Jerry Berndt, whose Pennsylvania Quakers won or shared the Ivy League title for four straight years, yesterday was named head football coach and athletic director at Rice.

"I am excited about the opportunity to take charge of a football program now headed in the right direction," Berndt said of the Owls, who have foundered in the basement of the Southwest Conference for years. "Rice's athletic program is run on principles very much in keeping with my own philosophies."

Rice was 3-8 this year under Watson Brown, who left Dec. 5 to become head coach at Vanderbilt, his alma mater.

Berndt, 47, had been at Penn since 1981 and compiled a record of 29-18-2. In his first season, the Quakers were 1-9, but since then, they have won or shared the Ivy League title. In 1984, the Quakers were 7-0 in league play and scored 254 points, both league records.

The Quakers had 14 straight league victories before a defeat this season to Harvard. Penn was 7-2-1 overall this year.

Rice scheduled a news conference for Thursday to make the official announcement. Berndt's contract reportedly covers five years and is worth $150,000 to $200,000 per year.

Penn made a counteroffer to try to keep Berndt but could not come up with the money.

"There was no way we could match the money and benefits Rice offered," said Penn Athletic Director Paul Rubincam. "We weren't in the ball game."