Secretary of the Air Force Donald B. Rice used one of the Air Force's C-20 Gulfstream III jets to fly to last Saturday's Air Force-Notre Dame football game -- a day-long excursion that cost the taxpayers nearly $5,700.

Rice, accompanied by his wife and top aide Lt. Col. Carl Tickel, departed Andrews Air Force Base at 8:45 a.m. Saturday, arriving in South Bend, Ind., an hour and 35 minutes later. After attending a morning brunch for visiting dignitaries given by Notre Dame President Edward A. "Monk" Malloy, Rice watched Notre Dame beat Air Force, 57-27. Rice and his party left that afternoon and were back in Washington by 6:30 p.m.

Air Force spokesman Lt. Col. Darrell Hayes yesterday called the trip "official business" and said Rice, a 1961 Notre Dame graduate, met with Notre Dame Air Force ROTC officials and cadets to discuss the school's program. He said Rice had no intention of reimbursing the government for the trip's cost.

But the commander of Notre Dame's Air Force ROTC program disputed the Air Force's account

of the trip and said that, as far

as he could tell, Rice conducted

no Air Force business during the trip.

"He came out to attend the game -- that's really all he did," said Col. Howard Hanson, commander of the Notre Dame's Air Force ROTC program, who accompanied Rice to the university brunch and sat with him during part of the game.

In response to an inquiry, Hayes initially said that Rice and members of his party "were briefed on the ROTC program there" and met with cadets and members of their families. Rice also had discussions with Air Force Academy Superintendent Charles R. Hamm "be- fore and during" the game, Hayes said.

"It was an official visit and as secretary he is authorized to use Air Force aircraft for official business," Hayes said. "There were a number of pieces of business conducted there." Asked to describe the nature of the talks with Hamm, he replied: "As a matter of routine policy, we wouldn't discuss that."

Hanson, reached at his office on the Notre Dame campus, gave a different account of Rice's visit. He said that Rice did not receive any briefing on the Notre Dame ROTC program and that the brunch he attended was given by Malloy for all "visiting dignataries" attending the game. It "didn't have anything to do with ROTC," he said.

Hanson said he did not accompany Rice at all times during his trip and could not say for certain whether the secretary had any discussions involving government business. After sitting with him and other Notre Dame officials during the first half of the game, Rice switched sides and sat with Air Force Academy officials during the second half, Hanson said.

After being informed of Hanson's comments, Hayes acknowledged that Rice may not have had discussions about the Notre Dame ROTC program. But at least one other member of Rice's four-member party -- whom he refused to identify -- met with ROTC participants, Hayes said.

"I spoke to somebody {on the trip} and they said they met with some of the cadets and met with some of the family," Hayes said.

The Air Force C-20 jet that flew Rice to the game is routinely used by the secretary for official travel. Equipped with a sophisticated communications system that is in constant touch with the Pentagon, it is flown by a crew of five and cost the Air Force $1,892 per hour in air flying time, including fuel and maintenance, Hayes said. That would make the cost of the trip $5,676.

Rice was on a "business trip" yesterday and was not available to comment on his Saturday visit to his alma mater, said Hayes. Asked the secretary's whereabouts, the spokesman replied: "I'm not at liberty to share that with you."