The current marriage of convenience between Maryland's slick, smart, successful, new athletic director, Andy Geiger, and the school's dedicated, soft-sell, old-shoe football coach, Joe Krivak, ought to be fascinating to watch.

Right now, this odd couple is in love.

Geiger, flush from 11 years of good times at Stanford, is as glossy, energized, jazzed up with jargon and state of the art as athletic directors get. Perhaps you have heard Geiger's full name: Andy (Why Does an Athletic Director Go From the Elysian Fields of Stanford to the Battlefields of College Park) Geiger. He's more than welcome at Maryland. He could be just what the doctor ordered -- Dr. William Kirwan, the university's president, that is.

Geiger is an articulate apostle of what he calls "highroad" college athletics. He thinks that, with a superior school to sell and "magnet people" as coaches, you can win at the highest levels of intercollegiate athletics without cutting corners.

At Stanford, you can.

But what about Maryland? Lots of fingers are crossed. Because almost anybody who knows Joe Krivak pulls for him. Yesterday, he said of himself: "What you see is what you get. I'm not going to change much now."

What many people see is one of the most honest and technically competent 55-year-old football coaches you will meet. But no one has ever called him a "magnet."

This week, Krivak became the first Maryland football coach in the post-Jim Tatum era to be rehired despite a losing record. Just days ago, many assumed Geiger's first Maryland decision would be to say goodbye to the solid, stolid Krivak -- who is liked by his players and has a list of traditional personal virtues as long as your arm, but who has gone 18-25-1 in his four seasons.

Perhaps beating Virginia to complete a winning regular season (6-5), then getting invited to the Independence Bowl, was simply too overpowering an aphrodisiac for an athletic department that has spent the last four years trying to survive the death of Len Bias, the firing of Bob Wade and the imposition of Draconian NCAA basketball sanctions.

Whatever the cause, Krivak has a new contract, and he and Geiger now are full of the kind of high spirits and warm mutual compliments that were commonplace at Cole Field House in other eras.

"There's determination, grit and fire in Joe Krivak," said Geiger. "He masks that. He likes to be just plain Joe. But he's also dedicated and emotional. I saw that side of him in our talks this week. At one point, he slammed his hand down on my desk and said, 'I really want to do this.' "

"Andy has a sense of humor," Krivak said. "He's easy to talk to. And he communicates well. He wanted input. We were going {at it} pretty good on some things. We had different opinions. But we were comfortable."

If Geiger, Krivak and Maryland football do, ultimately, prove to be a feasible mix -- and that is no safe bet -- then their bedrock era of commonality will probably be a shared sense of ethics in college sports.

"You have to coach within the right framework. If a decision costs us a game or two some time, that's how it will be," said Krivak, whose reputation coincides with his words. "I've got three sons. I handle my players the way I would want my own sons handled. My players are somebody else's children. It's my job to help them become responsible adults and the best people they can be."

If Geiger and Krivak have a problem it will probably be the simplest and most obvious one: that the task of improving a university's academic standards and its football team's record simultaneously is extremely hard.

It is true that, last month, Maryland started a $17 million refurbishment of Byrd Stadium, including a new football team house. However, it is even more emphatically true that, in the last two years, Maryland has redefined its College Park campus academically. Undergraduate enrollment has been reduced. Average SAT scores have reached a new high. Faculty-student ratios have improved and admissions standards have been raised.

When asked in what direction Maryland hopes to be moving, academically and, as a consequence, athletically, Geiger said "UCLA, Michigan, Berkeley, Texas, North Carolina." And he doesn't want to hear any coaches complaining about this as a hardship. He wants them out selling it.

If your nephew weighs 290 pounds, runs a 4.8 40-yard dash, eats hubcaps off moving cars, has an SAT score of 710 and a 2.2 high school grade-point average, he might have a tougher time getting into Maryland than into Tom Jefferson's college in Charlottesville.

"It makes our faculty happy to hear that Virginia has a star player who couldn't get into Maryland," said Geiger. "That's how it's going to be."

On the other hand, Maryland's academic community showed Krivak some good faith this week by allowing Maryland to accept the Independence Bowl bid despite the fact that it conflicts with final exams.

"The faculty and administration have shown a perfect understanding of the magic of the moment," Geiger said. "If we'd been a juggernaut the last few years, I don't think they'd have been flexible. But they wanted to demonstrate to those who say, 'Maryland doesn't want to play anymore,' that, yes, we do want to play, but we want to play a certain way."

On one hand, it's been a long time since spirits were higher at Maryland. "That feeling last Saturday was the greatest," said Krivak of the win over Virginia. "Our kids turned it up a notch. It was super for the program and the university." Said Geiger, "Everybody has been walking around here all week on the balls of their feet."

On the other hand, Maryland football never has faced a harder task. While young basketball coach Gary Williams is the dynamic type, with a proven track record to entice recruits, Krivak has to convince high schoolers that his university truly is headed upward and that he isn't headed elsewhere.

"We're not faring as well yet as we would like on the higher road," said Geiger. "I want to get us to focus on improving our strategic approach. We need to attract the right applicant pool, expand our geographic search and intensify our local search. . . . When you take the highroad approach, you have to achieve something in the long run. But you may be frustrated right away. . . .

"This is a wonderful change for our program and our image as a university. I wanted to be part of this change. Now, how do we do this thing? . . . There are those for whom less than 8-3 is a problem. Well, I have made my first decision. I will have lost some people. Maybe I'll have gained some. But I sure feel comfortable with this decision.

"Joe Krivak is the kind of coach who lets an athletic director sleep well."