DATE: Sunday, August 24, 1997 TAG: 9708240211 SECTION: SPORTS PAGE: C3 EDITION: FINAL SOURCE: BY FRANK VEHORN, STAFF WRITER DATELINE: COLLEGE PARK, MD. LENGTH: 75 lines
Spend a few minutes with Ron Vanderlinden and it is easy to understand why Maryland athletic director Debbie Yow is excited about the Terps' new football coach.
Vanderlinden oozes energy and confidence. He stunned local media last week by saying, ``I feel like we are just the team to rise up and take this conference over.''
Another Vanderlinden quote: ``I feel like we are going to have to screw things up not to be successful.''
Things have been screwed up pretty badly in recent years. The Terps have lost 22 straight games to ranked teams and have had only two winning seasons since 1985.
But it was more than words and rash promises that convinced Yow, who fired Mark Duffner at the end of last season, she had found a winner in Vanderlinden.
Not only could he talk the talk, he had walked the walk by playing key roles in revitalizing other deflated programs.
It is a bit of history Vanderlinden likes to share.
``I went to Colorado in 1983 with Bill McCartney and we inherited the worst team in the nation,'' Vanderlinden says.
``Colorado had been 1-10, 1-10 and 3-8 when we got there. It took us four years to get it going, but in our last three years we won the Big Eight championship and went to the Orange Bowl two years in a row.
``Colorado hadn't beaten Nebraska in 19 years. In a five year period we beat them three times, tied them once and lost once.''
Vanderlinden's next mission was to Northwestern when Gary Barnett was named the head coach there.
``My friends warned me about going there,'' Vanderlinden says. ``They told me it was career suicide. But I saw a lot of advantages for recruiting there and felt we could win.''
At this point, Vanderlinden pauses and smiles before continuing.
``I didn't know we were going to go undefeated two years straight in the Big Ten, though.''
Yow, known as a penny-pincher, was so impressed by Vanderlinden she outbid three other schools and agreed to his demands to bring in a high-priced staff.
``I recruited him and I'm not ashamed to say so,'' says Yow, who didn't even bother to interview other candidates on her list.
Now, like everyone else, she wants to see results.She might get it sooner than expected.
Vanderlinden did not find the cupboard empty.
He says there's enough talent for the Terps to win a bowl invite - something Duffner never did, which ultimately cost him his job.
``I am going to be very disappointed if we don't go to a bowl,'' Landerlinden says.
``If we play together I think we have just enough talent to do that.''
Vanderlinden likes what he's seen from senior quarterback Brian Cummings.
``He can be the difference in getting us over the hump,''says Vanderlinden. ``Ultimately it comes down to making plays and he can make some plays.''
Vanderlinden says a priority is to establish a running game, something else Duffner never did.
``One common denominator, whether it is pro, college or high school, is if you can't run the ball with authority you are not going to be a consistent winner,'' he says.
Vanderlinden is not worried about accomplishing something else Duffner couldn't do - filling the grandstands regularly.
``When we got to Colorado, the attendance was in the 30,000 range. It was in the low 20s when we got to Northwestern. But if you win, people will come watch you play.''
And Vanderlinden is gaining believers.
Among them is quarterback Cummings who admits he had never heard of Vanderlinden before he was announced as his new coach.
``I know this is his first head coaching job, but he sure seems like he knows what he is doing,'' Cummings says.
``I've learned when he says something, he does it. He is very honest with you.''
Coming Monday: Duke
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