Jerry Stovall, a former All-America and professional football player, today was named to suceed Robert E. (Bo) Rein as head football coach at Louisiana State University.
Rein, who had held the job less than two months, was presumed killed early Friday in the mysterious crash of a small airplane about 120 miles off the Virginia coast. His pilot, Lewis Benscotter of Baton Rouge, also presumed dead, was the only other person aboard.
The Coast Guard suspended its search late today for the plane.
"We have reached the point of no return," said Lt. Gene Brooks. Shipping and aircraft in the area have been alerted to keep an eye for debris that may give up a clue to continue to search."
The LSU Board of Supervisors met here in an emergency executive session for more than an hour today before announcing its choice for coach.
Stovall, 38, who played football at LSU from 1960 through 1962, received a four-year contract at $42,000 annually, said Dee Glueck, LSU's assistant athletic director. The salary is $8,000 less than the yearly amount Rein was offered when he was signed Nov. 30.
Glueck aslo said that Stovall will keep, at least through the 1980 season, the coaching staff Rein had assembled.
Stovall, an All-America in his last collegiate season, played professional football for the St. Louis Cardinals from 1963 through 1972. From 1972 through 1974, he was assistant football coach at South Carolina under Paul Dietzel, who is now LSU's athletic director.
He returned to his alma mater and served as an assistant coach from 1974 through last Feb. 1, when he was appointed coordinator of the Varsity Club, an LSU athletic fund raising organization.
At LSU, Stovall worked under Charles McClendon, the Tiger coach for 18 years and the man whose retirement resulted in Rein's hiring last fall. f
"We are all stunned by the loss of Bo," Stovall said. "There is no way for us to express our sympathy to his family and friends.
"Thus," he said, "the circumstances of my appointment to this post -- obviously a lifetime ambition of mine -- are tragic, but I will attempt to measure up to the high ideals exemplified by Coach Rein and carry on in the manner in which he would want."
During his six weeks at LSU, Rein had worked to sign up players and he was returning to Baton Rouge from a day-long recruiting trip to Shreveport, La., when the accident occured.
He and his pilot, Benscotter, 48, boarded the Cessna shortly after 9 p.m. CST Thrusday for what should have been a 57-minute hop to Baton Rouge. However, a line of thunderstorms over southeast Louisiana forced the pilot to ask for a rerouting toward Memphis to avoid the bad weather.
Permission was granted in what was to be the last radio contact with the plane. In a bizarre odyssey, the small turbo-prop flew over Tennessee, North Carolina and Virginia before apparently running out of fuel and nosediving into the ocean from a height of 41,000 feet.
Ironically, Air Force tracking jets caught up with the plane over Raleigh, N.C., where Rein had worked as North Carolina State University's head football coach before coming to LSU.
They could establish no contact with Rein's plane, and neither could the jets that relieved them near the Virginia coastline. Air Force Capt. Daniel Zoerb said he could only watch helplessly as the plane plunged into the sea.
One Air Force rescue expert speculated that the plane might have become depressurized and that Rein and Benscotter could have become unconscious as a result of hypoxia -- oxygen starvation. Without a pilot at the controls, the plane would have continued on automatic pilot until it could go no farther.
The Coast Guard spokesman said there is no indication of how much longer the ocean search will continue. He also said there is no way of knowing whether rescue workers will find anything.
"There are a lot of factors that make the overall situation depressing," he said, "but you can't rule out the possibility of survival."