GOOD NEWS from the University of Maryland, where administrators and student leaders have teamed up in a rigorous crackdown on cheaters, including adoption of a stiff new code of conduct. A recent dragnet conducted by university authorities turned up a disturbing number of "ringers" -- people hired by students to take students' exams -- as well as other instances of cheating. Yet what Maryland is uncovering and attacking is by no means limited to that institution; college officials all around the country are wrestling with what they consider to be heavier than usual outbreaks of dishonesty.

Many theories are offered in explanation of these increases in cheating, from pressures of a tight job market and other economic tensions to general absences of scholastic curiosity and the existence of impersonal, computerized exam and grade systems. But on the same day that the news account of Maryland's crackdown appeared on page one of The Post, our sports section featured a devastating report by staff writer Mark Asher on widespread cheating on campuses -- not by students, but by university officials, coaches and faculty members, in pursuit of athletic glories.

Some of these higher-education authorities have gone to great lengths of deception to recruit and keep athletes in school, from the misuse of funds to the creation of counterfeit transcripts and phony courses and even to the physical abuse of players. "There's so much cheating going on now," says one basketball coach, "that it is no longer awesome. It's beyond awesome." Says another coach, "They'll fire you for losing before they'll fire you for cheating."

"Winning is everything, losing is death" -- the saying revives itself. If cheating reaps money and honor, where is honor these days? The atmosphere on a campus is key -- and that is why the Maryland U. effort is so encouraging. Students themselves are supporting the crackdown. As the campus newspaper, The Diamondback, commented, the intent of the tough measures is not to catch everyone but to "catch enough to spread the word."