Title 9, a federal law barring sex discrimination by colleges and school systems receiving federal aid was enacted in 1972. Ever since, athletic departmens at America's universities have been trying to deal with the complicated law.

Title 9 has had a major impact on the growth of women's sports on the collegiate level and also has been a constant source of controversy.

Athletic programs at three area schools and UCLA were recently examined to see now they are coping with Title 9 .

Lynn George, director of women's athletics at George Washington University, believes all the regulations, provisions and bureaucratic mumbo-jumbo of Title 9 misses the point.

"They really haven't gotten down to basics, which is equality for women in sports," she said.

"I you are just going to sit there and find ways that someone only has to give you this much equality or that much equality, then we're in trouble."

Like many of her counterparts across the country, George also is unhappy with some of the defenses HEW would allow men's sports under proposed policy interpretations for Title 9.

"That 'scope of competition' category is really a nasty way of discriminating against women," George said. "Athletic directors can come up with all sorts of excuses for limiting women's competitive opportunities."

Unlike most of the nation's colleges, GW's women's athletic director is not subordinate to the men's director. George goes directly to the college's trustees with budget requests, rather than through the men's athletic director, Bob Faris.

At GW, as at many schools, the men's programs are conducted at the high-power Division I level of the National Collegiate Athletic Association. The women have been relegated to the less intense-and less costly-Division III or II of the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women.

The eight GW women's sports are moving out of the AIAW's Division II into Division I-the same NCAA category the men's seven sports are in. (An eigth men's sport, crew, is not an NCAA sport.)

GW's women's teams were in Division II for a good reason: Unitl three years ago, the program was strictly a recreational one, operating on a $5,000 budget and involving only 29 women.

There are now 110 women varsity athletes and the budget for this year is $365,000, including $145.000 for full or partial scholarships for almost all the participating women.

The men's budget is roughly $544,000, including almost $183,000 in scholarships for the 177 male varsity athletes.

While men account for almost 60 percent of GW's athletes, the average per capita spending on scholarships gives the women an edge on paper, $2,000 to $1,400 per athlete.

George said she actually spends about $1,000 per female athlete because her program is still in its development stages and she wants to weigh which sports should be developed at which pace.

For the time being, George has decided against awarding a $2,000 grant to each female athlete, preferring partial aid to some while the program is developed. Such decisions that lead temporarily to unequal per capita aid are permitted by HEW.

"We want to award our aid according to ability," George said. "It's hard to talk to a kid over the telephone and say she's worth $5,000 when you haven't even seen her play."

That is a dilemma many women's coaches and athletic directors are familiar with. AIAW rules allow a coach to go observe a potential recruit-"talent assessment" is the euphemism AIAW gives it-but talking to a recruit or her relatives at the site of competition is forbidden.

The recruit has to make the initial contact with the college. She could show up for the college's tryout day-is she can afford to get there. And, beginning this year, she can stay overnight in a dorm and get a meal the other students get.

But for those distant voices on the telephone who want to go to GW on an athletic scholarship, George or her coaches will have to see them play before deciding if they qualify for aid because of their present or potential ability.

George says she will not spend money simply because it's there. She believes it would be better to defer some of the scholarship aid the women are entitled to until the program is further developed.

For the first time this year, the AIAW is permitting coaches to be paid for recruiting trips and George said her coaches will be doing some limited recruiting within the $7,000 supplement the women's program has been given.

George Washington's program has often been cited as a model under Title 9. A major reason for that is that there is no football-the expensive sport that throws financial comparisons between the men's and women's departments at football schools off.

So, the Title 9 proposals, says Faris, are "not as disruptive to an institution which does not have football in its program. They'll have an effect on us, but not the severity they would if we had football."

According to NCAA figures available for fiscal 1977, 47 percent of Division I colleges reported deficits in fiscal 1977; 92 percent in Division II and 96 percent in Division III.

For overall program costs that year, 63 percent of the Division I schools reported they broke even or better, while in Division II, 69 percent reported deficits and in Division III, 92 percent said they lost money.

Because football does not put GW in such a bind, Faris said, "I don't envision a cutback on men's sports. I do envision a limitation on their expansion. We don' spent that much money on some sports, so I don't envision a logical reason to discontinue the sport.

"I think what the women will do, without question, is increase the number of their athletes."

But, Faris said, George Washington is not apprehensive about compliance. "I don't think we're in a serious situation because we're probably in the top 10 percent of the institutions in compliance or near compliance." CAPTION: Illustration, No Caption, By William Coulter for The Washington Post