill Goodman is the head coach of the track team, assisted by Clint Whitaker.

Other blacks in the department include John Bowman, an academic adviser; Art Perry, an assistant to basketball coach Gary Williams; Rod Sharpless, the football team's receivers coach; John Bowie, an assistant equipment manager, and Bunk Carter, the head groundskeeper.

Geiger also points out that Sue Tyler is the only woman administrator -- and the associate athletic director is working on an acting basis. Geiger added that though he doesn't want to operate the athletic department by percentages, "I do want to be sure we have an open society here."

Building support externally may not be easy, particularly in the wake of ongoing hurt feelings caused by the firing of basketball coach Bob Wade in May 1989. To many in the black community, Wade was made a scapegoat for the NCAA investigation that resulted in Maryland's current two-year probation from postseason play.

"The most visible black coach on the Division I level who's ever been fired is from Maryland," said Gary Williams, who was hired to replace Wade a month after Wade's dismissal. "The Maryland situation is unique -- we're in an area with a large black population and in this media area we get more publicity.

"I understand some hard feelings but we should talk, whether people like me or not. They should understand me and then make a decision on what they see and hear."

But Elmore said the Wade episode caused a number of blacks who might have supported Maryland athletics to divorce themselves from the school.

"Personally, I believe that if you see a situation and you want to rectify it, stepping away does no good," he said. "But the feeling of a lot of people is that if Maryland isn't going to act right, they aren't going to have anything to do with it. Nothing's going to happen overnight but making overtures should start a dialogue. Coalescing is necessary but I think that should come from the existing power structure -- they're the ones who have been exclusive."

Geiger said he's aware that "there's a sense that Bob could have been supported more, that there could have been a different way of dealing with the situation. . . . It's important, if the university made a mistake or things were not handled in the best way possible, to acknowledge that as a way of going on and trying to make things better.

"If what we hear {from the black community} is painful, so be it -- there's no way to be instructed without asking for it."

Gordon Burris, who has served as executive director of the Maryland Education Fund (which includes the Terrapin Club) for the last two years, said his group will be making more of a push to increase black participation in membership and club activities. There will also be an effort to convince current athletes "to continue to support those who come after" when they leave the school.

As to the current lack of black membership, Burris said some members dropped out because of the problems with the NCAA. "You can't get inside people's minds," Burris said. "Thinking about this historically, nationwide, most {booster groups} were established in the '50s and '60s before there were a large number of black graduates. Now black membership is something that all schools should reflect upon."

Elmore said Terrapin Club members have complained Maryland coaches are recruiting too many black student-athletes. Gary Williams said he hasn't been directly approached but he is aware that "counting" goes on.

"I thought that by the '90s, if I was still coaching, things like that wouldn't be a problem," he said. "When I was hired I told the administration that I would recruit the best student-athletes possible."

Recently the basketball team held an alumni reunion, "the most racially mixed situation I've seen since I've been here," Williams said.

Geiger added that he was "excited" by the gathering.

"There hasn't been a diligent effort to make blacks feel welcome socially," he said. "But that told me that people would like to be asked to participate."