The Catholic University basketball team now knows what the school's administration has known for weeks. The players heard the news that their program will be skidding from luxurious Division I to the low-rent world of Division III.

At practice yesterday, players echoed the same first reaction: shock.

The second reaction was that there was no time for the first reaction. Example: If you're John Rogers, you're a 4.0 freshmen in political science getting a basketball scholarship worth $6,000 a year. You'll retain the scholarship if you stay at school but you want to play Division I ball where the competition is top flight. But if you transfer, where will you find a school of Catholic's status that has a scholarship lying around for a lean 6-foot-1 guard?

If you're John Rogers, you say, "I'm not really planning on coming back but I have no idea where I can transfer."

Each Cardinal expressed disillusionment and bewilderment.

Joe Colletta, a junior guard, asked, "Who wants to give someone a scholarship for one year?"

Although affected less seriously than some underclassmen, Colletta still feels bitterly disappointed. "This is going to be the downfall of the school. They're turning it into a purely academic place . . . a glorified high school."

Colletta shuddered thinking of his senior year, the last Catholic will play in Divison I. "I hope at least Jack (Kvancz, Cardinal coach) is here. If all our sophomores and freshmen transfer, we're going to have to take on five or six walk-ons and still play a Division I schedule."

Rogers added, "People playing intramural on campus are already talking about coming out for the team next year."

The top underclassmen on the team most likely will transfer. Top scorer sophomore Mike Neville said, "I haven't had time to think. I'll look at the pros and cons and see what schools need me before I transfer."

Sophomore Bill Dooley said, "I came here because it was a good school academically with a basketball program on the rise. Now I'm just kind of shocked. I'm going to go home and talk with my parents."

Can Dooley conceive of staying at Catholic? "I don't really think so."

All players questioned expressed immediate sympathy for Kvancz. "Jack's out there recruiting and then the rug's pulled out from under him," said Junior Bill Dankos. It's amazing how five years of hard work can go down the drain in five minutes. I don't know how the alumni could let this happen. They leave here with a good education, they get good jobs and they just let the whole school down."

"Jack could have been coaching at Harvard but he believed in the promises of upgrading the program that the administration and alumni gave him," Colletta said.

Neville said, "I feel sorry for Mac (Assistant Coach Ed McNamara). He spent all that time on the road away from his family so he could recruit. Now he has to call those guys and tell them if they want to play basketball here, they'll have to pay $6,000."

While Colletta said he's "lucky to be getting out at the right time," the same can't be said for Rogers, Neville and Dooley.

Dooley said, "I was just getting used to things around here. I was meeting people. Now I have to start over."

Rogers said, "Luckily for the recruits, this happened early enough for them to make other plans. Whether it's early enough for me remains to be seen."

"It's such a major jump down. We should do something about it. Get all the players together for some kind of protest," Colletta said.

Tonight, Catholic is a 21-point underdog in the first round of the ECAC South tournament at Old Dominion. The players have dreams of winning this game. Winning it for Kvancz. Winning it for themselves. And winning it to show school President Edmund Pellegrino something.

Neville shook his head. "I'm not sure Pellegrino knows we have a game tomorrow."