Carl James, Maryland's athletic director, said yesterday he would "seriously consider" becoming commissioner of the Big Eight Conference if the job were offered to him.

"There are very few jobs in the country I would even consider leaving Maryland for," James said. "But this is one of the most attractive jobs in my profession. It would be a challenge for me and I would have to seriously consider it. I feel with my background I could meet those challenges."

James, who succeeded Jim Kehoe as athletic director in August, 1978, was one of four candidates interviewed by Big Eight athletic directors and faculty representatives Friday in Kansas City. He said the interview lasted about an hour and was "an exchange of ideas."

The other three candidates interviewed thus far are Cecil (Hootie) Ingram, associate commissioner of the Southeast Conference; Henry Lowe, a law professor at Missouri and the Big Eight's faculty representative, and Billy M. Jones, a professor at Wichita State.

"I am not an applicant for the job and I never have been," James said. "But apparently I am a candidate. I'm very flattered that they asked me to come out and talk to them. What happens now is up to them."

The Big Eight job opened up earlier this year when Chuck Neinas resigned to become president of the Collegiate Football Association. James, as Sugar Bowl executive director three years ago, became a familiar figure in the Big Eight since it is primarily a football conference.

William H. Baughn, faculty chairman at Colorado and head of the search committee which asked James to be interviewed, said yesterday that several more candidates will be interviewed for the job in the near future. He added that the conference expects to choose a commissioner before the end of the month.

This year at Maryland has not been ideal for James. The basketball team was 24-7 and won the ACC regular-season title, but the football team missed a bowl game for the first time in seven years and the nonrevenue teams suffered through their worst year in recent memory.

James said yesterday that he has been happy at Maryland. "I've had great cooperation from the people at Maryland all along," he said. "We have the same problems that all other schools have these days, Title 9, inflation, energy. But I think next year will be a very good year here.

"If I were offered the job and decided to take it; leaving Maryland would be difficult for me."

James said he plans to brief University President John Toll and Chancellor Robert L. Gluckstern on his interview Monday. He said he did not believe Big Eight officials have contacted Maryland officials yet. "It isn't at that stage yet," James said.