The president of Arizona State University has invited the NCAA to come in and help investigate the whole commotion -- after football players reportedly told him an assistant coach conspired to undermline Frank Kush as coach.

The assistant was Bob Owens, named interim coach after Kush's Oct. 13 firing.

The players, four present and one past, told the president, John Schwada, that Owens was an informant for Rick Lynch, the dragstrip promoter and ASU superbooster blamed by Kush for "orchestrating" a conspiracy to oust him.

Kush was suspended by Athletic Director Fred Miller after being sued for $1.1 million by former Sun Devil punter Kevin Rutledge over alleged harassment capped by a punching on the sidelines during a 1978 loss to Washington. Miller accused Kush of trying to cover the incident.

Owens said he was shocked by the latest allegations. "I categorically deny that," he said . . .

Punching? Did somebody sayd "punching"?Did somebody say "Billy Martin"? Yes, a securtiy man at L''otel de France in Bloomington, Minn., says the New York Yankees' banty manager, 51, split the lip of Joseph W. Cooper, 52, of Lincolnshire, Ill., in the lobby Tuesday night. Cooper says so, too.

Martin contended the man was intoxicated and injured himself (15-20 stitches' worth at a hospital) when he tripped and fell. Bloomington police, called to the hotel about midnight, reported that Cooper accused Martin but refused to file charges.

So what does George Steinbrenner, the Yankee owner who put Martin on best behavior after a Reno brawl cum lawsuit last offseason, think of all this?

"Billy promised me faithfully that he would not get in any more fights. I have just gotten off an airplane (in Tampa). I don't have any of the facts and I won't make a judgement until I have all the facts" . . .

Natalia Maracescu of Romania owns the women's world record in the mile, 4:22.1, set in New Zealand last January. Winner of the 1,500 meters at the Spartakiade, Maracescu looked forward to a return to the same Moscow track in quest of Olympic gold. It evidently won't happen: The International Amateur Athletic Federation has banned Maracescu for failing dope tests during international competition.

Anabolic steroids, IAAFsays, in setting down the Romanian, two countrywomen, two Soviets and two Bulgarians for similar alleged violations in women's track and field. And under IAAF rules, the recommended minimum ban lasts 18 months from date of violation. Maracescu -- and Bulgaria's Totka Petrova, World Cup 1,500-meter winner with this year's best times at both 800 and 1,500 -- were caught at the Balkan Games in Athens in August: just 12 months removed from Olympaid 1980.