Joe Krivak, who helped develop several future NFL quarterbacks at Maryland in the 1980s and went on to a five-year stint as the school’s head coach, died Tuesday of leukemia. He was 77.
“Joe was an accomplished coach who played an instrumental role in one of the most successful periods in the history of Maryland football,” athletic director Kevin Anderson said in a statement. “He tutored some of the most prolific quarterbacks to play in College Park and helped develop them for future success in the NFL. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Krivak family.”
Krivak was 20-34-2 as Maryland’s head coach from 1987 to 1991. His 1990 team, which played in the Independence Bowl, was responsible for the Terps’ only postseason appearance between 1986 and 2000.
A well-regarded offensive teacher, Krivak was Maryland’s quarterbacks coach under Bobby Ross. He worked with Boomer Esiason, Frank Reich and Stan Gelbaugh as an assistant coach, helping the Terps win ACC titles in 1983, 1984 and 1985.
Ross departed for Georgia Tech after posting a 5-5-1 record in 1986, and Maryland promoted Krivak to take over the program shortly thereafter.
Krivak continued to develop quarterbacks; Neil O'Donnell and Scott Zolak, who went on to long NFL careers, started at Maryland under Krivak. However, it was a decidedly turbulent time in the history of the Maryland athletic department, and campuswide support of athletics was not the highest priority during Krivak’s tenure.
Krivak delivered midpack ACC finishes in his first two seasons, turning in 4-7 and 5-6 records. However, the Terps sank to 3-7-1 the following year (albeit with a tie against the program’s longtime nemesis, Penn State), placing an onus on the 1990 season.
It turned out to be Krivak’s head coaching highlight. The Terps bolted to a 3-1 start (including a victory over then-No. 25 West Virginia) and entered the regular-season finale at No. 8 Virginia with a chance to secure bowl eligibility. Maryland pulled off the upset, went on to tie Louisiana Tech in the Independence Bowl and finished 6-5-1. It would be Krivak’s only winning season.
With Zolak gone the next season, the Terps slumped to 12.5 points per game. After a season-opening win, the Terps lost nine of their last 10 games. Krivak, who agreed to a contract extension after Maryland’s bowl breakthrough in 1990, resigned two weeks after the season concluded with three years left on his deal.
Krivak was a 1957 graduate of Syracuse, where he was an offensive lineman and linebacker and blocked for famed running back Jim Brown. After earning an undergraduate and master’s degree from Syracuse, he began a teaching and coaching career at Madonna High School in Weirton, W.Va.
Later, he broke into college coaching, first at Syracuse, then at Maryland (from 1974 to 1976 under Jerry Claiborne) and Navy (1977-81 under George Welsh). He was reunited with Welsh at Virginia in 1995 and 1996 for his final college coaching stint.
During his retirement, Krivak hosted camps for high school quarterbacks, wide receivers and coaches during the summer. Syracuse honored him as a letter winner of distinction last year.
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Patrick Stevens has covered Maryland and other Mid-Atlantic college sports for more than a decade. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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