WMAL Radio, the flagship station for University of Maryland football and basketball for the last 22 years, is far apart from the university in its negotiations to retain those broadcast rights "and there is a possibility we will not be the flagship in the future," according to station operations director Jim Gallant.

"We would like to continue with the university," he said yesterday. "We're very disappointed we aren't closer. I would still hold out some hope we can work out an agreement, but right now I just don't know."

WMAL has been negotiating with Jefferson Pilot Sports of Charlotte, N.C., which entered into an agreement with Maryland in 1988 to handle its radio package, including the negotiation of future broadcast rights. WMAL's current five-year contract with the school will expire at the end of this basketball season.

Fred Boucherle, executive director of operations and finance for Jefferson Pilot, said yesterday at least four other stations in the Washington-Baltimore market have expressed interest in replacing WMAL as the flagship of a 16-station network. He declined to name them, but WBAL in Baltimore, which carried Maryland games as an affiliate, is very much interested in replacing WMAL.

Ed Kiernan, WBAL's new general manager, confirmed that "we have a keen interest" in the Maryland package and that he is now "in the middle of negotiations, so it would be premature to say much more. This is not something that's going to be decided by the end of this week. It's going to be a while, but we are very definitely trying to get involved."

If WMAL is not the flagship originating station for Maryland, that could also mark the end of sportscaster Johnny Holliday's 12-year association as the voice of Maryland athletics. He is under contract to the station, handling morning sportscasts and a variety of other assignments for WMAL.

"If it goes on another station in this market," Gallant said, "we would not want him to do the games. But it's something we really haven't thought about yet; we'll just have to wait and see."

Gallant added that if Jefferson Pilot does sell the rights to another station, WMAL would still be interested in carrying Terrapins games as a network affiliate.

He said the main hang-up with Jefferson Pilot involves WMAL's unwillingness to lose money on any future contract. "We spend more on production of the games than we are able to get back in revenue," he said. "We've been carrying it, but we do not generate enough revenue to cover the costs."

He declined to discuss financial specifics, but sources indicated WMAL costs run between $150,000 to $200,000 per year for both football and basketball. The station pays production costs, line charges and the talent, and in exchange receives a percentage of the advertising inventory to sell.

Gallant said WMAL wants a deal structured so that Jefferson Pilot pays all production expenses, sells the advertising and "then pays us a stipend that would at least make sure we were not losing money. . . . We'd like to make a reasonable profit, at least to cover our costs."

Jefferson Pilot says it would prefer to continue business as usual. "We're not looking to rewrite the world," Boucherle said. "They {WMAL} do want to rewrite the world. It's a problem we are not sure we can live with.

"This is not just about money. We're also looking for more involvement in a lot of areas from the station that gets {the rights}. That's between us and the people we're negotiating with."

Gallant says he believes Maryland athletic officials would like to continue their longtime relationship with the station. "That's what I've been led to believe by Andy {Geiger, the athletic director}," he said.

Geiger was in Florida at an Atlantic Coast Conference meeting yesterday and was not available to comment.