The University of Maryland this week will take the first steps toward restoring nearly $1 million in athletic scholarships eliminated last spring because of stagnant fund-raising and an athletic department budget crisis.

More than 3,300 athletic boosters will be notified by mail of a restructured, modernized fund-raising program that Athletic Director Andy Geiger says "makes us like everybody else" in big-time college sports.

As part of the new system, boosters who in the past contributed at least $1,800 annually will be required to buy season tickets in football and basketball for the first time next season, making Maryland the last school in the ACC and "maybe the last in the country" to do that, Geiger said. The membership fee in the Terrapin Club will be reduced proportionately; for instance, the old $1,800 membership now will cost $1,200.

The program, according to Geiger, is geared toward expanding the athletic department's donor base. "We're not pressing people in the Terrapin Club now to give more, but to encourage them to help us get new members," Geiger said.

Eventually "our goal is to restore as many scholarships as possible," he said. "But we've got a long way to go. . . . You've got to make sure you can pay the bills over time."

The Terrapin Club, formally known as the Maryland Educational Foundation, had paid the scholarship bill in full until three years ago. But last year, faced with a 75 percent increase in scholarship costs and a 7 percent decline in contributions over a five-year period, the club fell $1 million short of paying the $2.8 million scholarship tab, which the athletic department was forced to cover out of its operating budget.

As a result, Lew Perkins, then the athletic director, announced in mid-May a four-level tiering system in which scholarships were eliminated in eight of the school's 23 varsity sports and reduced 70 percent in five others. The action was intended to save the athletic department $800,000 to $900,000 in the current fiscal year, Perkins said at the time.

Ticket prices for next season have not been set. Geiger said the possibility of adding a $2 per game surcharge to all tickets -- season and single-game -- for facilities improvements is "in the talking stage." Such a surcharge is projected to yield about $500,000.

Maryland is in the early stages of a $52 million capital improvement campaign for athletic facilities. Work started on Byrd Stadium after the last 1990 home football game. Maryland had a commitment from the state government for $15 million in matching funds, but $2 million of a $5 million cash appropriation was rescinded as a result of the state's current budget deficit, Geiger said.

He also said the athletic department would request no additional matching funds for fiscal year 1992, which will begin July 1, but would for fiscal year 1993.

As far as the decision to require boosters to buy tickets, "it is impossible to predict what the immediate effect will be," Geiger said. But a key factor remains -- the ability to purchase tickets to the Atlantic Coast Conference basketball tournament. There is no public sale of ACC tournament tickets. Each of the conference's eight schools distributes them.

Under the revised system, contributors at the newly created Coaches Club ($5,000) level can purchase six ACC tournament tickets, at the Super Terrapin level ($2,000) four and at the Diamondback ($1,200) level two, depending on availability.

Also, a priority point system for seating in Cole Field House is being established, based on longevity in the Terrapin Club and level of contribution. "Very few" current seating locations will be affected, unless a number of current members quits the club, Geiger said.

"We'll probably be careful and gentle in the way we handle that," he said. "It's not our effort to change history, but to improve our position for the future."

The revised system also requires anyone holding basketball season tickets in Sections D, E and F -- the prime, midcourt seats -- to donate a minimum of $300 per ticket to keep that location. Geiger said "very few" people feel an impact because of that provision.

The move to require purchase of season tickets has been in the works for more than a year. Last year, before Geiger was hired, the Terrapin Club established 19 chapters across the state as booster clubs at many other state universities have done. The purchase of season tickets was included in a 10-year plan submitted by Perkins to stabilize the athletic department budget. But the original idea for change came from a group of consultants, including Geiger, hired in 1986.

Year.....Scholarship costs...Contributions...Members

1985-86.......$1.6 million....$2.0 million.....3,708

1986-87.......$1.8 million....$2.0 million.....3,780

1987-88.......$2.1 million....$2.1 million.....3,804

1988-89.......$2.4 million....$2.0 million.....3,641

1989-90.......$2.8 million....$1.8 million.....3,330

Change.......Up 75 percent..Down 7 percent..Down 378

NOTE: Figures supplied by Maryland Athletic Department.