Memo to the Leo Miles, Howard University athletic director.

Re: Ivan Thompson not eating.

Also: Ivan Thompson kicked off team.

Dear Leo,

You're going at this all wrong. You're blaming The Washington Post for your latest football trouble.

The way you ought to figure it, McDonald's is the culprit. Here's why.

Ivan Thompson, your starting tailback in four games this season, told The Post he often went hungry because Howard wouldn't let him eat with the other players at the school's training table.

He couldn't eat at the training table, you Howard officials said, because he was a nonscholarship player. To allow a nonscholarship player to dine with the elite scholarship guys would be a violation of NCAA rules, according to your personal interpretation of NCAA rules.

The NCAA says that isn't so. The NCAA says Thompson could have eaten at the school's training table if Howard simply counted him against next year's scholarship quota.

Anyway, poor Ivan went hungry for days, he said. Like most college kids a long way from home, he was practically broke all the time. So he had to economize on luxuries such as eating.

On those days when he threw abandon to the winds and spent good money on food, Thompson said all he could afford was junk.

We can see him now, Ivan in his shoulder pads and Bison jersey, standing in line at McDonald's. "Make it to go," he is saying. "Practice starts in five minutes."

In his four games this season, Thompson carried 35 times for 231 yards, a 6.6 yard average.

Not bad on Big Macs.

And yet Ivan Thompson went to the newspaper to complain about Howard not feeding him.

The day the story appeared, Leo you screamed bloody murder on behalf of Howard University.

That's good. It's your job to scream bloody murder every time The Post carries another one of those front page stories that make the school seem foolish -- those stories such as the former coach, Doug Porter, saying the school talked big-time and acted bush-league; those stories such as players saying the present coach, Floyd Keith, allowed physical abuse of them.

So you took it out again on the newspaper.

You should have unloaded on McDonald's.

Look, if McDonald's would sell a good steak and baked potato for a buck and a quarter, Ivan Thompson would eat as well as any Howard football player.

But noooo. For $1.25, all you can get at Mac's is a quarter-pounder with cheese. No fries even. Is it any wonder, Leo, that the kid complained?

Sure, Leo, the kid might have managed his money better. He might have kept an eye out for Pizza Hut coupons in the paper. Right, Leo, a college can't be expected to hold a kid's hand forever. If GIs saved the world eating Spam, Ivan Thompson can damn well carry a football eating baloney from 7-Eleven. Right.

But the world is full of bleeding hearts, Leo.

Some people will read about Ivan Thompson not eating with the other football players and they will figure Howard is not doing its duty. They will figure Howard is exploiting the kid, using him to pick up 6.6 yards a carry and not even caring enough to feed him.

You know how some people are. They will think football is just a silly old war game run by authoritarian despots who wouldn't feed a kid if they weren't forced to and even would kick a kid off the team the minute he is of no more use.

Of course, you and the coach, Keith, had every good reason this week to kick off Ivan Thompson and his roommate Ricky Tripplet.

Tripplet, a starting defensive back last season as a sophomore, has a chronically injured shoulder. He has a letter from his doctor now saying he ought to rest the dislocated shoulder three weeks.

Well, Leo, nobody wants to go to war with a guy who just stands around with his shoulder out of place. So Keith did the right thing by kicking him off the team.

There will be flak about that, too. The left-wing bleeding hearts will believe that Tripplet's sensibilities were crushed by the coach. Tripplet told The Post he wanted to stay on the team, just to be part of it, there to help out any way he could, even if he couldn't play because of his shoulder.

The bleeding hearts will say that is what college athletics is supposed to be all about. They will say it's supposed to be a learning experience in sharing and caring. They will say that is the only rationale for college football; that if the game is only entertainment, if it's only a business, if it's only exploitation of kids who can't afford anything but Big Macs -- if that is all college football is, the bleeding hearts will say it is about time the Ivan Thompsons screamed bloody murder, too.

Ignore 'em, Leo.

Kick 'em off.

On Monday, Keith kicked off Triplett for not coming to practice with his dislocated shoulder. Triplett said he had wanted to study.

The next day, Keith kicked off Thompson.

To be precise, the coach didn't kick Ivan off; he told Thompson he could stay on the team if he apologized publicily for telling The Post that stuff about not getting anything to eat.Thompson said he wouldn't apologize for telling the truth, and then he told the newspaper about that conversation, too, adding in a few new twists, such as getting no food on a 10-hour bus ride from a game in West Virginia (Leo, ask McDonald's why they don't have a place between D.C. and Charleston.)

Thompson also told The Post that Keith threw himself across the door leading from the Howard locker room to the practice field. The coach did that to keep Thompson from going to practice. Thompson said that when he insisted and reached for the door handle, Keith pushed and shoved him away, cursing at him and saying Thompson's public comments had hurt Howard's recruiting and integrity.

Keith said, I did not physically abuse Thompson."

Leo, it is obvious that Keith had to kick Ivan off the team. Here was a kid determined to go to practice even if the coach didn't want him there. Is that any way to run an army? A general has to have his soldiers' respect, and if you can't get their respect by throwing your body across a door, then you have no recourse except to get rid of them.

Leo, one last thing.

This has been a hard week. Take a day off.

You and Keith deserve a break today.