Now that Maryland has done the right thing and extended Joe Krivak's contract for four years, the question to ask about Maryland football is this: What will be different? Why should we be encouraged that the Terrapins' next four years will be any better than these last four under Krivak, which have produced a record of 18-25-1?

The head coach will be the same, the staff probably will be the same. Maryland's admissions policy as it regards athletes won't change dramatically. Krivak, at 55, isn't likely to walk into Cole Field House today and pronounce he's converting his offense to the wishbone or the run-and-shoot.

There's one thing, and perhaps only one thing, Krivak and his staff can do to get Maryland going again: recruit. Every question put before Krivak and Athletic Director Andy Geiger yesterday resulted in the same answer: Maryland has to recruit.

Of course every school has to recruit, but some states have built-in goodwill working for them. The top program, and in some cases the top two, in Michigan, Nebraska, Iowa, California, Oklahoma, Alabama, Louisiana, Tennessee, Texas and Florida -- to name a few -- have a strong recruiting base no matter who the coach is. Maryland does not. Maryland, in the Bobby Ross years, was building such a base. But Len Bias's death, the subsequent and ugly revelations of academic deficiency, the ensuing dramatic reform, and the instability of the basketball program proved to be a wrecking ball. Krivak and his staff would do the same work, sit in as many living rooms, make the same pitches, and be told, no thanks. The failure to persuade good players to come to Maryland was reflected in the record. Maryland lost the District and Prince George's County; newcomer Geiger wants these areas again.

Asked after yesterday's news conference what he plans to do to justify this new contract, Krivak said: "Recruit. We've got to be able to recruit. That's where our efforts are going to go. They're moving brick out there and knocking down some things in Byrd Stadium {under renovation}. We've got something tangible and physical out there that I can show a recruit."

Krivak's best moment of the day wasn't the announcement of his new contract; that had already been settled. A few minutes before the news conference, assistant coach Denny Murphy looked at Krivak and said, "I've got some pretty good news myself." Krivak perked up. A big-time prospect from New England, Murphy told him, volunteered to make a recruiting trip to Maryland. Why? Because of the Independence Bowl bid and the victory over Virginia.

"We're looking for some people who can run and catch," Krivak said. "We're looking for all the good guys we can get our hands on. And in some instances, maybe we'll get lucky with a player or two. We're going out to beat the bushes. We're going hard locally."

"We need to recruit effectively," Geiger said. "He has the last two years. There is young talent in the program."

But those two classes won't be enough to put Maryland back in the top 25 and in contention for a bowl game every year. Some Maryland watchers doubt Terrapins football can ever be what it was in the mid-'80s, in view of the tighter admissions standards that allow for fewer "exceptions" for athletes to enter school below the requirements of most other students. They say Maryland will be 7-4 at best, floating most seasons between 5-6 and 6-5, what with Florida State coming into the ACC to make life more difficult.

Geiger is already trying to keep tougher admissions standards from being used as an excuse. "I have some ideas and some experiences {at Penn and Stanford}," he said, "that call upon having to recruit football players at universities with ever-increasing, ever more demanding academic standards. We're going to treat our admissions standards as an asset, not a liability."

Geiger believes the best men for the job the next four years are the "the men who were here in the glory days." That's when Maryland had three NFL-bound quarterbacks on the squad at one time -- Boomer Esiason, Frank Reich and Stan Gelbaugh -- fullback Rick Badanjek, center Kevin Glover, kicker Jess Atkinson, Ron Solt at tackle, Pete Koch at defensive end. All played, or are playing, in the NFL. After that came Ferrell Edmunds, James Milling, J.B. Brown, Donald Brown, Chuck Faucette, J.D. Maarleveld, O'Brien Alston, Ben Jefferson, Kevin Walker -- more NFL players, some starters.

Many of those players were not academic exceptions. Many graduated. Geiger has called several former players, to feel them out. Players can no longer actively recruit, but Maryland can use a better job of making known the fact that it produces so many pro players. In the team media guide, in the game program, in a specially designed recruiting video. "There's no question about that," Geiger said. "The players from the late '70s and early '80s are incredibly important {as a recruiting tool}. Seriously important. You can transmit a pretty good message that way to recruits."

Those teams won no fewer than eight games four straight years. "The basic product we're selling {to recruits} hasn't changed," Geiger said. "If anything, it's better."

Krivak, the coach, is a man who graduates the vast majority of his players and stood as one of the few points of stability in the Maryland athletic department in the tumultuous late '80s.

"I don't think with all the circumstances and changes at the university, and with the schedule, that anybody could have done a better job, and I don't say that with any braggadocio," Krivak said. "What transpired after {Bias's death} hurt our ability {to recruit locally}. We were there in the living rooms, we made the pitch, but we couldn't get kids to visit."

With Krivak's new contract, the just-started renovation of Byrd Stadium, and the basketball team serving its penance and getting on with life, Maryland is digging itself from underneath the rubble. If so, Krivak and his coaches should find more players, especially local ones, at least considering College Park. That would be a step in the right direction.