The atmosphere is one of genteel tranquility. Students frolic in the "Sunken Garden" park-playing field framed by massive oaks and brick, colonial-style dormitories and classroom buildings.

Indeed, the entire campus of the College of William and Mary, splotched with the vibrant reds and yellows of late-peaking foliage, provides the scenic beauty captured in coffee-table books.

There is an upbeat but less tranquil atmosphere in the athletic department of the nation's second-oldest college, the alma mater of Thomas Jefferson and dozens of other American statesmen.

At William and Mary Hall, the eight-year-old field house that serves as the headquarters for men's inter-collegiate sports, department officials and coaches ponder the future of the program.

They are making decisions in the midst of an athletic renaissance that has students and alumni rejoicing over the Indians' accomplishments on the playing fields.

The same is true at Adair Gym, the women's sports headquarters.

William and Mary, with its relatively small undergraduate enrollment of 4,400 students, is a crossroads, facing toughs decisions about the future of some sports.

To a large extent, it is a crossroads of bureaucratic alphabet soup, involving policies to be set by the National Collegiate Athletic Association, the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women and the Department of Health, Education and Welfare.

Besides the NCAA, ALAW and whatever policy interpretations. HEW issues on a federal law barring sex discrimination, W&M must also contend with the college's strict academic standards and the financial squeeze shared by most colleges.

"This is very pivotal year for us because (the NCAA) guidelines can be changed," said Ben Carnevale, men's athletic director. "We may have to take another look at our programs and see what we want to do." He fears the super powers of college football will force W&M and similar schools into a lesser division.

A requirement that such colleges have at least a 30,000-seat stadium and an average attendance of 17,000 to stay in Division I-A football automatically would have dropped W&M and others to Division I-AA. But, Carnevale and others persuaded the NCAA convention last January to exempt colleges having a "broad-based" program of 12 sports from the seating and attendance mandates - an exemption that the superpowers will try to eliminate at the next NCAA convention.

The 50-year-old Cary Field Stadium that occupies a small corner of William and Mary's 1,200 acres, seats roughly 16,000 and is in dire need of repair.

Help is on the way. The college's Board of Visitors last week approved a $1 million renovation project for the stadium.

In addition, the board indicated that a feasibility study on expanding the stadium's capacity to 30,000 seats may be completed in time for them to approve the initial construction phase at their December meeting. The preliminary estimate of expansion is $1.2 million.

The Board of Visitors' support of the Athletic programs was crucial in turning around the college's athletic direction four years ago. At the time, there was a move to eliminate football and scale down the other 14 men's sports.

Football Coach Jim Root, whose team has a 5-3-1 record in his seventh year here remembers that the board's commitment to Division I-A football buoyed team spirit and helped in recruiting.

Before the commitment, Root recalled, "We couldn't sell ourselves on the fact that we could win because deep down we knew we couldn't on the basis of how the program was being run."

There was scant money for recruiting or scholarships, and the program was further handicapped by the rigid academic standards and restrictions on the number of out-of-state students at the state college.

During the debate over football's value, Root said, "We argued, 'Here's William and Mary, the beautiful, quaint, highly-thought-of educational institution that offers a first-class education for a kid. And you're going to take away the opportunity for those kids who are extremely intelligent and want to play great football? Here's one of the last places they can come."

Root believes he has lost areas players who are stars on other teams now in large part because of the stadium.

"If you've got a great chemistry student who wants to be pre-med, he wants a first-class facility, he wants to see what the chemistry department looks like," Root said."And if you've got a great football player who qualifies for us academically and he comes down here and says, 'Gee, you only play four home games and have a stadium that seats 16,000,' that's draw back."

WIth an enlarged stadium, Root said, William and Mary will be able to schedule more home games against big-drawing colleges and may get a crack at television coverage.

Bruce Parkhill, the men's baskeball coach, does not have the facilities problems: the Tartan court is in modern William and Mary Hall with a seating capacity of 10,500.

Parkhill, who coached the Indians to a 16-10 season in his first year as head coach last year, said his biggest problem is in recruiting because of the academic standards.

The men college board score for entering freshmen is 1,200 (out of a possible 1,600), so Parkhill says he does a great deal of his recruiting in the Washington area where families are more college-oriented.

"William and Mary is really what college athletics should be about," says Parkhill. "We don't have a program here where you can 'hide a kid.'

"There's no question that the academic standards interfere with the recruiting of blue-chip athletes," said Carnevale, adding that the attrition rate for athletes is below that for the general student body.

When Carnevale arrived in 1973, the men's budget was $664,000, of which $418,000 came from student fees - currently $153 per student a year - account for 39 percent of the $1.3 million budget.

An alumni fund-raising drive five years ago netted about $60,000 compared with this year's $350,000.

William and Mary offered only 16 football scholarships when Carnevale arrived. Today, thanks to the fund-raising of the Athletic Educational Foundation, 95 football and 15 basketball scholarships are available.

The college gets no state funds for the athletic program, so Carnevale has raised money through an aggressive fund-raising and promotional campaign.

Carnevale has budgeted $860,000 for football and basketball expenditures this year, $200,000 for nonrevenue sports and $240,000 for administration.

"We are attempting to improve the nonrevenue sports through designated gifts and gate receipts," Carnevale said.

The women's program relies on student fees and grants.

When Millie West became women's athletic director in 1969, the budget was $8,000 and there were 10 sports. Today, there are 79 varsity sports and a budget of $308,000.

"I think we have adequate financial backing," said West, who doubles as the tennis coach. "But there are two areas I'd like to see improved. We're lacking in facilities . . . and the other area is scholarships."

Intramural activities and physical education classes take up blocks of time at Adair Gym, leaving less for team practice and play, West notes.

There are 39 women on partial scholarship and one on full, accounting for $36,000 in aid. The figure contrasts with the $400,000 the men get in scholarships, she said, although she acknowledged that some scholarship offers were turned down.

Just as the men's program is awaiting NCCA action that may affect its future, the women are also concerned about wha the AIAW may do about divisional membership criteria as its January convention.

"All of our sports now are Division II and each coach has determined what division she wants her sport in, except swimming, tennis and hockey," said West. "If they do Division I, we'll probably stay in Division I."

She and women's basketball coach Barbara Wetters have reservations about the category since it would put them in competition with schools with high-powered women's programs that don't have the same standards covering admission.