IT COULD have been a one-time-only headline-grabber, but the blistering commencement speech that Gov. Gerald Baliles delivered at Virginia Tech -- scolding overseers for the university's year-long series of athletics scandals -- was anything but the last word from the governor. Ever since that initial blast, Gov. Baliles has kept on the case, repeating his call for a cleanup of Tech's athletic programs and appointing four new members to the institution's board of visitors. At a meeting Wednesday with the board and Tech President William E. Lavery, the governor continued to chide officials about the school's longstanding love of "big-time athletics," commenting that this passion had produced "big-time problems like financial mismanagement, erosion of academic credibility and violation of national {educational} norms." The immediate reaction from the board is a series of changes that should help Tech clean up its athletic act -- and protect its good name as a strong engineering school.

Chief among the new policies is the disbanding of the Virginia Tech Athletic Association Inc., a much-too-autonomous group that had run big-time sports there. In the past year, scandals included allegations of illegal recruiting, the angry departures of two athletic directors, a huge debt in the sports program and lots of unflattering publicity. Mr. Lavery's new plans for the school also include application of "systematic" admission standards to all school applicants -- athletes or not. Though details remain to be spelled out, the idea is to stop granting exceptions to athletes seeking admission.

So far, at least, the response at Tech -- from officials to alumni to students -- to the governor's goading has been good; support for a cleanup appears strong. That widespread support could become all the more critical in later years, if the scandals fade from memory and pressures relax. But Virginia Tech is much too valuable a part of the state's impressive network of universities to be allowed to revert to its old athletics tricks -- and Gov. Baliles is right to keep a close eye on the the place for as long as he can.