Howard University football coach Willie Jeffries was interviewed for about three hours Monday by Ohio State University President Edward Jennings and others seeking a new coach for the Buckeyes, Jeffries confirmed yesterday.

Jeffries, who became the first black coach at an NCAA Division I-A school during his previous job at Wichita State, declined to discuss details of the meeting. He said it was not in Columbus, where the Ohio State campus is.

A source in Columbus said the university is still in the process of interviewing several candidates for the vacancy created when Jennings fired Earle Bruce last month.

The list apparently has not been pared to a group of finalists, despite reports that the job would be offered to either John Cooper of Arizona State or Don Nehlen of West Virginia.

Former Cleveland Browns coach Sam Rutigliano said he interviewed for the position Wednesday and remains interested in the job.

Neither Jennings nor Athletic Director Jim Jones was available for comment. But university spokesman Malcolm Baroway said, "Taking a very close look at one or more of the best minority coaches in the country would be consistent with the university's direction."

Yesterday, Jeffries said he was hesitant to discuss details because Ohio State officials told him they would be kept private.

"They called {Associate Athletic Director Sonya Tyler} and got permission to talk to me, yes," Jeffries said. "I've interviewed . . . {with} the president and numerous other people. That's about as much as I can tell you right now. I'm happy here at Howard University. I'm very happy and I don't want to stretch it out any further."

Jeffries' original four-year contract with Howard expired at the end of last season, after he lead the Bison to a 9-1 record and the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference championship. When the Bison did not receive a bid to the Division I-AA playoffs, the university sued the NCAA on grounds of antitrust violations and breach of contract.

Jeffries said he has not signed a new contract with Howard, which held an appreciation day for him at the final regular season home game. "But I'm going to sign," he said.

Asked if the Ohio State interview would serve as a good bargaining chip in those negotiations, Jeffries said, "I don't use leverage like that . . . I'm real happy here. I'm into recruiting at this time. I'm trying to get some good athletes to play at Howard next year."