Dennis Green is leaving a reasonably stable job as an assistant coach with the San Francisco 49ers to become the first black head coach at Stanford University, an institution beset by racial incidents.

Big Ten Coach of the Year when leading the Northwestern Wildcats in 1982, the 39-year-old Green said Tuesday he hoped to follow in the footsteps of 49ers coach Bill Walsh, who reshaped a struggling San Francisco team into consistent winners after taking it over in 1979.Green is replacing Jack Elway, who was fired in early December after a 3-6-2 season and rumblings of player discontent. Elway posted an overall 25-29-2 record during five years at "The Farm."

Green became the fourth black head football coach at 104 Division-I schools.

The San Francisco Chronicle last month quoted an unidentified source close to the selection process as saying that the search committee was seeking a black head coach.

"I don't think it was a factor, I really don't," he said, contending it had not helped or hindered him during his NFL coaching career or with college recruiting. The fact that a black was chosen head coach was "coincidence," Green said.

Stanford has been hit with a series of racial incidents since last spring that include remarks, demonstrations and practical jokes by white students.

At Moscow, Idaho, Washington State University defensive coordinator John L. Smith was named head football coach at the University of Idaho, replacing Keith Gilbertson.

Smith was passed over three years ago when Idaho picked Gilbertson. The Vandals were Big Sky Conference champs for the second straight year in 1988 under Gilbertson.