All but four of the 15 sports offered by Prince George's County public schools will see a 17 to 20 percent reduction in coaching salaries under a plan devised by the school system's supervisor of athletics Owen Johnson. In addition, to meet the 9 percent budget trim ordered by the Board of Education, seven sports will have their junior varsity schedules reduced and less money will be paid to custodians.

Only swimming, golf, tennis and cross-country were spared in the effort to pare $209,544 from the athletics budget.

The biggest savings, $35,340, will be in the reduction of the size of football coaching staffs by one paid coaching position at each of the county's 20 public high schools. Each school will have two paid assistant coaches instead of three.

Also losing a full coaching position were boys and girls soccer, although the savings is less than football because not all schools sponsor junior varsity and varsity teams.

Eight other sports will have their coaching staffs reduced from 2.0 to 1.6 paid positions: volleyball, boys and girls basketball, wrestling, baseball, softball and boys and girls track.

Among junior varsity sports, boys and girls basketball will see the biggest reduction in scheduling, losing five games each. Junior varsity baseball and softball will lose four games each, while boys and girls soccer lose three games each. Football will lose one junior varsity game.

In recent weeks, Johnson pleaded with school system and county officials not to cut the athletic budget, saying it was already "bare bones."

But with the assistance of a special committee, Johnson was forced to make the cuts.

"The board is making a terrible mistake," said High Point Athletic Director Ernie Welch, one of the members of the committee that helped Johnson decide what to cut. "Penny-wise and pound foolish. They are fooling around with $200,000. . . . They are buying some other things and cutting athletics to do it. It's not like athletics was running on extra stuff anyway."