It wasn't all that long ago -- a generation-and-a-half, maybe -- that the Georgetowns, Fordhams, Duquesnes, Marquettes, Santa Claras of the parochial college world were football powers. Spiraling costs and whatnot ended that era, leaving the flock to dwell on memories, cheer, cheer for old Notre Dame, or --

Salvation: basketball. Get five good players together and sky's the limit. Until --

The sky lowers. Too many Joneses to keep up with. Too much expense. E.g., Catholic University. And now, an echo from across the continent: Seattle University on the verge of deemphasizing roundball.

Seattle, the school of Johnny and Eddie O'Brien, of the 1958 NCAA runner-up team led by incomparable Elgin Baylor, of the largest college basketball crowd in state of Washington history (still) as recently as 1967 (14,252, Seattle versus Texas Western).

The SU board of trustees has authorized creation of a presidential task force to determine the future of intercollegiate athletics at seattle and report to the Rev. William J. Sullivan, S.J., university president, by April 2.

Increasing expense is part of it, but so is declining attendance -- in the shadow of the smash-hit NBA champion SuperSonics -- and so is student apathy.

"There seems to be a large shift in students interest," said Father Sullivan. "There's a particular interest in playing rather than there is in watching" . . .