JUDY AKERS, THE former women's basketball coach at Kansas State, recalls the night she tried to recruit a high school senior from a gasoline station telephone booth.
Just an hour before, Akers had watched the athlete play at her high school down the street from the station. But under women's recruiting rules, Akers could not talk directly to the student or her family.
That awkward situation and other similar ones she found herself in on the recruiting trail prompted Akers to quit a few months ago.
"I have to stop and evaluate my being in coaching the way it is now," she said, "I won't go back until there are definite changes in recruiting."
The recruiting of college-bound women athletes and the rules governing such talent-hunting have posed increased problems for scores of coaches like Akers.
The rules are defended by their creators, the governing body of women's sports, the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women. The AIAW says the rules are necessary to shield women's sports from the most basic of corrupting powers-- the dollar.
The dollar became a serious threat in 1973 when the AIAW, in the face of a court suit, lifted its ban on scholarships for female athletes. Title 9, the 1972 federal law barring sex discrimination in school sports programs, along with television revenue, added to the infusion of money to women's sports. With the money has come the pressure to win. And to win, coaches need players.
So the AIAW has formulated rules designed to keep the pursuit of players from getting out of hand, as it often has in men's collegiate athletics.
Since its creation in 1972, the AIAW has emphasized the student part of "student-athlete." Philosophically, nothing has changed. Most of the membership adheres to the theory that there must be a better way to run college sports, to avoid the excesses of the men's system.
But practically, many members question whether the AIAW has found it. Some claim it is inevitable that the women's system will gradually evolve into something resembling that of the National Collegiate Athletic Association, the governing body for men's college sports.
Today, there are AIAW rules that many coaches consider as discriminatory against female athletes as the no-scholarship rule once was. Cited frequently as AIAW rules that deny equal opportunity are:
*The no-contact rule, barring coaches or representatives of the college's "athletic interests" from off-campus, in-person contact with a prospective recruit or her family. Trips to high school games are called "talent assessment" visits. (The NCAA has no such rule.)
*The prohibition on paying traveling expenses for the student to visit the campus. Buying her a meal at the cafeteria or putting her up in a dormitory overnight will be permissible this year. (The NCAA rule is the opposite.)
*An eligibility rule that has a four-year limit on scholarships. If the athlete has to go to school a fifth year she has to foot the bill.(The NCAA permits fifth-year aid.)
The AIAW is currently polling its members about the desirability of changing these and other rules, said Fran Koenig, women's athletic director at Central Michigan and immediate past chairwoman of the AIAW's ethics and eligibility committee (E&E), the judicial board.
The roots of many of these rules lie in the desire to shield the female athlete from harassment by a constantly ringing phone and dozens of coaches lined up on the front porch to extoll the virtues of their program.
The rules are also designed to protect the colleges, to avoid big-buck talent wars and to assure that needed funds for program development are not used in the pursuit of an 18-year-old with a sure-fire, 20-foot jumper.
"The assumed norm is the men's rule, but you've got a long way to go to determine which is the better system," said Margot Polivy, the AIAW's chief counsel.
"There are philosophical and practical reasons for the AIAW policy," Polivy said. "Philosophically, we're trying to maintain a system where a kid decides she wants to go to that school for what it offers her academically and athletically and not because of all the wining and dining of her.
"Practically, there's not enough money in the women's programs to take the money out for recruiting."
The AIAW started out in 1972 with 278 member schools and today has 916, compared with the NCAA's 861. Koening said the organization's ethics and eligibility committee received 376 requests to waive the transfer rule and 71 reports of violations last year.
Some coaches interviewed by The Washington Post said they think the rules invite violations, not only because their ever-changing nature ensnares the unwary, but because the rules can be easily circumvented.
Several coaches said the rules ignored the economic realities of the era and discriminated against students from low-income families who cannot afford to travel to colleges interested in them.
There are plenty of ways to provide aid for the transfer student who must abandon her athletic scholarship in her first year at the new college, the coaches noted. The student could be offered aid on an academic or talent-related basis, as well as on need.
The no-contact rule especially perturbs coaches, although many value its anti-harassment effects.
"Last spring" recalled Pat Meiser, the Penn State basketball coach, "a mother (of a prospective recruit) was chasing me down the hall and I kept running away, reciting the AIAW regulations.
"She said, 'This is the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard about,' but there I was racing down the hall with my AIAW rule book."
Bill Sheahan, the basketball coach at Holy Cross High in Kensington, also thinks the rules should be changed. Two of Sheahan's players last season, Chrissy Reese and Colleen McShalley, were Washington Post All-Met picks and highly recruited.
Reese, who estimates she had 50 scholarship offers, and McShalley, who says she had about 20, chose the University of Virginia for academic as well as athletic reasons.
Both were impressed with Debbie Ryan, the Cavalier basketball coach, and her low-key approach to recruiting. And both were fortunate that their parents could afford to pay for their trips to Virginia and other colleges they visited on the East Coast.
"The (AIAW) rules probably hurt the chances of a lot of girls who would like to have a chance to see the schools before making up their minds," said Reese.
Without the no-contact rule, said Ryan, "It could really get to be a war (among coaches) . . . Now, more people are watching themselves, basically because we're all recruiting the same kids, and kids are open about who they talked to, when and where.
"But the major drawback of the rule is that you don't get to know the player as well as you could and you don't want to bring somebody into the program who isn't going to fit or will be unhappy."
Chris Weller, Maryland's assistant athletic director for women and head basketball coach, agrees. "Not being able to pay a student's way to visit the campus is discriminatory," she said. "Probably a limitation on the number of visits (to campuses) would be a better rule."
Weller, whose team was ranked eighth nationally at the end of the season, estimates she spent $1,500 to $2,000 on recruiting last year.
"We are going to have to travel more now to stay nationally competitive," Weller said. "If there is an outstanding player in the Midwest, you ought to see her play and attempt to recruit her."
Because of the no-contact rule, some coaches say they cannot get or will not spend the money necessary to travel long distances to "assess" talent only. Thus, coaches from sparsely populated areas contend, the scales are tipped in favor of the schools on the East and West coasts.
"There's an extreme disadvantage," said Akers, Kansas State's former coach. "The coaches on the East and West coasts can go 50 miles and see several hundred kids whereas I can go 50 miles and see a few because we don't have the population."
Akers said she had $700 for recruiting last year. "Next year's budget is $2,000 which is a joke because the men get between $30,000 and $50,000," she said. "But there isn't a lot you can do with the money.We can't get the kid if we can't talk to her, and that $2,000 won't get you to see a lot of kids . . .
"There are kids in Kansas City (135 miles away) we could get if we could pay their bus fare (to the campus), but we can't."
Commenting on the AIAW's anti-harassment philosophy, Akers said, "That's like trying to keep women pure. It's a Victorian idea because the existence of money (in athletic programs) has changed things . . . People want winners and the AIAW is trying to protect something that is totally against the grain of our society."
AIAW president Carole Mushier defends the policies, saying, "The major part of recruiting is evaluating potential. That can be done without having to talk to the student (off campus), or going to dinner with her or visiting her at home.
"Also, don't forget we permit auditions on campus so the coach can get a chance to talk more informally and get to know her . . . But basically we don't want (the student) to lose sight of where and why she wants to go to college and not be overcome by who's the fastest talker."
Something else some colleges, large and small, may want changed is the practice of self-policing, the foundation of the AIAW's judicial system for dealing with rule violations.
The NCAA's rules enforcement program is also based on self-policing. But the NCAA, after discovering long ago that such a system was flawed, developed its own investigative branch to deal with suspected violations.
The NCAA's enforcement system, however, has been investigated by a congressional subcommittee because of its alleged unfairness and selectivity.The AIAW cites the men's enforcement procedures as a good example of why the women need a different system.
"Self-policing is not going to work," said Virginia's Ryan. "Sometimes people don't even know they're breaking rules. I think we've got to have an investigative board.
Cathy Rush, the former basketball coach at three-time national champion Immaculata College, agrees. "I think they're (AIAW) very naive," she said. "Their idea is that the women would self-police. That's like having a judge and jury, but no police force."
AIAW President Mushier counters, "We don't want to get into a separate investigative arm, with people skirting the country regardless of the cost. It (a separate investigative office) has not worked any better (for the NCAA) than our system."
Maryland's Weller is one of the few coaches who will acknowledge turning in another for alleged rule violations. "If you see something first-hand, you're supposed to report it," she said. "You're violating the rules if you don't."
Weller refused to identify the school, but reliable sources said it is Old Dominion. Monarch basketball Coach Marianne Crawford Stanley refused to comment on the current AIAW investigation of alleged recruiting violations by ODU, or an AIAW recruiting rules in general.
Suspicions abound about certain schools violating AIAW rules with impunity. Most coaches believe the number of violations is on the rise, but that many may be trivial things, caused by ignorance of the rules.
For the most part, coaches will not name the colleagues or colleges they think are violating the rules.
"It's hard," said one coach, "to catch them with the smoking car keys."