The president of the University of Colorado defended yesterday the attempt to try to hire Chuck Fairbanks as football coach while still under contract for four more years to the New England Patriots.

That was before it was announced by the Patriots that Fairbanks was rejoining the New England team, at least for the National Football League play-offs.

Asked if he didn't regard a contract as a "moral commitment" and if he had any qualms about the university seeking Fairbanks, President Roland Rautenstraus said on the telephone from Boulder, Colo., "it's my understanding that Mr. Fairbanks has the right to leave the Patriots and is working on that.

"Personal service contracts fall into various catergories. I am not trying to fuzz the morality issue. He has personal goals and objectives. This is done with some frequency by others."

Other coaches? Rautenstraus was asked.

"No, faculty people. They agree to serve for three years and leave before fulfilling those terms."

Does a coach breaking a contract set a good example for students?

"I don't know if I have a comment on that," Rautenstraus said. "Our belief is that Mr. Fairbanks is an excellent, decent individual and would set a good example."

Surely, Rautenstraus was aware that he will share in criticism that may directed at the university, as its president?

"Yes, I understand that at the moment Mr. Fairbanks is discussing the situation with the Patriots."