Gary Tranquill, the offensive coordinator at West Virginia University, was named football coach at the U.S. Naval Academy yesterday. A former assistant at Navy and Ohio State, Tranquill was said to be the only candidate seriously considered by Athletic Director J.O. (Bo) Coppedge.

"My football philosophy is simple," said Tranquill, 41. "I like to win. I want to be as competitive as we can possibly be. I want (the players) to play with enthusiasm and have fun--it's important to have fun--and play hard. And I like to throw the football."

Meanwhile, Dick Nolan, former coach of the San Francisco 49ers and the New Orleans Saints, is the leading candidate to replace Jerry Claiborne at the University of Maryland and will be named to that position later this month, pending what a source called "more homework" on Nolan by university officials.

"It's Nolan straight across the board," said the source, who asked anonymity. "Everybody's sold he can get it done. They want to make sure he's only a football coach. They don't want a power-hoarder, somebody who wants to be athletic director, too. They're doing their homework so nobody can come in that's a George Allen-type figure and create havoc within the athletic department . . . beat Penn State a couple of times and bring his own guys in."

Dick Dull, Maryland's athletic director, refused comment, saying, "It's not fair to the whole process to comment on him or anybody else." Nolan, who played on Maryland's 1953 national championship team and is currently the defensive coordinator of the Houston Oilers, was said to be on the West Coast and could not be reached for comment.

At Annapolis, Coppedge made the midafternoon announcement on the replacement for George Welsh, who left after nine seasons to become coach at the University of Virginia. Coppedge declined to comment on the terms of Tranquill's contract. Tranquill said, "We met and talked about it. We haven't come to any specifics on it, but I'm all set . . . I'm elated and anxious to get going."

Tranquill emerged as the leading Navy candidate Saturday after three assistants from Welsh's staff said they had been told by Coppedge earlier that day that they no longer were under consideration. Coppedge had said only four candidates had been interviewed and that Tranquill had been interviewed twice. Coppedge declined yesterday to say whom else he considered.

But a Naval Academy source said Tranquill was the only candidate seriously considered by Coppedge, who made his recommendation to the eight-member Naval Academy Athletic Board of Control.

Three assistants on Welsh's 1981 staff--Joe Krivak, Bill Haushalter and Tony Whittlesey--also were interviewed.

Tranquill, who served as quarterback and receiver coach on Welsh's first Navy staff, will be introduced at a news conference at the Naval Academy today.

Welsh, who had a 55-46-1 record in nine seasons at Navy and guided the Midshipmen to bowl appearances in three of the last four seasons, started work at his new job last Friday. Welsh remained at Navy until then to coach the Midshipmen in the Liberty Bowl last Wednesday. They were beaten by Ohio State, 31-28.

Tranquill had better success with his West Virginia team in the Peach Bowl. The Mountaineers capped a 9-3 season with a 26-6 upset of Florida.

"We're getting a coach with an excellent football background," said Coppedge. "He's been at the Naval Academy before and understands the framework within which the sport is conducted here. A strong factor in our choice was that he's been a coach both on defense and on offense."

Tranquill left Welsh's staff in 1976 to become the secondary coach under Woody Hayes at Ohio State and, when Hayes was fired, Tranquill went to West Virginia as the defensive coordinator and secondary coach under Frank Cignetti.

Don Nehlen replaced Cignetti in 1980 and Tranquill became his offensive coordinator and coached the receivers and the quarterbacks. He previously coached under Nehlen at Bowling Green. Tranquill also has coached at Wittenberg, his alma mater, and Ball State.

"I've known Gary for many years and I know he's ready for a head coaching job," Nehlen said. "He was a tremendous asset in building our offense the past two years."

Tranquill will assume his duties immediately.

"We believe Gary possesses the leadership to enable us to sustain the success we've enjoyed in recent seasons," Coppedge said.

Tranquill said his immediate priorities will be putting together a staff and recruiting. Tranquill said that except for watching the Navy-Ohio State game on television the night before his old team played in the Peach Bowl, he has not seen film of Navy's players and therefore could not evaluate the team.

Asked whether he would work with the offense or defense, Tranquill said he wasn't sure, but added, "I'm more inclined or oriented offensively."

At Maryland, sources said Terrapin officials are convinced that Nolan, a defensive player and coach during his entire National Football League career, would bring a wide-open offense to College Park, as Dull had said was one of his requisites for the new coach.

Nolan, who played both offensive and defensive halfback at Maryland, coached both John Brodie at San Francisco and Archie Manning at New Orleans during his time as a head coach. Under Nolan, the Saints used a multiple offense that took advantage of Manning's ability to both pass and run.