SHREVEPORT, LA., DEC. 12 -- On the eve of Maryland's departure for the Independence Bowl, a Jaguar graced the Byrd Stadium parking spot where Joe Krivak's Pontiac usually sat for the better part of the 1990 season.
Was it a really good deal on a trade-in, or perhaps, with the Terrapins' first postseason berth in five years and a renewed four-year contract in his pocket, had the coach felt it was time to show the world that he'd finally made it?
"You know you've made it in Washington when you're driving a Mercedes with a car phone in it -- I'm nowhere near that," said Krivak, admitting that the luxury automobile belonged to team physician Stan Lavine, attending to players in the football team house.
The confession was somehow disappointing, but hardly surprising. The quintessential blue-collar coach, Joe Krivak is a Pontiac kind of guy, an everyman in a profession full of blow-dried tacticians with big cars and larger egos.
Even before the season began, Krivak wondered if he would be flattened by a series of recurring migraine headaches that had loved ones fearing long-term problems.
After the pain subsided, there was the short-lived joy of a 3-1 start, followed by a 2-4 stretch that raised the question of whether he would be retained at the end of the season.
A stirring 35-30 win over then-No. 8 Virginia and a series of conversations with Athletic Director Andy Geiger, which culminated with the invitation for Saturday's game here against Louisiana Tech, resulted in Krivak's new deal.
But even today, it seemed as if Krivak was still trying harder.
"When I hit the point where I think I've got it made I'll be the first to shout it out loud," Krivak said. "But I don't have it yet. There's still a lot to be done."
Since the Thanksgiving-eve announcement of his retention, the days have been heady and hectic for Krivak and the Terrapins. The contract. The bowl game. Recruiting. Arranging a deferred final exam schedule for an entire football team. Who had time to rejoice?
"If anything, he's become more determined," said assistant coach Tony Whittlesey. "He's intense about everything -- the quality of practice, the detail of everything we do. . . . We're grateful for the opportunity, maybe a little surprised, so there's still a sense of something to prove.
"If we win on Saturday we'll be 7-5, and with the schedule we played there's a chance of getting into the top 25. . . . There's a sense of accomplishment -- I think he wants that really badly."
With Krivak, it's often hard to tell what he wants or what he's thinking. Every day is a beautiful day, all you have to do is work hard and things will fall into place.
During the season there seemed to be only two discernible exceptions to the credo -- at the beginning and end of the season.
Even after quarterback Scott Zolak and wide receiver Gene Thomas hooked up on a 52-yard touchdown pass in the final two minutes to give Maryland a dramatic 20-14 season-opening victory over Virginia Tech on Sept. 1, Krivak seemed somewhat down and short-tempered the following week.
Later in the week, he talked briefly about the headaches that began at the start of practice in the fall and had consistently stayed with him into the season.
At one point Krivak had a CAT scan and other tests done. Nothing specific was discovered, and in time the headaches went away.
Meanwhile, anyone who knew about the problem was sworn to secrecy, Krivak not wanting the information to become public because, he said, "I don't want anyone to think I'm making excuses for myself this year."
As recently as a couple of days ago, Krivak questioned whether anyone would want to know -- or would care -- about the episode, saying "it still comes down to getting it done out on the field."
While his conversations with Geiger were taking place, some at the school hoped that Maryland would make a contract offer but that Krivak would decide to reject it.
But whenever he reflected on the future, Krivak would also speak of what he wanted to accomplish at Maryland. In that internal battle of conflicting thoughts, the competitive side won out.
"The first thing was waiting to see whether or not I had a decision to make," he said. "The second thing was realizing that we had made progress. I'm working with my third AD in four years and I've put a lot of myself into the program.
"Then I met with Andy Geiger and I liked what I saw. I don't think I could have lived with myself if I didn't give it a shot with this guy."
Now that the agreement to stay has been reached, issues like Maryland's admission policies, the Terrapins' difficult scheduling, even whether he's dynamic enough to satisfy Geiger and the general public, remain unresolved.
"You don't know what the future will hold -- that's like you and I sitting down and saying we're going to decide what's going to happen in the Middle East," he said. "You just have to do the best you can under the circumstances. There are going to be good days and bad days. I think the important thing is to have a sense of direction, of how we want to get it done, but I know there are no guarantees.
"Right now, everybody's happy, but that'll change in the next year or even the next couple of games. But for the people who know Joe Krivak, who I'm comfortable with and who are comfortable with me, that's not going to be as big a problem."