A federal judge denied Baltimore's effort to force the Colts back home, ruling yesterday the city was too late when it sued to condemn the team and seize it through the eminent domain process.

U.S. District Judge Walter Black Jr. in Baltimore said owner Robert Irsay had completed the necessary legal steps to move the franchise to Indianapolis when Baltimore filed its lawsuit March 30, 1984.

"The team's principal place of business and its tangible property were both outside Maryland on that date, and it is clear that the owner's intention was to relocate outside of Maryland," the judge wrote. "Under any of the workable tests for the determining the (home) of the franchise, the court concludes the Colts were 'gone' on March 30, 1984."

It was on March 29, 1984 -- with a swirling snowstorm creating a surreal background -- that Mayflower moving vans pulled into the Colts' training complex in Owings Mills and began packing uniforms, weights and memorabilia from the team's trophy case.

The next morning city officials went to court. Had Black ruled in Baltimore's favor and appeals been upheld, a trial would have been held solely so a jury could set a price for the team . . .

All the Houston Oilers' new interim head coach, defensive coordinator Jerry Glanville, has to do to win the job for 1986, says General Manager Ladd Herzeg, is to direct the 5-9 club to wins in its final two games of the season, at Cleveland and at Indianapolis. Otherwise, Herzeg intensifies a search for the 14th head coach in the team's 26 years.

"Considering what our road record has been in recent years, if he wins the last two games, he deserves to be the head coach," Herzeg said.

The Oilers have won three of their last 34 away games.