Howard University football coach Willie Jeffries, who led the Bison to the second best Division I-AA record in the nation this season, yesterday announced he has signed a new multiyear contract with the school, although he said he remains a candidate for the vacant coaching position at Ohio State.

Financial terms and length of the contract were not disclosed, but Jeffries, who was given a four-year agreement when he came to Howard from Wichita State, confirmed he was given a substantial raise and the long-term security he had sought.

"We are not discussing the length or the terms, but it was definitely good enough to sign," said Jeffries, who was named Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference coach of the year as the Bison won their first league title and went 9-1 overall.

Jeffries, who does not have an agent and negotiates his own contracts, went for an interview at Ohio State 10 days ago. He would not say whether his Howard contract has escape provisions, but he said he still considers himself a contender for the prestigious Big Ten job.

"I thought they were serious when I went out there," said Jeffries of his Ohio State candidacy. "I met with them for about three hours and I thought it went very well, but I did not sign the Howard contract with the intention of {possibly leaving}. I can't put a lot of attention on something like {an escape clause} because I am busy watching films and recruiting to get ready for next season here."

Ohio State officials say no decision has been made on the coaching vacancy and likely won't be until next week.

The Bison have won 16 of their last 17 games under Jeffries, who will be 50 on Jan. 3. He has a 23-19 record at Howard and a career record of 94-64-6, including six seasons at South Carolina State and five at Wichita State.

Howard finished 1-9 the year prior to Jeffries' arrival and went 6-15 in his first two years. The program turned around in 1986 as the Bison won their final seven games.

Howard's success under Jeffries has mirrored his records at the two other schools. South Carolina State was 1-9 the year prior to Jeffries' hiring and went on to win five MEAC titles during his six years. Wichita State was 1-10 in his first season, but improved to 8-3 three years later.

Jeffries has been approached by several schools during his tenure at Howard and two years ago was tempted by an offer to return to South Carolina State.

This fall, he said he would like to keep his family settled in the Washington area and that he would consider leaving only for a head coaching offer on the Division I-A level.

"When you are happy with what you are doing and not standing on the street corner handing out resumes, that's when it seems that other people come after you," said Jeffries. "But I am happy with what I am doing and, right now, I am not planning on doing anything other than coaching Howard University."