The first woman referee to officiate a men's college basketball game stepped onto the woodwork two weeks ago (we learn now), and already there's a move afoot to place a woman athletic director at the head of an ACC university's whole sports program.

The ref: Bettye McClendon, an Atlanta Board of Education supervisor pressed into service when Clark College played at Morris Brown and one of the two scheduled officials failed to show. McClendon did, according to Morris Brown's coach, "a terrific job. Very professional. Better than a lot of the men I've seen." McClendon, a Tuskegee Institute graduate with high school and college women's basketball officiating experience hopes her breakthrough will encourage other women to "get involved."

The athletic directorship: Barbara Kelly, associate athletic director at U. of Virginia (where she guides women's sports), and Joanne Fortunato, similarly situated at Northwestern, have applications in to succeed Bill Cobey when he leaves UNC in April to run for lieutenant governor of North Carolina. And "a small group of people connected with the university," as spokesman Dan Murphy characterizes it formed an organization at UNC yesterday to push for "someone to be hired for this job, male or female, who can help work for equality in women's athletics" . . .

New in the NFL, a black offensive coordinator: Lionel Taylor promoted from receiver coach by the Rams to fill a post vacated by Coach Ray Malavasi two years ago. Progress, Ed Garvey? . . .

Jo Jo Hunter isn't the only Maryland transfer starring as a basketball guard at Colorado -- Betsy Bailey of the Buffs is one of the 30 nominees for the third annual Wade Trophy that goes to the nation's finest female player. Under women's rules, Bailey did not have to sit out a year and picked up where she left off as a two-year starter at College Park. The 5-foot-9 floor general had a 22-point game against Kansas, averages 10 (off a bit from her 12.5 at Maryland), and it's right on from when Bailey led Marshall High of Falls Church to Virginia state laurels . . .

Nick Mileti is going Hollywood, and sports in Cleveland will never be the same. He tentatively closed yesterday the deal (to be nailed down June 1) by which he sells his 155,000 shares of the NBA Cavaliers to Louis A. Mitchell of Columbus for about $1.4 million. Mileti founded the Cavs; got their home, Richfield Coliseum, built; once owned and operated their former abode, the now demolished Cleveland Arena; owned the Cleveland Barons minor hockey league team and helped bring the WHA Crusaders and NHL Barons to town; came through to bail out the Indians when Cleveland was in danger of losing American League baseball -- but he moved to Beverly Hills last year, and now, Mileti, 48, says he wants to make movies.

Add college sports gone loco: $6,000 in checks reported (by the Arizona Star) issued by the city of Tucson, between September 1976 and August 1978, to four U. of Arizona football players and a player's wife who say they did no work for the city. Some of the checks to one athlete, says the Star, evidently were sent to the home of an assistant Wildcat football coach (who declines comment).

The annual Brian Piccolo/YMCA award will be presented Thursday at the National Capital Y and the nominees are: Billy Joe DuPree, Dave Winfield, Archie Manning, Greg Luzinski and Washington's own Cleveland Cav, Austin Carr.

While we were watching the progress of one ailing old Gashouse Gang St. Louis Card, Paul Dean, we lost another: Jack Rothrock died in San Bernardino, Calif., on the weekend, at 74. He played right field all seven games of the 1934 World Series victory over Detroit, rapping seven hits, four for extra bases, and leading the Cardinals in RBI with six -- three of them in Daffy's 4-1 and 4-3 wins. In 1,014 major league games, mostly with Red Sox and Redbirds, Rothrock hit .276.