If charges of physical abuse made by several Howard University football players prove correct, Coach Floyd Keith and one of his assistants ought to be fired. That was must endure reports of unrest and academic irregularities at Howard every couple of years suggests Athletic Director Leo Miles ought to be fired.

That there may well be no investigation at all into either of these matters leads to the conclusion that Howard lacks the integrity it preaches.

The most damning quote in Mark Asher's detailed piece about alleged brutality by Keith and assistant Tom Perry came from sophomore Irish Dalferes, for it indicated not only Howard but also so much of football. He said:

"I've seen them hit players (here) and throw them around, but I'm used to that already, you could say."

What a sad statement. Only two years into college football, only two years beyond where the sport is supposed to be totally pure and totally fun, Dalferes -- rather casually -- admits "I'm used to that already."

Of course, football is not pleasant exercise. It is not natural for a young man to want to throw his body toward someone else's at full speed. Down after down. A bit of coaxing is necessary, some carefully-considered cussing quite proper now and then by men paid to win games rather than friends.

There should be one absolute: any coach who needs to slap a prayer or grab his face mask to get attention -- and hold it -- does not belong in the business. The coach should be told, on the spot, to find another line of work.

One of the defenses for the sort of offenses Keith and Perry are accused of it that so many other coaches in serious football use the same tactics. Apparently, it is almost common for many coaches to slap helmets and grab face masks now and then. It is seen as a necessary evil.

It is appalling -- and a school that does not stop it immediately has no credibility.

There were allegations of scholarship abuses in Asher's story, some of them involving Miles. So who does Howard allow to investigate them, or to at least publicly respond to them? Miles.

The athletic department is investigating itself. Or so we are led to believe. That only intensifies already heavy suspicions.

And what is Miles' first instinct? To call the story "grossly unfair," partly because "all the allegations were refuted in the same story." He calls a man unfair for reporting both sides of a controversy.

Later in a press release, Miles said: "as far as any incidences of physical abuse by our football coaching staff, not a single player has ever brought a complaint of physical abuse to my attention. This, again, is unfortunate because, if there was indeed any physical abuse by the coaches, I am the individual with the authority to stop such behavior.

"As the athletic director, I will not tolerate any abuse of the players by a member of the coaching staff."

In fact, it was reported that Miles once told the staff to be less abusive, that "you can get more with sugar than you can with vinegar."

Stories such as this bring reaction. One of the callers yesterday was a Howard student named Robert Johnson, a tennis player dismissed from the team during a spring trip in Georgia who said he had wanted to explain his side to Miles.

"I felt he should be interested in our (he and Mark McMurdock) being kicked off the team," John said. "We approached him. But he sensed why we were there and said he couldn't see us, that he was busy.

"We never scheduled an appointment, because he didn't seem interested in hearing our side of the story. He does seem interested in the athlete's side."

Howard has been put on NCAA probation twice while Miles has been athletic director. One of the reasons for the most recent sanction was "violation of the cooperative principle of the NCAA enforcement program."

Before Greg Ballard chose to go public with his career-long frustrations, it was possible for the Bullets and Coach Dick Motta to affect an amicable reconciliation. Now the Bullets might have to pay him a six-figure salary not to coach next season.

Ironically, Ballard's blast might be hampering Motta's chances of getting a job. His ideas about how teams should be built and should pay are impeccable, though it is almost equally difficult not to snap to attention when a Ballard insists:

"Dick hasn't worked with me at all. He hasn't helped me become a better player. Playing one on one or two on two after practice or on my own is how I improved. It wasn't because of good coaching."

Of all the players who have been publicly negative about Motta, Ballard is the one with the most impact. He is not one to complain at the slighest irritation, having endured most of three years in the NBA in silent disappointment on the bench.

Much of Motta's reputation is as a teacher, so when a Ballard complains he learned almost nothing as a Bullet it cuts especially deep.

If Earl Jones cannot qualify for admission to one of the collegiate basketball factories, he probably will make a mistake by not turning pro.

He seems to have little, if any, interest in college beyond what basketball can offer. Which would be fine, if he was assured the competition that would sharpen some already special skills.

But this will not happen at any school below the Division I level, unless Wil Jones is planning to schedule 26 games against such as Kennedy, UCLA, Maryland and Georgetown if he lures Jones to the University of the District of Columbia.

Where there's a Wil there's a way, we've been told. But the level of play Jones would encounter at UDC hardly would prepare him properly for the NBA. Or certainly not as well as two years on any pro bench would.