IN FEBRUARY, the University of the District of Columbia considered three options to stay within its intercollegiate sports budget. Officials chose the one that raised student athletic fees from $10 to $25 per semester. In a separate action, the board of trustees voted to give the university's beleaguered football program one more season. But in public hearings next month, UDC is to reconsider the school's whole athletics program. Perhaps the board will see that the football program should be dropped.

A good intercollegiate sports program can boost morale at any university, but a poorly conceived one cannot. The decision to raise fees, at a school that has faced sharp increases in tuition, may discourage student support. At a time when UDC is being asked to do more with less funding, it cannot afford a costly mistake in its athletic program.

UDC currently spends $777,416 on a 10-team intercollegiate sports program. Football alone accounts for $113,135. The first option considered last February would have kept football and basketball, but "severely curtailed" women's sports. The second -- and best -- option would have eliminated either football or basketball.

UDC's football team doesn't even have its own playing field -- it plays at Cardozo High School and draws small crowds -- which curtails its competition: some universities that UDC would like to compete with refuse to play on a high school field. In the past five years, UDC's football team has won just five games out of 38. Large sums of UDC funds would be required to improve on that record. That kind of money is needed elsewhere.

UDC's basketball team, by contrast, has been a constant source of high morale for the university. It was the NCAA Division II national champion in 1981-82. It ranked fifth in the nation last season and, in one stretch, won 17 straight contests. That success alone is important.

UDC is struggling to improve academic programs that have lost or might lose their accreditation. Enrollment has dropped precipitously and a new UDC president is taking hold of the reins. The school's attention is properly focused on those situations. It should not be focused on improving an anemic football program. The athletic department can solve its budget problems by dropping it.