Confusion clouds Rozier's signing; coaches on merry-go-round

For the second straight year, a Heisman Trophy winner has entered pro football in a swirl of confusion, possibly of his own making. Last year Georgia's Herschel Walker was the man in the media maelstrom. This year it's Nebraska's Mike Rozier, whose family fired agent Mike Trope after Rozier signed a million-dollar contract with the Pittsburgh Maulers of the United States Football League.

Both running backs were deemed the finest college player in the land, and both shocked fans of the venerable National Football League by signing with the upstart USFL.

Walker's decision to play for the New Jersey Generals lent the rival league a degree of instant respectability, but was a source of controversy because he was only a junior and had denied having serious talks with the club. College rules ban players from entering full contract negotiations or hiring agents until their college careers are over. And since Herschel was only a junior, his discussions with the Generals erased his last year at Georgia.

Theoretically, both leagues have rules against signing collegians until their eligibility is up, but the USFL was willing to make an exception in its own rule to get Herschel.

The Rozier situation has had its messy side too. The senior I-back was reportedly signed, sealed, and virtually delivered to the Maulers the day after Nebraska's Orange Bowl loss to Miami, and the day before the USFL draft. At first, however, Rozier wouldn't confirm the news. Later he did, but with a cloud of suspicion surrounding the arrangements with his agent, who received a tenth (or $300,000) of Rozier's three-year contract. The player's family was reportedly unhappy with Trope's methods, although the specifics are unknown.

This is hardly the smoothest first step into a pro career, and begs the question: what is going on with agents generally?The colleges and pros would do well to find some answers before things get out of hand. Coaching a go-go profession

The coaching merry-go-round is whirling madly in the Midwest. The announcement that Lee Corso will be Northern Illinois University's new football coach is the latest piece in this place-and-replace puzzle. Corso, who was fired by Indiana University after the 1982 season, essentially swapped jobs with Bill Mallory, who was just hired by IU. Only it's not that simple.

During the past season, the Indiana job was filled by Sam Wyche, who signed a five-year contract. Wyche presumably was set to stay in Bloomington and even said recently, ''I have a job to do here, and I intend to do it.'' But when the NFL's Cincinnati Bengals came knocking about their head coaching vacancy, Wyche weakened and agreed to fill it. The job had opened up after Bengal coach Forrest Gregg received permission to switch to Green Bay, where he once played and Bart Starr had been fired.

While coaches can't be blamed for wanting to improve their situations, it does seem that more should take stock of existing commitments. Where have you gone, Renaldo?

If Renaldo Nehemiah hadn't decided to play pro football, he might stand on the verge of Olympic stardom. The Summer Games are not far off, but the world record holder in the 110-meter hurdles relinquished his amateur status two years ago by signing with the San Francisco 49ers. Efforts were made to regain his Olympic eligibility, but to no avail, and now he says track is behind him. Nehemiah has been able to utilize his speed as a wide receiver, but has had to play behind Dwight Clark and Freddie Solomon, two of the NFL's better pass catchers. In the 49ers' playoff loss to Washington, however, he showed he could make some big catches in a pressure game. Given his tremendous natural ability, Renaldo may yet develop into a top-flight pro receiver, despite not having played football since high school. Football's son of Norway

Before North America's largest ski event gets underway next month, organizers will honor football placekicker Jan Stenerud. Organizers of the American Birkebeiner cross-country race near Cable, Wis., consider Stenerud a natural for their opening ceremonies. He is a local hero of the Green Bay Packers, a former collegiate ski jumper, and a Norwegian. And because the race, which may attract nearly 10,000 competitors, is modeled after the world famous Birkebeiner Rennet in Norway, Stenerud makes an ideal Norwegian-born dignitary to have on hand.

Jan came to the United States in the sixties to attend Montana State University on a ski jumping scholarship. His kicking ability was discovered by Jim Sweeney, the school's football coach. After college Jan became one of the NFL's pioneering soccer-style booters with the Kansas City Chiefs. After 13 years with the Chiefs, he was released in 1980, then signed as a free agent by the Packers. During the past season he made 21 of 26 field goal tries to set an NFL career record with 338 three pointers, eclipsing George Blanda's mark of 335 . Coach John McKay of the NFL's 2-14 Tampa Bay Buccaneers: ''I'm not burned out. I'm burned up.''

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