When American University athletic director Bob Frailey turned down an invitation Tuesday to enter a proposed area season-opening basketball tournament, he said he left a "crack in the door" for reconsideration. Yesterday, that crack swung wide open.

AU changed its mind after meeting with Maryland, Georgetown and Navy, the other schools in the proposed tourney, and decided to join the field. The colleges then offically announced that the tournament will take place Nov. 27-28 in Capital Centre.

The schools agreed to a two-year contract, with an option for two additional years. Pairings and other arrangements will be decided later.

Frailey, who has been pushing for an area tournament for at least 10 years, initially was vehemently opposed to the this event, which was conceived by Maryland. Part of his ire came foom the fact that George Washington, not AU, was the fourth team invited. And he did not think the tournament was a true "area" affair, since it also left out Catholic and Howard and included Navy.

"But this was the first time that I've had a chance to sit down with the other schools and really talk it over," Frailey said about yesterday's meeting at Maryland. "Once that happened, things looked a lot better."

Frailey said money - a two-day sell out would produce AU's biggest income of the basketball season - helped influence his final decision. The same four teams played a doubleheader at Capital Centre two years ago and drew 14,000 fans, netting AU about $7,000.

"With today's economy, you've got to consider anything that will increase your revenue," he said. "But there are other things, too. Prestige-wise, exposure-wise, schedule-wise and student-wise, this is a plus for AU. It will help us build a better program.

"It also helped that (Georgetown athletic director Frank Rienzo called me and said, "let's all get together and talk. I think we can clear the air.' He was right."

Frailey also had been upset that the dates of the tournament were over Thanksgiving weekend. But he had misunderstood, thinking the tourney was set for Nov. 25 and 26 (Friday and Saturday) when it had always been targeted for Nov. 27 and 28.

And his misgivings about it being a true area event were solved when the group dropped any mention of an area tournament from the official name. It will be called, according to Rienzo, the tournament director, "Tip Off basketball tournament."

During the meeting, Frailey brought up eexpansion of the tournament to eight teams, but the other schools did not want to play three games the first week of the season and the proposal was dropped.

A source at maryland said that if AU had turned down the invitation again yesterday, then the three schools would have gone outside the Washington area for a fourth school. "They were determined to hold the event," the source said."

GW pulled out because Maryland had insisted on dropping a two-game regular-season contract in lieu of the tournament. AU, which does not play Maryland, had not such problem, and both Georgetown and Navy agreed to exchange their regulary scheduled game against the Terrapins for this tournament setup.

"But Maryland and we agreed that if the tournament doesn't work out, then we will again take up our regular-season game," said Rienzo. "We think this is a step in the best interests of Georgetown. It enables us to start the season with a high-grade event and it's another step toward a national-level schedule."

Although pairings have not been decided, Rienzo said the schools agreed the first-night games will to determined "in the best interests of the tournament." Asked if that meant putting Maryland and Georgetown in opposite brackets," he laughed and said: "I'm sure that will be considered."

If Maryland and American meet in the event, it will climax a long quest by Frailey to schedule the Terrapins. "We've wanted a chance for years," he said. "I'm sure no one at AU is unhappy we have finally got an opportunity."