Steve Sloan, who quarterbacked Alabama's Crimson Tide somewhere in there among Bart Starr, Joe Namath, Ken Stabler, Richard Todd, Scott Hunter, etc., is coming back to haunt Bear Bryant - as coach of Southeastern Conference rival Mississippi.

Sloan assembled a news conference in Lubbock, Tex., yesterday to announce he is leaving Texas Tech for Ole Miss to supplant Ken Cooper, who gave up the ghost the day before. He started to read a statement of farewell to Tech, where his Red Raiders shared the 1976 SWC title in a 10-2 season (before slipping to 6-5 this year, for a three-year aggregate of 23-11), but choked up at the outset. The statement, read for him, lauded his situation at Lubbock but said, "every man must do as his heart dictates."

Of course, this isn't Sloan's first tour as an SEC coach. His first head job was at Vanderbilt in 1973 (5-6) and '74 - when he led the Commodores to their greatest season in the last 20-odd years, 7-3-1. Vandy then tied Texas Tech in the Peach Bowl, just about the time Sloan's heart dictated he change sides.

Sloan often has been rumored as Bryant's successor at Alabama, but the Bear said the other day he won't quit for a few more years. When he left Vanderbilt in '75, Sloan told friends, "It will be easier for me to go from Texas Tech to Alabama than from Vanderbilt to Alabama." And from Mississippi? . . .

Sloan is 33, and Rick Venturi is 32 - and suddenly the youngest head coach in Big 10 football. Northwestern tapped Venturi yesterday, an old Wildcat assistant who also tutored the defensive secondaries at Purdue and Illinois.

Texas Tech promptly put Baylor coach Grant Teaff "at the top of the list of candidates to be interviewed" for Sloan's job . . . At California, athletic director Dave Maggard launched a "nationwide" search for a successor to Mike White, whom he fired Wednesday, and the initial name for speculation was White's old boss at Stanford - Cal alumnus and former Denver Bronco headmaster John Ralston . . .