The telephones were providing a constant racket in the Howard University athletic offices yesterday and a television crew showed up in Burr Gymnasium. "It's been like a madhouse," said Diane Haith, a secretary.

The day after.

Howard's campus was basking in the glow that emanated from Winston-Salem, N.C., where the Bison basketball team Sunday won the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference championship, and a spot in the NCAA tournament.

It was history. The first MEAC team to play in the NCAA basketball tournament, and, naturally, the first time for Howard. Leo Miles, the school's athletic director, seemed overcome by the significance.

"It is like the Emancipation Proclamation," Miles said. "It has proved that a black institution can enjoy first-class treatment from the athletic world. Howard University once again is leading in a struggle."

Howard's victory advanced it to a game Thursday night in Los Angeles against Wyoming. It also may have saved the job of Coach A.B. Williamson after a disappointing regular season.

"It was time for something positive to happen," Williamson said. "We had a very tough year as far as adversity is concerned. From what you all said, I understood there would be more adversity if we didn't win.

"I know I can coach the game," Williamson said. "I've still got a lot to learn, but I've got a basketball mind and I know what to do in various situations. Each year, I think I'm getting better and, in the near future, we can be as competitive as anyone in the country."

Reaction among students was predictably cheery, and centered around the idea of the Howard name being spread beyond the Potomac.

"When I say I go to Howard people will know what I'm talking about," said Stephanie Montague, a freshman from Silver Spring. "Now they say, 'Where is Howard? I never heard of it.'"

Andre Clyburn, a freshman center fielder on the Howard baseball team, took a practical view: "It's good for people like (Larry) Spriggs and (James) Ratiff who want to got to the pros. They'll get more recongition."

"Hey, I'm for it," said Steven McNeely, a senior from Portsmouth, Va. "It's important, if nothing else, that people get to see what we have. We've got a chance to show off our moves. We know we've got some quality athletes. It's time for the rest of the country to see it."

How much the East Coast, much less the rest of the country to see it."

How much the East Coast, much less the rest of the country, will see of Howard is questionable. The game in UCLA'a Pauley Pavilion won't begin until 12:40 Friday morning, Eastern Standard Time.

The team will leave from National Airport tonight at 10 o'clock. With a long stop in Atlanta to change planes, arrival in Los Angeles will be at 2 a.m. (PST), a seven-hour trip. Williamson said he hopes his players get at least seven hours sleep before practicing Wednesday afternoon. As for extra-curricular activities, Williamson said, "We're going for business."

A coach bringing a team into the biggest of college tournaments for the first time, Williamson has worries that exceed those of postseason veterans.

"So many people are calling who I haven't heard from all year," he said. "I'm trying to get the kids back to earth. The important thing is to win on Thursday and get away from all the hoopla."

Within a minute of this being said, the sports information director, Donnie Tuck, entered the office to summon Williamson to the gym. One of the local television stations had a crew, lights and whirring camera at the ready.

Spriggs, the 6-foot-8 senior who anchors Howard's tall and talented front line, also had been called. "We have the capability of winning some games," Spriggs said, awaiting his turn to go before the camera. "We can go a long way in the tournament. Our style of ball is running. If we can run an opponent into the ground, we can win."

Spriggs watched his coach finish. Then it was his turn. "Be cool, Larry," Williamson said.

He'll probably say it again a few more times before Thursday night.