West Virginia, having lost the offensive coordinator from its Peach Bowl winning staff, now is gulping and girding for a bidding battle to keep its head football coach, Don Nehlen, from switching to South Carolina as Gary Tranquill did to Navy.

WVU's chances of keeping Nehlen don't look good. The new athletic director at South Carolina, Bob Marcum (ex-Kansas), was an assistant coach under Nehlen at Canton (Ohio) McKinley High School in 1964, they've stayed friends, and--preparing to visit Gamecock country today--Nehlen noted: "The picture they're painting is almost unbelievable . . . a lot of money, super living conditions, special dorms for the players and even special cooks". . .

What's cooking in Terrapin country? Maryland interviews Madden! No, not Big John. Alumnus Joe Madden, special teams coach of the Detroit Lions and previously Johnny Majors' top assistant at Pitt and Tennessee, visited A.D. Dick Dull and company this week about succeeding Jerry Claiborne. Still, if handicapping, leave Dick Nolan the inside track . . .

When Navy pierced Ohio State for 240 yards passing and 28 points in the Liberty Bowl, it was the last straw for architects of the Buckeye defense, 137th among 137 NCAA Division I teams in stopping the pass (3,278 yards) while yielding a school-record 253 points. With Earle Bruce away in Hawaii as a Hula Bowl coach (Navy's Eddie Meyers and Tim Jordan joining OSU's Art Schlichter on the East against Jim McMahon and the West squad Saturday), it leaked in Columbus that Bruce--on his own or with a nudge from above--has canned defensive coordinator Denny Fryzel, secondary tutor Nick Saban and defensive line coach Steve Szabo . . .

USC's John Robinson turned down offer No. 1 from the NFL's New England Patriots, and they've come back with offer No. 2. Response promised today or Friday . . .

Baseball's Texas Rangers, for two years at $400,000 per, have signed Red Sox refugee Frank Tanana, the once awesome Angel left-hander who weathered shoulder trouble that almost ended his career in 1979 and did relieve him of his fast ball. The Red Sox say they offered him $475,000, plus incentives, to stay another year though he struggled, 4-10, with Boston in 1981. He opted for the dimensions of Arlington Stadium vis-a-vis Fenway Park, and said, "The arm feels terrific. I'm gradually coming back to the overpowering style". . . The Kansas City Royals have bestowed a fresh four-year contract (terms secret) on speedster Willie Wilson, the career .306er . . . Dead at 52 (cancer): major league slugger Wally Post, in a hospital near his native St. Henry, Ohio. His best years were with the Cincinnati Reds (40 home runs in 1955, 36 HR in '56, .333 in 1961 World Series) . . .

Fred Dean, who didn't start sacking 49er opponents until October and then played only 70 percent of the defensive downs, nonetheless has made it from Charger castoff to NFC defensive player of the year (UPI) in three months. Runner-up (21-12): Cowboy/ex-Terp Randy White . . . AP's offensive rookie of the NFL year: Saintly George Rogers . . .

In Atlanta, Morris Brown College has been stripped of the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference football title a second time in two years. SIAC Commissioner G.H. Hobson ("Last time I checked, they had not returned the trophies from 1980") noted that this was the third time the conference had trouble with MBC Coach Lambert Reed (the one suspended last fall after allegedly hitting a player with an ax handle): "The first time, Reed signed a boy who had already signed with Bethune-Cookman. Then, last year, he had eight ineligible players. And then this year (20 ineligible athletes on the team)" . . . And that's not all: NCAA rules Morris Brown out of any postseason basketball: rules violations, overdue dues . . .

Darryl Sittler, Toronto captain long agitating for a trade, did not accompany the Leafs to Minnesota for last night's game; nobody would say why--as rumors snowballed. Finally, agent Alan Eagleson cited doctor's advice that Sittler get away from hockey and rest. Management dickers to deal him to North Stars, Flyers or Islanders, his preferences . . .

A. Imperial Valley (Calif.) College of the Desert Conference calls its teams the Arabs . . . Q. Sunday is Ken Anderson Day in Batavia, Ill. The 1966 Batavia High basketball team (28-2) featured two future pro stars, NFL's Anderson and NBA's ???