Heartening news today for football parents and all concerned -- except those connected with the victims: gridiron fatalities in 1978 dropped to their lowest level since 1952.

Better yet for the American Football Coaches Association receiving the report, there were no college football deaths reported; all eight tallied were in high schools.

Dr. Carl Blyth of U. of North Carolina, head of the college coaches' ongoing injury and fatality study, attributed the low figure to efforts by coaches to deemphasize the head as the primary point in blocking and tackling

FanFare editorial comment: a bow to Sports Illustrated (John Underwood) and others for articles on football injuries that prefaced the past season -- and obviously hit home...

Dead at 89: the second-oldest football All-America, Perry Graves.Sr., 148-pound end at Illinois, 1974. (Oldest living All-America: Hamilton Fish Sr., 90, Harvard '10)... Dead at 80: "Hinkey" Haines, Pennsylvania ballplayer who made it to the majors for 25 at-bats with the 1923 Yankees and -- something to talk about a lifetime -- one time up in the World Series as lateinning replacement in right field for Babe Ruth, who shifted to first for Wall Pipp...And at 70: Othol (Abe) Martin, who coadched Texas Chrisian (no, they haven't been losers forever) to three Southwest Conference football titles during a 74-64-7 stand, 1953-66. Earlier, he played on the first Horned Frog SWC champs, 1929, then was assistant coach; later, 1966-75, he was TCU athletic director.

Flowers to the living: Al (Sleepy) Thompson, who with 27 years as athletic director/coach at St. Stephen's in Alexandria must be the dean of Northern Virginia prep coaches, will be honoverd at a banquet Feb. 3, Springfield Hilton. His 1978 undefeated football varsity ran his victory sum to 154... Joe Paterno, even if his Nittanies aren't No. 1, is tops with colleagues; assembled at the NCAA convention, they named him coach of the year... LSU's Charlie McClendon ascended to AFCA prex, suceeding Yale's Carm Cozza, with Maryland's Carm Cozza, with Maryland's Jerry Claiborne moving a step closer to his turn... Jim Hindman, who did such an estimable job at Western Maryland (7-1-1), will receive a Timmie award at the 44th Touchdown Club dinner Jan. 27 at the Sheraton Park... Ohio State, with the cat out of the bag, will unveil its new football boss today and if it isn't Iowa State's Earle Bruce, it's the upset of the young year...

Hot item from Jesup, Ga.: hometowner Len Hauss, late of the Redskins, is coaching the Jaycee team prepping for flag football action against the local police, fire and sheriff's departments. Billy Kilmer and Jack Scott dropped by to help Hauss' squad, the Toilet Kings, practice. Yes, they're billing it as the Toilet Bowl -- but with good reason: proceeds go to remodel the rundown restrooms at Jesup's high school field.