Ronayne (Ro) Waldron, a Kentucky assistant, was named football coach at Catholic University yesterday by Athletic Director Fred O'Connor. At 27, Waldron will be one of the youngest head coaches in the country.

The first full-time coach in the last 34 years at the Division III school, Waldron succeeds Joe Pascale, who was fired after last season. The Cardinals finished 5-4.

"Ro's coming from a program that's completely turned around since he's been there and he's learned from one of the nation's top coaches, Jerry Claiborne. That's why I hired him," said O'Connor, a former coach of the San Francisco 49ers.

"(Ro) is a tremendous person, highly qualified and is ready to begin rebuilding our program. We're pointing to a national championship in Division III, and I think he's the coach to take us there," O'Connor said.

Waldron, son of former St. John's high school coach Doonie Waldron, is a former all-Met center at Northwood High School. He started three seasons at Virginia Tech, where he earned all-league honors before serving as a graduate assistant to Coach Bill Dooley in 1981.

"He played and coached under a good program at Virginia Tech and has coached our centers for the past three years and done an outstanding job," said Claiborne. "He's learned a lot of football already and is ready to run his own program now. I told him this morning that he's not going to be making suggestions any more. They'll all be decisions from here on out."

"I'm on cloud nine right now. I can't tell you how happy I am to become a college head coach and to be coming home," said Waldron, who plans to install a pro-style one-back offense and a variation of the wide-tackle-six defense.

"There is a real commitment to athletics and to winning at Catholic University now. And with the new facility, we've got a lot of good things to sell to prospective students. I intend to concentrate recruiting in the Washington area.

"I've been associated with winners all my life and that's my first goal at Catholic -- to establish a quality, winning program," Waldron said. "I can't promise if or when we'll win a national championship, but I can tell you that we're going to work as hard as we can to reach that goal."

Former Washington Federals coach Ray Jauch had been under consideration for the job, but told O'Conner two days ago he would not be able to accept the position because of time commitments required by his construction company. Gonzaga High School Coach Mark Gowin was the other finalist for the job, but he lacked Waldron's major-college experience.

Catholic University will move into a new 3,000-seat football stadium next season, part of an $8.2 million athletic complex being built one mile north of the campus.