If you read the sports pages, you can learn a lot about life in these times.

College kids today drive nice cars.

Clyde Austin, a basketball player at North Carolina State, certainly does.

He own's a 1980 Cadillac Seville and an MG.

A two-car star.

Clyde the Glide, as he is called by the aficionados in Raleigh, is a wonderful basketball player capable of magic on the court.

But even Clyde the Glide can't drive two cars at once.

So he uses the Seville.

And a friend drives the MG.

It wasn't long ago that a college kid begged mom and dad for $400 to buy a junker that started only in months without an "r".

Clyde the Glide's cars are worth about $20,000.

Both are registered in his name, as the owner, but Austin says he can't afford to pay for them. His athletic scholarship pay his room, board and tuition. That's all. He has no job.

So his fiance is making the payments on the Seville, while another friend is paying off the MG, he said.

What a warm and sweet person Clyde's fiance must be.

She is a bank clerk in Raleigh.

You would think a bank clerk in Raleigh would have a hard time making payments on a 1980 Cadillac Seville. Over a three-year period, those payments might be near $500 a month.

That doesn't leave Clyde's fiance much money.

By the time Uncle Sam takes his share of a bank clerk's salary -- bankers say a clerk gets about $650 a month -- well, Clyde's fiance likely takes home just enough to make the Seville payment.

What a warm and sweet person she must be, to pass up movies that way, to never to to the beauty shop, to never throw away the car money on food and clothes.

Newspapermen in Raleigh must never have met anyone as warm and sweet as Clyde Austin's finance. These newspapermen think Clyde is giving his girlfriend too much credit. They think that someone else is paying for those cars.

That would be against NCAA rules, of course, and heaven knows nobody these days violates NCAA rules.

Remember the SMU case?

Southern Methodist recruited a great running back.

Instead of running to the campus, he drove up in a brand new Trans-Am.

A $10,000 car.

There was for the cynics who asked, an explanation that warmed the hearts of sentimentalists around the country.

The running back's grandmother had bought the Trans-Am.

She always wanted her grandson to go to college.

So she had saved her pennies all the years he was growing from a little boy into this great big running back.

Those pennies would go to pay for her grandson's college education.

But along came SMU and gave the grandson a college scholarship.

Grandma, a warm and sweet person, then bought her grandson the Trans-Am. The pennies were burning a hole in her purse.

That's what the running back told the NCAA.

And the running back is now running for SMU, which means the NCAA could find no evidence that grandma was telling a big one.

A story in the paper the other day said, "In 1895, there were two cars in the state of Ohio. They collided." What the story didn't say was that one car was driven by the Ohio State quarterback.

Not really. At least, I don't know that for sure. It wouldn't be much of a surprise, though, because of all the illegal stuff that goes on, a lot of it goes on with four wheels.

The monster defensive end of the late 1960s, Bubba Smith, drove around the Michigan State campus in a new Buick Riviera. In case anyone didn't know whose wheels those were, BUBBA was painted on each door.

I once wrote a bleeding heart story about a college basketball player whose life had fallen apart. Kicked off the team, he cracked his dodo wife over the head with a chair. I painted a melancholy scene of a life gone wrong.

A teammate of the guy came to my office.

"The guy is no good," his teammate said. "Coach has to bail him out of jail every weekend.Coach has to go around paying off everybody to keep it quiet. Why don't you write that instead of that junk you're writing?"

I asked my informant one question.

"Am I to understand that you, a high-scoring All-America basketball player, spent four years at ol' State U without anyone ever making your car payments or giving you a discount at the best clothes stores in town or taking you and your girl friend to dinner?"

My informant smiled and said let's talk baseball.

The Atlantic Coast Conference commissioner, Robert C. James, said his office will investigate how a player at one of its league schools can afford $20,000 worth of cars.

The investigation will begin, the response to a request by N.C. State Coach Norm Sloan, "just as soon as we can get it underway," James said.

"There has been no wrongdoing," Sloan said.

If not, the banks in Raleigh are going to have a lot of applications for those high-paying clerk jobs.