Jackie Sherrill, who left Texas A&M two years ago with the Aggies on NCAA probation, is returning to college football as coach at Mississippi State, saying the job is like "coming home."

"Coach Bryant {Alabama's late Bear Bryant} used to say if you don't get up in the morning and throw up because you miss it {coaching} so bad, you don't know what it is," Sherrill said after his selection was announced yesterday. "I was looking for the right situation to get back. This is a pleasure for me."

Sherrill, 47, in private business since leaving Texas A&M, replaces Rockey Felker, who resigned under pressure two weeks ago after a 5-6 season, the Bulldogs' fourth straight losing campaign.

The Mississippi State Athletic Council approved Sherrill's hiring, reportedly on a four-year contract for $75,000 a year -- just a fraction of his landmark Texas A&M salary.

The NCAA eventually cleared Texas A&M of allegations that former player George Smith received hush money from Sherrill, then coach and athletic director, saying it could not distinguish fact from fiction. The NCAA said Sherrill was never implicated in any wrongdoing. But he resigned in December 1988, following an internal investigation by the school after the Aggies drew probation for two years for recruiting violations.

Sherrill's teams at Texas A&M went 52-28-1 in seven seasons, winning three consecutive Southwest Conference titles. He is 105-42-2 at Texas A&M, Pitt and Washington State.

"We wanted an individual that could prove he was a winner . . . not only on the field, but also by placing a demand on our student-athletes," Athletic Director Larry Templeton said. "Most importantly, we wanted a coach that could help Mississippi State win the Southeastern Conference championship."