A promising athlete is admitted to the University of Georgia, but enrolled in a remedial studies program because he is deemed academically ineligible for regular courses. An instructor estimates that the student has the capabilities of a fourth or fifth grader.

Seven months later, he is dismissed because of poor grades, but readmitted days later on the authority of a university administrator. After six attempts, he fails to move out of his remedial English course, but is granted a waiver that allows him another chance.

In the meantime, he confidently tells an instructor he is safe from dismissal: he is an athlete.

This is the story of an unidentified student, presented in an internal university audit released last week, and offered as an example of widespread abuses by administrators who shepherded through the institution hundreds of unqualified students, many of them athletes.

The current status of this student, who arrived on campus in 1981, was not reported. For purposes of the audit, his name is "FFFF." But his college experience is important because, according to the audit, his case is typical.

Special treatment for athletes -- better meals, separate dorms and abundant attention -- has been a traditional, accepted practice at colleges across the country. More serious academic and ethical abuses, including under-the-table gifts and payments for athletes, have been widely suspected and sporadically documented.

But this is the first time that a pattern of preferential academic treatment has been so detailed by college investigators. The 108-page audit discloses a step-by-step look at how academically deficient students are admitted and passed through a program, often to the frustration of their instructors.

"I think that bothered all the faculty," said Sherrie Nist, acting associate director of the Developmental Studies Program, the remedial department that was the focus of the audit. "Those students were placed in the program; we had to do the best with them."

The audit, released Thursday by the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia, repeated many of the charges raised in a federal lawsuit filed by former English professor Jan Kemp. She was awarded $2.57 million in February after arguing that she had been fired for complaining about the abuses.

"I feel vindicated," she said of the auditors' findings.

The audit contained statements by two university administrators that they had given preferential treatment to athletes with the knowledge of University President Fred C. Davison, and under pressure from the athletic department headed by Vince Dooley, football coach for 22 years.

In a 157-page rebuttal, Davison denied that he knew of or condoned improper procedures and argued that the bulk of the cases cited in the audit did not contradict university policy. He also outlined several reforms ordered in response to the investigation.

Davison submitted his resignation last month and is scheduled to appear before the Board of Regents Monday to present his case.

Dooley denied in an interview that he or his staff had pressured faculty or administrators to give his athletes special treatment.

According to the audit, of 976 students enrolled in the Developmental Studies Program from 1981 to 1984, 178 were admitted without meeting university requirements for the remedial program. Once enrolled, the report said, students were allowed to audit and take courses out of sequence and were steered to easier courses.

"Once a professor was identified as being 'easy' for athletes, many courses taught by that professor were used in the athletic advising process," according to a counselor interviewed in the audit. Among the courses were: "Insects and Man," "Safety in Sports and Recreation," and "Business Communication."

Students were often advised by the athletic department -- not by academic counselors -- a process in many cases "designed primarily to maintain eligibility" to play sports, according to the audit.

"The fact that a significant number of faculty members, counselors and tutors involved with the instruction of these athletes were paid through funds from the athletic department further exacerbated the problem," the audit said, "and to some produced the perception that athletes were not required to meet the basic standards . . . . "

Also, a "laboratory" funded by the athletic department and established for students at the lowest academic levels, most of them athletes, has operated independently of the Developmental Studies Program, according to the audit, which termed it an "unfortunate practice" with the "potential to subvert" established standards.

While the impact of the auditors' report filters through the university system, the athletes have banded together, are studying harder and have signed up for summer workouts in record numbers, according to assistant football coach Joe Tereshinski. "You wouldn't believe how hard they try," he said.

Offensive coach Charles Whittemore predicted that the audit will prompt positive reforms: "Four years from now, when a guy gets a degree, nobody will say it was given to them."