The University of Maryland signed football coach Joe Krivak to a four-year contract yesterday at a base salary of $94,000 a year.

Athletic Director Andy Geiger, speaking at a news conference in College Park, called the agreement "a reaffirmation of our confidence in Joe, our belief in him and in appreciation of what he's done and in anticipation of the work that will come."

Although the contract is guaranteed for all four seasons, Krivak and Geiger will have what the athletic director described as an "assessment" of the Maryland program at the end of the third season. Krivak, 55, who previously made $91,000 a year, will have his income augmented by television and radio shows.

Krivak's previous contract was to expire in December; the new contract will end in the spring of 1995. The switch in the operative dates and the third-year evaluation are designed to avoid a situation similar to the one that occurred over the last few months, when Krivak was trying to coach amid speculation over his future, knowing that a decision would be made after an intense evaluation just days after the conclusion of the regular season.

"My administrative style would want to have a year to look at something like this rather than three or four days," said Geiger.

Krivak said he was excited about the contract and looked forward to continuing with Maryland. He has an 18-25-1 record during his four seasons as head coach, including a 6-5 mark in 1990 -- the Terrapins' first winning regular season in five years. Maryland will face Louisiana Tech on Dec. 15 at the Independence Bowl in Shreveport, La.

"I said when I took this job four years ago I would retire from it or get fired from it -- I've got a better chance now to retire from it," Krivak said. "I'm sure there are some people out there who will say that this is a move in the wrong direction but I don't think they're in the majority, and if they are I feel sorry for them because we'll need their support."

Yesterday's announcement capped a whirlwind period that began 10 days ago when Maryland defeated Virginia, then ranked eighth nationally, 35-30, in its regular season finale. Two days later, Geiger and Krivak began three days of meetings, which ended with the Independence Bowl making an unofficial offer to the Terps.

While the victory over the Cavaliers was a factor in the decision to retain Krivak, the conversations -- all more than two hours long -- appear to have had a greater impact.

Geiger and Krivak addressed a number of issues, including recruiting, academic standards and scheduling. Both men insisted that neither made demands during the talks, but clearly both made compromises.

At one point during the season, there was speculation that Geiger would ask Krivak to return but require him to make changes on his coaching staff. Yesterday, Geiger said that while that wasn't a condition for Krivak's retention, the coach would have the "responsibility" for evaluating those who worked under him.

"For an athletic director to say that this person can coach here but this one can't is no way to run a program, but I do want him to be tough on himself and his people," Geiger said. "That's one of the toughest things to do, take a hard look at those that we are close to and work closely with."

Krivak said staff evaluations "are something that we've kicked around every year and we'll continue to do that. . . . Maybe some guys will move on, that happens on every staff, but hopefully it wouldn't be anything wholesale.

"The ideal situation is that we would stay together and get the program going to where we want it to be and at some point -- maybe three or four or five years from now -- Joe Krivak would walk away and someone else already here would take over."

There were some other key areas of discussion between Geiger and Krivak. For example, the coach has lobbied for an additional number of academic exceptions or a relaxation of Maryland's recently upgraded admission standards. However, while Geiger indicated a willingness to work with the coach and administration, there were no promises that anything will be done. Geiger, in fact, said yesterday that he is growing increasingly uncomfortable with the idea of specialized admissions for athletes.

Conversely, Krivak was more successful in his insistence that the new contract last for four years.

"That was really the only thing I was concerned about," he said. "When I talk to a youngster I think it's important to tell him I'll be there for four years."

Geiger added that giving Krivak less than four years on the contract "would not be making a commitment to him -- we wanted this to be a seriously taken statement about our commitment to Joe Krivak.

"Joe isn't a razzle-dazzle guy but his word is gold. There are many ways to lead and in his quiet, steady way, Joe Krivak is the leader of our football program."