PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) _ Former Boston Red Sox manager Butch Hobson agreed Thursday to enter a state program for first-time criminal offenders and will avoid jail time for a cocaine possession charge.

In a settlement statement approved by the attorney general's office, Hobson acknowledged using cocaine in the past, but did not admit any guilt. He will be required to lecture young people about the dangers of drugs, and may have to submit to drug testing and undergo counseling as part of the ``diversion'' program.

``It's gone on for long enough,'' Hobson said of the months of negotiations between prosecutors and his lawyer, Stephen Famiglietti. ``My my dad, wife and sons, the people in Alabama, have said, `It's over with. Let's put it behind you now.' ''

When asked if he had any regrets about the case, Hobson responded, ``If I regret anything, it's the first time I used cocaine.''

Hobson, 45, of Fairhope, Ala., was arrested May 4 after agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration found 2.6 grams of cocaine worth about $120 in Hobson's shaving kit at a Pawtucket hotel. Hobson was in Rhode Island while the team he was managing, the Scranton-Wilkes-Barre Red Barons, played the Pawtucket Red Sox.

Hobson pleaded innocent in August and was freed on personal recognizance.

He did not appear in Superior Court when Judge William Dimitri accepted the settlement, but met with the chief of the diversion program Thursday morning in Warwick to discuss what would be required of him.

In Rhode Island, any person with a clean record charged with a nonviolent crime can be offered diversion. In such a case, the defendant acknowledges wrongdoing and can be sentenced to community service, counseling and restitution. The case is sealed and does not appear on a person's record provided they stay out of trouble.

An Alabama agency will be chosen to monitor Hobson to see if he needs substance abuse counseling or drug testing, and will report on his progress to the attorney general's office, Famiglietti said.

Hobson probably will perform about 60 hours of community service and was expected to complete the program by June, Famiglietti said.

The attorney general's office stressed Hobson received no preferential treatment. It is common for first-time drug offenders to complete the program in their home state, spokesman Chris Shaban said.

After his arrest, Hobson said he did not realize an overnight letter delivered to his hotel room contained the drug until he opened it. He said he has not used cocaine in nearly two years and expected the envelope contained cash owed to him by a friend.

He said he panicked when he saw the cocaine, and decided to hide it rather than call authorities.

DEA agents, who were tipped to the envelope's contents before it was delivered, entered Hobson's room and arrested him.

Hobson played with the Red Sox, California Angels and New York Yankees from 1975 to 1982. A third baseman, his best season was with the Red Sox in 1977 when he hit .265 with 30 home runs and 112 RBIs.

He managed Pawtucket in 1991, and took over the Boston Red Sox the following year. He was fired as Boston's manager in 1994 after compiling a 207-231 record in three seasons.

He joined Scranton-Wilkes-Barre last season and had a 13-14 record when arrested. He was placed on leave, then fired in August.

Hobson said he has started his own sports nutrition business, but acknowledged money is tight. He also said he hoped to return to baseball.

``I miss it very badly,'' he said.