Critics of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) claims it is a cumbersome organization, uneven in the enforcement of its complex rules and beholden to a small group of influential schools with "major programs" - in short, unaccountable and unresponsive to represent for the general good of college sport.

Defenders contend the NCAA runs as smoothly, efficiently and fairly as can be expected, given certain realities. It is voluntary membership association, called upon both to police and serve institutions of varying size, and athletic philosophy, and funded primarily from gate and television revenues generated by the schools with "big-time" football and basketball programs.

The torrent of advocacy rhetoric, pro and cn, usually precludes any objective look at what the NCAA is in theory and practice: where it come from, who belongs to it, how it is structured, what apparatus it has for policy-making, administration and review, and whether this machinery operates as intended.

College athletics is an infinitely more vast and complicated subject than it was in December, 1905, when the NCAA grew out of a meeting of 62 college presidents convened by President Theodore Roosevelt for the purpose of reforming the rules of football.

The "flying wedge" and other gang blocking and tackling formations had led to so many injuries and deaths that many colleges were considering abolishing football. Roosevelt called two White House conferences to address these problems and reduce the violence in the game.

The resultant Intercollegiate Athletic Association was officially founded in March, 1906, and the name changed to National Collegiate Athletic Association in 1910. Originally its purpose was to formulate official rules for various sports and to help recruit faculty members. It conducted its first national championship in 1921, in track and field.

In 1952 - in response to burgeoning participation in college athletics, serious and growing abuses in recruitment and financial aid of student-athletes, uncontrolled expansion of postseason football competition, and the threat to live attendance posed by the unrestricted televising of college games - the NCAA appointed an executive director and established a national office in Kansas City.

It annual convention that year enacted legislation governing postseason bowl games, delegated powers of enforce eligibility and other rules to the NCAA Council, and approved a program of television policies.

In 1973, the current national office was built in Shawnee Mission, Kan., a Kansas City suburb, at a cost of $1.5 million.

The same year, delegates to a special convention reorganized the NCAA into three legislative and competitive divisions, a reform that allowed scools of increasingly diverse athletic intersts to coexist under the NCAA umbrella. Each division must abide by the NCAA constitution but makes its own bylaws tailored to the resources and objectives of its members.

Thus, the so-called "major powers" in the "revenue-producing sports" (football and basketball) do not have important issues that shape their programs decided by the votes of smaller schools which either do not compete in football or do so at a "de-emphasized" level. Likewise, schools which place a lower priority on their competitive athletic programs, or relatively more importance on the so-called "minor sports" do not feel railroaded by the athletic "factories."

The last two years, proposals for a new grouping of major football powers - tentatively called Division I-a, or the "Super Confernce" - have been rejected by the NCAA convention. Last year schools which have major basketball but not football programs mobilized to block the proposal, which would have banished them to a new Division I-aa.

Most observers feel the new division is inevitable, however, because of the increasingly well-organized football bloc's threat to secede, form a new association and take the $30 million-per-year collegiate football network TV contract with it. The latest proposal for restructing the NCAA, backed by 78 schools, is expected to provide the key battle of the 1978 convention in Atlanta, Jan. 11-13.

Presently the NCAA has 844 members, of which 736 are educational institutions, 718 four-year colleges or universities. Most of the others are athletic conferences ("allied voting members"), of which 67 have votes. Eleven of these, such as the Atlantic Coast Conference, Big Eight, Big 10 and Pacific Eight, are considered "major" because they have major programs in both football and basketball. The others are considered "minor" because they do not.

NCAA member institutions own athletic facilities valued at more than $5 billion, according to projected figures of a resources survey to be completed and published early next year. They employ tens of thousands of coaches, administrators and other athletic department personnel.

The NCAA itself has an operating budget of $5,488,000 for the current fiscal year and touches virtually every area of college athletics, especially intercollegiate competition.

Having eliminated a number of reserve funds in recent years, the association seeks to operate on a balanced budget or accrue a modest surplus of income over expenses. Income is generated primarily from four sources: television rights: paid admissions of NCAA national championship tournaments and meets, particularly the basketball playoffs; sale of publications and membership dues.

The NCAA receives 50 per cent of the net receipts from the network basketball contract, currently in the second year of a three-year agreement with NBC-TV.This finances roughly half the association's annual operating expenses. The other 50 per cent of net receipts goes to institutions whose teams appear in the televised games - and in most cases, to other schools in their conferences via conference "flow-through" arrangements - according to an agreed-upon formula.

The NCAA assesses 6 per cent of the gross revenues of the network football contract with ABC-TV, which paid $18 million per year in 1976 and 1977. A new $118 million contract has been signed for the next four years, calling for $29 million per year in 1978 and 1979 and $30 million per year in 1980 and 1981.

The other 94 per cent of football TV revenues goes to member institutions whose games are televised (and their conference affiliates where "flow-through" arrangements exist), according to an agreed-upon formula.The network paid directly to each school a fee of $500,000 for each national TV appearance and $378,928 for each regional appearance in 1977. The fees for 1978 and beyond have not been decided.

NCAA policy is formulated by a number of committees that meet throughout the year. Legislation is enacted at the annual convention, generally held in January. A number of ongoing services in support of the goals voted by members are provided by the full-time NCAA staff, currently 64 strong, headquartered at Shawnee Mission. Walter Byers is the executive director.

The governing body and final authority of the NCAA is its annual convention at which each of the 718 "active members" and 67 "allied members" (conference) are entitled to one voting delegate.

The NCAA council, elected at the convention, is responsible for general policy between conventions.

The bulk of NCAA policy-related work is done by committees to which representatives are elected for rotating three-year terms. No one is permitted to serve on one committee for more than nine years, over a 12-year period.

The President's Commission on Olympic Sports - whose final report in January, 1977, included a concise, thorough, and elaborately documented overview of the NCAA and its activities - cited these duties and responsibilities of the NCAA

Interpretation and enforcement of legislation enacted by the membership:

Conduct of research on athletic problems;

Provision of financial and other assistance to groups interested in promoting intercollegiate and intramural sports:

Representation of the colleges in legislative and regulatory matters at the federal and state levels:

Administration of insurance programs, including group travel and medical and loss-of-revenue insurance:

Negotiation of contracts for network television coverage of football, basketball and championships in other sports:

Participation in planning for and promotion of international athletic competition:

Publication of the NCAA News and other serivce publications: and

Provision of administrative support in carrying out the directives of NCAA committees.

The enforcement division, created in 1952, is responsible for enforcing NCAA rules and regulations, investigating possible violations and prosecuting alleged violators before the committee on infractions and the NCAA council, the adjudicating and appellate bodies.

The enforcement staff of 12 now includes eight fulltime "enforcement representatives," beef up and speed up the enforcement process, covering the eight geographic regions. Six have been added since 1974 in an effort to and see that it is applied evenly."It's conceivable that some violations previously were not seem productive to investigate," explained investigated until they became so old it didn't NCAA assistant executive director Thomas C. Hansen. "Now I think eveyone feels the manpower is there and doing the job."

The staff makes preliminary investigations of all suspected infractions culled from ups, reports by individuals and institutions, newspaper and magazine articles, spinoffs from other investigations and various other sources. If it decides an official inquiry is warranted, the institution involved is notified and asked to cooperate in a full investigation.

Until January, 1974, the staff and the committee on infractions jointly investigated allegations and presented their findings to the NCAA Council, which judged cases and imposed penalties. The procedure was changed; the staff now investigates and prosecutes during a hearing before the five-nian committee on infractions, which rules on each charge and imposes the sanctions it deems appropriate.

The NCAA council hears appeals and may accept the committee's findings and penalities or alter either or both.

In most cases the council upholds the committee on infractions which currently includes chairman Arthur Reynolds, dean of the graduate school at the University of Northern Colorado: Dr. John W. Sawyer, professor of mathematics and computer science at Wake Forest University: Henry M. Cross, Professor of law at the University of Washington: Charles Alan Wright, professor of law at the University of Texas and William L. Mathews Jr. professor of law at the University of Kentucky.

The NCAA has been taken to court numerous times - sometimes by individuals, other times by member institutions - in cases arising from recruiting and eligibility infractions. it has lost frequently in local courts, where political or public pressure can be exterted, but has never lost in cases determination of a case involving recruiting violations or illegal payments to student-athletes. The only case it has lot on eligibility infractions involved the stripping of the 1971 national soccer championship from Howard University for playing an ineligible foreign athlete. An appeals court ordered Howard's little restored.

Several cases - including a Nevada state court ruling blocking the NCAA-ordered pension of Jerry Tarkanian as head basketball coach at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas - are currently under appeal.

One nearly universal critism is that NCAA rules - particularly on recruting, favored treatment of athletes and eligibility - are so complex as to be almost incomprehensible except to a trained legal mind. The regulations fill nearly 100 litmus-blue pages at the likened by Dr. Stephen Hora, president of California State University at Long Beach, to "the fine print in a comprehensive insurance policy written in Bulgaria."

There are valid explanations for this. The NCAA's Tom Hensen says intercollegiate athletics is big, cutthroat business, and to be kept competively fair on a national scale must have complicated regulations.

"A group of institutions in a conference in one geographical area are often very similar in interest, goals and practice, but when you must regulate equitably the activities of schools in California and New York and the Midwest and the South ans Alaska and Hawaii, you start to get complex." said the assistant executive director.

here are corner-cutters in intercollegiate athletics and the NCAA is designed to stop the corner-cutters," said Dr. Horn. "If it wasn't here, we'd have to invent it because there's no doubt in my mind that despite the problems and hassles we have on occasions, the NCAA is preventing major scandals from occurring in American intercollegiate athletics."

Horn has been a persistent though only partially successful quixotic - and mobilizing university presidents to take a more active role in making the NCAA responsive to its entire membership.

He has gotten some significant proposals passed: a rule banning employment at any NCAA member institution, for a period of up to two years, of any athlete staff member proved guilty of violating the NCAA's "principals of ethical conduct," and one providing for the NCAA to assume the travel and perdiem expenses of ethletes competing in NCAA champioships in all sports.

"On balance, the NCAA machinery is basically dominated by a group in Division I and some of the key conference commissioners. Those are the people calling the shots. Let's face it, if the membership wanted to arouse itself and act, it could. That's the answer you'll get the NCAA Office and Walter Byers - 'Heck, if the members want to do it, fine: all any of the reformers have to do is get a majority.'

"I have no doubt that the only way we're going to get things changed is the way we've done it in some conferences - the presidents finally show up and straighten out the organization's constitution."

"It's only in recent years, when some of us have been fighting for certain economics - cutting down the number of grants-in-aid, staff sizes, the number of officials - that more presidents have gotten interested."

Many observes believe Dr, horn is well-intentioned, but naive if he thinks the football "supper powers" will ever veluntarily share any of the TV package revenues.

If he succeeds in building hand-line opposition to the new division, they say, the football powers will carry through their threat networks, and leave the smaller NCAA members without substanial TV revenue, poor as churh mice.

More likely, insiders suggest, the smaller schools will see this scenario developing and back off, permitting the new division to form and keep 94 per cent of the football TV pie. Why? So they won't lose what they have: the basketball maney which derives in good measure from football powers that are basketball titans as well.

Nevertheless, Dr. Horn ploughs forward.

"Quite simply, some institutions get football games on TV and others don't" he said. "Commissioner Bob James of the Atlantic Coast Conference did a study of those on television between 1970 and 1976, and half of the $1026 million that went to schools during that period was paid to just 20 schools. Independents like Notre Dame and Penn State might have made made $3 million apiece during those years: others shared with their conference affiliates.

"But the fact remains, you can't appear on TV unless you're tapped for a national or regional game or get an except on approved by the NCAA television committee.

"My proposal three years ago suggested ways that money could be used to help all 730-odd member institutions, of which maybe 450 play football and about 130 are in Division I, instead of just having 20 institutions live high off the hog as a result of that contract.

"I told the television committee last March. I'm not asking you to share the wealth. I already tried that. I'm just asking you to share some of the increment when we go to the new contract. Let the super-powers keep the $17.1 million they're getting now, just give some of the additional $10 million to the total membership."