Adm. Stansfield Turner, President Carter's nominee to head the Central Intelligence Agency, competed with the President once, and won.

The two young Navy officers both sought a Rhodes scholarship shortly after their 1946 graduation from the Naval Academy and Turner got it. Carter went to submarine school instead.

Turner's Navy career has been distinguished from its start. He was his class' brigade commander and ranked 25th academically in a class of 820. Carter was 59th.

His admirers point to his tours as president of the Naval War College and head of systems analysis for the Navy as examples of his wide-ranging talents.

When he arrived at the Newport. R.I., college in July, 1972, it had the reputation of being something of a country club. He launched what was called "the Turner Revolution" and in less than 60 days the college had an academically superior program, men who worked for him recalled yesterday. He revamped the whole curriculum.

"There was a great gnashing of teeth from the old guard," one colleague remembered and added that some problems could have been avoided if Turner "had done a little stroking."

"The admiral isn't much good at stroking," he said.

Under Turner's reform, "reading assignements quintupled, and writing demands increased markedly. Additionally, examinations were instituted," Turner wrote in the Naval War College Review.

"Turner digests information, details better than anyone I've ever seen," said one man who has worked for him.

He also likes action.

"He once told me that he would rather make 50 decisions of which 30 were right than make 25 decisions, all of them right," a friend recalls. "He has no hesitation about changing his mind and taking the rap if he was wrong."

Turner set up the Navy's first office of net assessment - assessing the potential enemy's capabilities to determine where future efforts should be concentrated.

Associates describe Turner as an informal administrator who has always been open to suggestions even from the most junior officers on his staff.

Withing the Navy, Turner is somewhat controversial. He ws a protege of the former chief of naval operations, Adm. Elmo Zumwalt, and advanced very quickly from rear admiral to vice admiral while on Zumwalt's staff.

A friend said that in the opinion of some officers Turner has not had enough sea experience. As they put it, "He hasn't driven enough green water over the bow."

Other Navy men are critical of Turner because he is not an all-out advocate of enlarging U.S. aircraft carrier forces. In the January issue of Foreign Affairs. Turner wrote on the naval balance with the Soviet Union and said:

"A sensible approach will be to ask not 'Who is ahead? but to determine whether our naval forces in hand, considering the other forces on the plane, can carry out our national purpose."

He is "not one of the guys who is always shouting that the Russians are coming," a former subordinate said. But, Turner "has an unemotional perspective" and is very aware of Soviet naval strengths and weaknesses, he added.

Turner, 53, was a destroyer officer early in his career and since 1974 has been on duty in the Mediterranean. He was commander of the U.S. Second Fleet and NATO Striking Fleet Atlantic before August, 1975, when he was named to his present post as commander in chief of allied forces in southern Europe (ADSOUTH).

In addition to the master's degree in philosophy, politics and economics, which Turner won at Oxford, he has attended the advanced management program of the Harvard Business School.

He was born in Chicago and entered Amherst College in 1941, but two years later transferred to the Naval Academy.

Turner, if confirmed, would be the fourth admiral to head the CIA. Rear Adms, Sidney Souers and Roscoe Hillenkoetter and Vice Adm. William Raborn Jr. have held the post.

Turner won the bronze star in Vietnam and holds the Legion of Merit for his shore duty in the Pentagon.

He and his wife, Patricia, have one son and one daughter.