BOSTON COLLEGE linebacker Luke Kuechly has won the Lombardi Award as the nation's top collegiate lineman. Kuechly, who leads the nation with 191 tackles this season, beat out Alabama linebackers Courtney Upshaw and Dont'a Hightower and Stanford offensive tackle Jonathan Martin for the award last night.

Kuechly was a bright spot for a team that finished 4-8. The junior has a school- and Atlantic Coast Conference-record 532 career tackles. He is the first recipient from Boston College and won the Butkus Award as the nation's top linebacker Sunday.

Noteworthy

* Southern Mississippi coach Larry Fedora has accepted an offer to become North Carolina's next football coach, two people familiar with the situation said yesterday.

They said the framework of a deal is in place, though it isn't final yet. Both spoke to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the school isn't commenting publicly on its search.

Fedora has guided the 22nd-ranked Golden Eagles (11-2) to a school record for wins, with the last coming over the weekend against unbeaten Houston in the Conference USA championship game.

North Carolina's board of trustees has scheduled "emergency meetings to discuss a personnel matter" for today and tomorrow morning. The school said the board is expected to "take action" during tomorrow's meeting, with at least some portion of those meetings to be conducted in closed session.

Southern Miss faces Nevada in the Hawaii Bowl on Dec. 24. North Carolina (7-5) plays Missouri in the Independence Bowl 2 days later. It wasn't immediately clear who would coach the teams in the bowl games.

* Robert Griffin III, Baylor's exciting dual-threat quarterback, was named the Associated Press' Big 12 offensive player of the year. A leading contender in what is expected to be a tight Heisman Trophy race, Griffin was unquestionably the Big 12's top offensive player, getting 14 1/2 of 17 votes from a panel of AP member sports reporters who regularly cover the league.

Oklahoma senior defensive end Frank Alexander was the Big 12's top defender with 14 votes.

*  Alabama tailback Trent Richardson is the Southeastern Conference offensive player of the year while LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne earned defensive honors. LSU's Les Miles was named coach of the year after leading the top-ranked Tigers into the national championship.