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Alabama Beckons Again to UCLA's Homer Smith

January 16, 1994|JIM HODGES | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Homer Smith's UCLA-Alabama shuttle is making the trip east, and this time it's probably one way.

Smith, who three different times was hired as the Bruins' offensive coordinator, became offensive coordinator at Alabama for the second time on Saturday. He replaces longtime Crimson Tide assistant Mal Moore.

In effect, Smith, 62, is going home. When he was hired by UCLA for the third time, in 1990 after two seasons as offensive coordinator under then-Alabama coach Bill Curry, Smith retained his residence on Lake Tuscaloosa, near the university. His wife, Kathryn, remained there while he lived in an apartment near Westwood.

His UCLA contract was believed to contain provisions for expenses-paid trips to Alabama. "He was planning to retire in Alabama," UCLA Coach Terry Donahue said.

The timing of the announcement took Donahue by surprise.

"(Alabama Coach) Gene Stallings called me during the coaches' convention (last week in Anaheim) and asked for permission to talk to Homer," Donahue said. "I, of course, gave it, and Homer talked with me (Friday) and said that he had accepted a job but was not sure what he really wanted to do. He asked for a little time."

Stallings made the announcement Saturday morning. It also was announced that Stallings' contract had been extended to 1998, and that Moore would become an associate athletic director. Stallings said Moore asked to make the change.

"I wanted to bring in the best possible offensive coordinator," Stallings said, "and Homer Smith fulfills that requirement. He is familiar with Alabama, and he has a proven track record as an excellent coach."

Smith's duties as offensive coordinator will include coaching quarterbacks.

Much of his track record was built at UCLA, where he became an assistant under Pepper Rodgers in 1972, coaching the wishbone offense after head coaching jobs at Davidson and Pacific. Smith left UCLA after the 1973 season to become head coach at Army, where he worked for five seasons.

After a year out of football to pursue a masters' degree in theology at Harvard, Smith, who had been a single-wing tailback at Princeton in the early 1950s, returned to UCLA as offensive coordinator. He created a high-powered passing game that sent six quarterbacks to the NFL and the Bruins to six consecutive bowls, three of them Rose Bowls.

Smith went on to the Kansas City Chiefs from UCLA, spending a season with the Chiefs before going to Alabama under Curry.

Two seasons later, Smith was back at UCLA, where he called all of the plays, subject to an occasional veto by Donahue, and worked with quarterbacks and tight ends.

During his last term in Westwood, the Bruins struggled at times but continued to generate impressive offensive statistics and, this season, returned to the Rose Bowl.

Donahue said that he would not rush to select a new offensive coordinator.

"I'm going to put all of my efforts and energies into recruiting," he said. "Our offensive design, quite frankly, is a product of several people's input, with Homer having an integral part. We'll miss Homer, certainly.

"It's the way this business is. People go from place to place, and always at an inopportune time. But it's business as usual."

Smith is the second member of the UCLA staff to leave since the Rose Bowl. Graduate assistant Kennedy Pola resigned to join the staff of Ted Tollner at San Diego State.

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