Norm Van Brocklin, the Social Circle, Ga., pecan farmer who decided to rejoin the football coaching fraternity just last week, detoured for a brain operation yesterday that he said wouldn't be as serious as it sounds. Let's hope he was right.

"Should be out of the hospital (in Atlanta) in about 10 days... informed Coach Pepper Rodgers that I'll be a few days late reporting to work at Georgia Tech," he said. The NFL Hall of Fame quarterback who coached ther Minnesota Vikings six years and the Falcons seven years before dismissal in 1974 had signed abord at Tech to help Rodgers install a pro-style offense and planned to start work this week.

But he was having dizzy spells, checked into the hospital and was told he needed surgery, removing a blood vessel from the scalp and connecting it with the brain to increase the flow of oxygen.

Initial word after the four-hour procedure: "technically successful." Van Brocklin's condition: "satisfactory"...

The Ohio State visit to Maryland for NIT action Monday should mark a nice homecoming for forward Rick Smith, Buckeye senior tricaptain out of Marshall High in Northern Virginia. Smith, although just about the last man off the Buckeye bench, has built up a regular fan club. As his dad, Norm Smith of Vienna, tells it, Rick's rooters "now number in the thousands, with picture T-shirts, No. 33 on hats and shirts, banners, etc., the whole works."

Last OSU state we saw, Smith had seven points for the year -- one behind Art Schlichter. Yep, they made good on Woody Hayes' promise that his prize freshman quarterback could play hoops, too. And the new football coach, Earle Bruce, recently made a little more sure Schlichter stays happy by hiring the lad's high school coach in Bloomingburg, Ohio, Fred Zechman, to tutor Buckeye passers and receivers. Mind those interceptions!

With 6,700 Penn State alumni in the capital area, the Nittany Lion Club's Washington chapter looks for a hefty turnout Wednesday to hear Coach Joe Paterno at dinner in his honor at Congressional Country Club; contact David Baird in McLean or Andrew Bergstein in the District for tickets... Same evening, 7:30, the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints salutes Bullet Coach Dick Motta at the stake center next to the Mormon Temple in Kensington.