BRIEFLY : BACKUS STEPS DOWN AS BRUINS COACH.
At her request, Backus has been reassigned within the athletic department, effective immediately, and will not coach during the 1997 season.
Backus complied an 847-167-3 record in 21 years at UCLA, making her the winningest college softball coach in history. She led the Bruins to nine national championships, and a postseason record of 118-32.
``I've had a great career at UCLA, but it's time for a change,'' Backus said. ``My primary reason for stepping down has to do with the illness and death of my mother in early October.
``That, plus the ongoing NCAA probe of the softball program have created a level of stress that I feel is best to put behind me at this time.''
Sue Enquist, who has served as co-head coach for the past eight years, will become sole head coach.
The NCAA is currently reviewing UCLA's responses to the issues of its inquiry and it is anticipated that UCLA representatives will appear at the Committee of Infractions hearing, scheduled for Jan. 31-Feb. 2 in Phoenix.
Northwestern coach Gary Barnett said he will not be coaching the Detroit Lions, or any other NFL team, next season. ``I am not a candidate for the Detroit Lions job nor any other professional football position,'' Barnett said in a one-sentence news release.
Fresh off Ohio State's victory in the Rose Bowl, Buckeyes offensive tackle Orlando Pace and defensive back Shawn Springs - the Big Ten's players of the year in 1996 - said they will enter the NFL draft.
Chris Canty, a two-time All-American cornerback will skip his senior season at Kansas State to enter the NFL draft, a school official said.
Northwestern running back Darnell Autry, who helped raise the Wildcats from college football's basement to national prominence, announced that he is turning pro.
Doug Williams, the MVP of the 1988 Super Bowl, accepted the head-coaching job at predominantly African-American Morehouse College in Atlanta.
USC forward Rodrick Rhodes is doubtful for Thursday's game against California after suffering a sprained knee last weekend against Washington State. Rhodes was scheduled to undergo an MRI on Monday, but a power failure at USC University Hospital delayed the test until today. He is considered questionable for Saturday's game against Stanford.
Orlando guard Anfernee Hardaway, sidelined for 23 of the Magic's 28 games because of leg injuries, expects to return to the lineup tonight against the Philadelphia 76ers.
Boston Red Sox pitcher Tim Wakefield was resting at his Melbourne, Fla., home Monday after being hit by a car while jogging. Wakefield said he suffered no broken bones. . . .