Maryland football coach Ron Vanderlinden has signed a two-year contract extension that runs through the 2003 season, Athletic Director Debbie Yow said yesterday.

Vanderlinden, who has a 9-24 record in three seasons at Maryland, originally signed a five-year contract when he took over the program in December 1996. Yow said Vanderlinden's salary won't change under the contract extension. He will receive a base salary of $134,175 and be guaranteed $80,000 to $100,000 in additional income from the school's radio and television contracts. Vanderlinden could make as much as $300,000 per season if he reaches certain incentives, such as the Terrapins making a bowl appearance or the program achieving specified player graduation rates.

Maryland was 5-6 this season, losing its final four games and failing to make a bowl game for the ninth consecutive season. The Terrapins finished last in the nine-team Atlantic Coast Conference.

Maryland has not won more than six games in a season since 1985, the last time it won a bowl game. The Terrapins are 4-20 in ACC play under Vanderlinden. Still, Yow said the football program has made considerable strides with Vanderlinden, 43, at the helm.

"He has come in and had a very challenging situation he inherited," Yow said. "They need to continue making progress and Coach Vanderlinden agrees with that and is up to the challenge. . . . He has made progress and will continue to make progress."

Yow said she believes Vanderlinden's teams will "continue to improve competitively and have that translate into additional wins. We are already seeing that [improvement] in statistics and in wins to a degree."

Attempts yesterday to reach Vanderlinden were unsuccessful.

In a statement released by the university, Vanderlinden said, "I appreciate the confidence the university has shown in the positive direction in which the program is moving. We've made a great deal of progress and are close to becoming a quality football program."

While meeting with Vanderlinden during the past two weeks, Yow said she expressed her satisfaction with the football coaching staff's recruiting efforts and academic progress of its players. Although next season's football recruits cannot make their commitments official until February, Maryland has gotten at least 11 oral commitments and is among the final choices for some of the nation's top high school seniors, including Seneca Valley quarterback Chris Kelley and running back Willie Green of Orlando.

Giving Vanderlinden a two-year contract extension adds to the stability of the program, Yow said, and should help in recruiting.

"Recruiting is going quite well again," Yow said. " . . . We will likely have our best-ever recruiting year since the arrival of this staff. The future looks promising."

Maryland will return 16 starters next season, including second-team all-American running back LaMont Jordan and quarterback Calvin McCall. Jordan, junior cornerback Lewis Sanders and senior nose tackle Delbert Cowsette were named first-team all-ACC this past season.

The Terrapins led the ACC in rushing yardage (231.4 yards per game). Three of its blockers--tight end John Waerig, guard Jamie Wu and tackle Brad Messina, all seniors--were named second-team all-ACC.

Although Vanderlinden could earn as much as $300,000 annually, that is still far less than the $500,000 annual contract North Carolina State reportedly is considering offering its new coach. Among the reported candidates for the Wolfpack's vacancy--the only one in the ACC--are Georgia Tech offensive coordinator Ralph Friedgen, Florida State assistant head coach Chuck Amato and former Texas coach John Mackovic.