Notre Dame, kingpin of college football two years ago after picking off Texas in the Cotton Bowl, sat at home Jan. 1 while 1979's top eight bowled it up -- sat home and counted down the New Year and the last breath of Dan Devine's coaching contract.

Devine says he intends to stay. He bemoans the speculation that he may be leaving as having put a crimp in his recruiting. He has an obligation, he says, to guarantee prospective Irish players, as best he can, "that I plan to be here for at least four more years."

That pre-Christmas junket to Phoenix? Devine, 44-14 for four years at NDU, says that was strictly a recruiting trip; that he was not interviewed about returning to the Arizona State post he occupied 1955-57 before switching to Missouri and leaving the Sun Devils to 21 1/2 years of Frank Kush.

"I have read some stories that say I am in trouble at Notre Dame or that I am looking elsewhere but, as far as I know, those reports are groundless," Devine said. Those tales of Stram, Shula or Holtz taking over the Irish in the wake of a 7-4 season?

"Interesting but not helpful to the coach who will be here -- me" . . .