The Department of Health. Education and Welfare formally issued policy proposals yesterday that attempt to strike a compromise between men's and women's sports groups on the financing of intercollegiate athletics.

In releasing the proposals, HEW Secretary Joseph A. Califano Jr. told a press conference they represent "the commitment of this department to enforce the laws against (sex) discrimination in ways that are effective, but not excessively intrusive."

Following a 60-day comment period, Califano said, the proposals will be reviewed and possibly revised before taking effect by the next academic year.

Early reactions from the National Collegiate Athletic Association, the governing body for men's intercollegiate sports, and the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women, the women's counterpart, were a mixture of disappointment and relief.

The proposals represent what HEW considers to be compliance with certain sections of Title 9-the federal law barring sex discrimination in colleges and school systems recievingfederal aid. Noncompliance could lead to the loss of that aid.

The proposals, as reported in The Washington Post last month, would require colleges to equalize their average per capita spending on scholarships, recruiting and other financially measurable items based on the participation of male and female athletes.

But significantly, the proposals do not require dollar-for-dollar spending and actually permit disparities resulting from "sex-neutral" factors and, in certain cases, the "unique" costs of football and/or basketball at some schools.

The proposals do not exempt revenue-producing sports from Title 9 as the NCAA has sought, but do make allowances for the high costs of equipment and recruiting in sports such as football if the school can justify those costs.

In addition to immediate action colleges must take on average per capita spending, HEW is requiring them to develop long-range measures to expand and upgrade opportunities for women.

On the immediate action, a college would be presumed to be in compliance if it is allocating "substantially equal" average per capita amounts of money to participating male and female athletes for scholarships, recruiting and overall expenditures.

While a college may offer defenses for unequal per capita spending for overall benefits and in recruiting, it may not do so for scholarships.

As a hypothetical example, College X may be spending $100,000 on scholarships for 100 male participants, or $1,000 each. If there were 50 female participants at College X, the school would be obligated to spend at least $1,000 on each woman, or a total of $50,000.

(The women's athletic director, however, may decide against spending all $50,000 in one year, preferring to save some to develop another sport the next year. That savings, however, cannot be diverted to the men's program. In such a case, unequal average per capita spending would be permissible.)

When looking at overall spending, HEW may find the same College X spends $1 million for its men's program, but only $350,000 on women, instead of $500,000. The discrepancies in average per capita spending might be defensible in this case if they are the result of "sex-neutral" features (ones that don't have an adverse effect on the opportunity of either sex) or because of the high cost of football equipment.

The same disparitles may be permited in recruiting costs because levels of participation may vary from national to local or regional bases.

Califano emphatically denied that the allowances for football represented a "back-door exemption" for revenue-producing sports. Such allowances, he said, would be permissable "only to the extent that additional expenditures are reasonably necessary and related to the scope of the competition."

Colleges could not eliminate or decrease opportunities for women by using the cost of the football or basketball program as an excuse since the colleges are required under other sections of Title 9 to accommodate the interests and abilities of the women, he noted.

They also are required to provide other benefits that are not financially measurable, such as academic tutoring, medical and training services and playing facilities, among others.

Margot Polivy, the AIAW's general counsel here, said, "(HEW) started with a theory that was basically sound and acceptable and then put in so many exceptions, exemptions, caveats and explanations that you wind up with a document that isn't going to create any certainty . . .

"To the extent that there are legitimate differences in costs (of men's and women's programs), they should be protected. The distinction that has to be made is between the legitimate costs and those that aren't."

Tom Hansen, assistant executive director of the NCAA, said, "In general, we're pleased that (HEW) has finally recognized the fact that the regulations didn't account for the unique status of football, but we're concerned about the equal per capita expenditure requirements for compliance."

Expressing "mixed feelings" about yesterday's developments. Hansen added that NCA member colleges will also have to contend with the effects of the long-range proposals. CAPTION: Picture, HEW Secretary Joseph Califano outlines financing under Title 9.