A new program for recruiting high school athletes that establishes a middleman between the athlete and the college is in an embryonic stage in the Washington area. But before even one athlete has received a scholarship from the program, many college and high school coaches are lining up to criticize it.

The program, Athletic Scholarship Placment Service, is run by Maynard E. Turow of Silver Spring. It works this way:

Turow sends out brochures and a letter to high school athletes -- about 3,000 were sent in the fall -- telling them they can use their athletic ability to get a scholarship to college. "Your athletic ability can be the key to a college degree," reads the final sentence of the cover letter.

If the brochure interests a student, he is asked to fill out a card and set up an appointment with Turow. If the parents and student want to hire Turow, they must pay him $250.

Turow then writes the student's resume and sends it to 30 to 50 colleges. Most of the colleges he contacts for his clients are smaller NAIA schools. If Turow finds a scholorship for the athlete, he receives from the family a commission -- 30 percent of the one-year value of the scholarship. For example, if the total cost of the scholarship for one year is $5,000, Turow receives $1,500.

According to the NCAA, payment of a flat fee to a third party is permissible.However, under NCAA rules any athlete who pays someone a commission to help him find a scholarship is ineligible. A 1975 case in federal district court involving an athlete who had used a scholarship placement service upheld the NCAA's right to have such a rule.

Turow is aware of the rule. "But," he said, "it doesn't affect women athletes and it doesn't affect men who go to non-NCAA schools. Most of the athletes I deal with here are going to be looking into smaller schools anyway.

"If, by some chance, an NCAA school wants to give them a scholarship, I'll just forgo my commission. I wouldn't want to do anything to hurt the parents or the athlete. This is a business and I'm trying to turn a profit. But I don't ever want to hurt any of these kids."

Turow also said that if he has to forgo numerous commissions he will consider changing his system, establishing a flat fee for the service instead of working on commission.

The brochure also makes mention of Athletic Sport Camps Inc., the summer football camp Turow runs at Western Maryland College. On one page of the brochure is a list of sports in which athletic scholorships are offered. Right beneath that is a list of colleges "whose coaches are associated with Athletic Sport Camps' program." The brochure makes no mention of a commission.

Turow's list includes Alabama, Penn State, Tennessee, North Carolina, Clemson, Duke, Ohio State, Pittsburgh, Nebraska, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Princeton, Florida, Illinois and Pennsylvania. Nowhere does the list indicate that the coaches are associated only with the camp but have nothing to do with the scholarship program.

"I might word that a little differently next time," Turow said.

"It reminds me of the old days of fleshpeddling," said Morgan Wootten, De Matha's basketball coach and athletic director. "The difference is back then they were peddling great athletes. This sounds like the kind of thing where you'll get the kids who are desperate, marginal. The way recruiting is today, any athlete who is even decent is going to be found. And if a kid isn't found he's better off taking his money and writing letters himself than involving a third party."

"That is really, really bad," said Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski, a member of the National Association of Basketball Coaches legislative committee. "That's like a kid having an agent. If there isn't anything that outlaws it completely, we ought to come up with a rule that does.

"Why would a kid need something like that? There isn't a coach in the country that won't respond in some way to a letter from a kid or his coach. If the kid can't play for us, we recommend him to someone else."

Others echoed Krzyzewski's sentiments. Some went so far as to say they would not respond to a letter from Turow.

"I'd just throw something like that away," Maryland's Lefty Driesell said. "I'd be awful leery of the whole thing. If he's going to take 30 percent, what's the point of getting a scholarship?"

"I would tell my coaches to stay away from something like that," said Gene Corrigan, Notre Dame athletic director. "The whole thing sounds incredible. I can't imagine any school would pay attention to it.

"I feel for the parents, though. Somebody comes in and says they can save you thousands of dollars, you're bound to react. Recruiting intensity is so high in football and basketball the kids are going to be found. It's a shame. It's an abusive type of thing."

Maryland Coach Jerry Claiborne, president of the American Football Coaches Association, said he has received resumes from people acting as agents in the past. "I just throw them in the trash can," he said. "I think any youngster or his parents would be ill-advised to get involved with something like this.

"There's no need for a program like this. It sounds like a guy who is just trying to make an easy buck."

And Dean Smith of North Carolina, incoming president of the basketball coaches association said: "I feel sorry for the families who have signed up for something like this. It isn't worth taking a chance with NCAA rules getting involved with something like that."

While approximately 25 college coaches and administrators contacted were unanimous in condemning the program, the same was not true on the high school level. George Goudy, football coach at Woodlawn High School in Baltimore and a coach at Turow's football camp, said he thinks there is a need for such a program.

"I try to write letters for my kids and help them out," he said. "But sometimes you have kids who are pretty good athletes who just don't get attention. I think a program like this, with the contacts that Turow would have, can be very beneficial."

Goudy said he had sent several athletes to Turow. In all, Turow said, 55 high school seniors have signed up this year, about 30 of them boys. None wanted their names made public however.

"I just see no need for (his son's) friends to know that he has sought this kind of help," said the father of a Montgomery County football player who agreed to be interviewed on the condition that his name and his son's high school were not revealed. "He wants to play football in college and he didn't have a very good senior year for a number of reasons.

"I make a pretty good living but I have two other sons in college and my wife is trying to get a postgraduate degree. That adds up. If (his son) can get a football scholarship, that would help me out quite a bit."

Turow conceded that most of the athletes he will be dealing with are marginal -- athletically or academically. "The blue-chippers don't need me," he said. "But I think I can help a lot of people who might not otherwise find a scholarship. They don't know where to look. I do."

Turow, 51, was in the furniture business for 25 years. He is a graduate of Baltimore City College and played football there. Four years ago he established the Contact Football Camp, a three-week camp he runs at Western Maryland College each summer for boys aged 8-18. He said the idea for the scholarship program grew out of his association with college coaches at the camp.

"There are scholarships which go unused at smaller schools every year," he said. "I just felt that if someone was looking full time for a scholarship, he might have a better chance of finding something than a high school coach who has his hands full with so many other things to do."

On the wall of Turow's small Silver Spring office is a map that names all 3,000 colleges and junior colleges in the country. Many do not give any scholarship aid to athletes. Turow lists 200 of them as major.

"Most schools don't recruit more than a couple of states away," Turow said. "What I am is a man who knows what schools all over the country are offering. I can help athletes who may have academic problems. A kid who is under 2.0 grade point average can't get an NCAA scholarship but he can get an NAIA scholarship.

"We get a lot of middle class families that have kids going to college and could benefit from having an athlete on scholarship. If someone is poor and can't pay me right away, I'll let them pay a little at a time."

Turow said he goes to practices about twice a week in the area to look at athletes "we might be able to help." Right now the program concentrates on athletes from Maryland, Washington, Virginia, Delaware and parts of Pennsylvania. If successful, Turow would like to expand.

"This is not a fly-by-night operation," Turow said. "My first goal is to make the families happy because I need good publicity. If they're unhappy with me they'll spread the word and I won't get any customers in the future. I'm not here to take the money and run. I want to be in business a long time. I'm trying to help these people and make a living for my family."

Turow said families are under no obligation to accept a scholarship offered to them. He said he has told about six families that, from the information given him, their son or daughter is not good enough to receive a scholarship.

"My goal," he said, "is to make the parents and students who come to me happy. I'm proud of what we're doing here."