BALTIMORE, DEC. 23 -- Maryland Gov. William Donald Schaefer said today he has not changed his position "one iota" and still wants to create a single, powerful board to govern the state's 13 public colleges and universities before he gives the state's higher education system more money.

Schaefer said, in effect, that Lt. Gov. Melvin A. Steinberg was wrong last week when Steinberg said the administration would propose only minor changes in the way the state's universities and colleges are governed. Steinberg said he had found it impossible to reach a consensus with key legislators on the specifics of the consolidation that he, Schaefer and college presidents had favored.

But Schaefer said today his opinion had never changed. "Mickey {Steinberg} said that," Schaefer said. "Did you hear me say it? I haven't changed my position one iota."

In a year-end interview with reporters, Schaefer also reacted angrily when a reporter asked whether efforts to entice the St. Louis Cardinals football team to move to the proposed new stadium complex in Baltimore violated Schaefer's vow that he would never "steal" a team from another city.

"Are you trying to irritate me?" Schaefer asked after repeated questions about the negotitions. " . . . I'm getting hot under the collar on this."

Schaefer said the Maryland Stadium Authority would not get into a "bidding war" with St. Louis or any of the other cities that hope to land the franchise if Cardinals owner Bill Bidwell decides to move the team. But he also said the authority should not withdraw its offer because St. Louis has made a last-ditch effort to save the team. Bidwell has until Jan. 15 to inform the NFL of his intention to relocate, but Schaefer said he expected a decision before then.

The higher education issue is expected to be Schaefer's priority in the legislative session that begins Jan. 13, but it also has proved to be one of the toughest on which to reach agreement. "What I thought was a very simple request turned into a very complicated matter," Schaefer said.

Schaefer has said for months that the state's colleges need more money if they are to join the country's best, but he added -- as he did today -- the money wouldn't come without improvements in the way the colleges are governed.

Schaefer wants to put all 13 public colleges under a powerful board of regents. They now are governed by four separate boards, a system that has been criticized as wasteful and inefficient and which Schaefer has said lacks accountability.

But what Schaefer calls a "simple" proposal is politically tangled. Black legislators don't want Morgan State University, the historically black school in Baltimore, lumped in with the rest of the colleges. Supporters of St. Mary's College, a liberal arts school in Southern Maryland, feel it should be indepedent of the board also. Administrators at the University of Maryland in College Park feared that the plan would undermine its position as the state's premier research campus. Private colleges worried that the state would no longer watch out for their interests.

Steinberg said last week that such concerns had kept him and a group of key legislators from reaching a consensus despite months of deliberations. But Schaefer said he didn't think it would be impossible to sell his idea to the General Assembly, and said he wants the changes made this year. "I think we will have lost our great opportunity" if the issue is not addressed in the coming session, he said.

On another matter, Schaefer said he is "listening" to requests that he commute the sentences of the two death row inmates who committed their crimes as juveniles. The General Assembly, with Schaefer's support, passed a bill this year that exempts juveniles from the death penalty, but it is not supposed to be apply to crimes committed before it went into effect.

Catholic bishops and others have asked Schaefer to commute the death sentences of James Trimble, 23, and Lawrence Johnson, 26, both of whom were 17 when they committed unrelated Baltimore County murders that led to their sentences.

Schaefer said he had not changed his position that the death penalty is warranted for certain crimes. "Have I been thinking about juveniles? Yes," he added.