Dr. Ewart Brown, a prominent Howard University alumnus, yesterday termed "meaningless" a 17-page report issued Thursday night by Howard President James E. Cheek addressing problems in the athletic department.

Cheek's long-awaited report, addressed to the Howard community, acknowledged certain deficiencies in the school's athletic department and called for some changes. It basically reiterated the findings of the Cheek-appointed task force committee, which were published last fall.

"It's nothing but a whitewash," said Lincoln Phillips, who was fired last month as soccer coach.

Said Brown, a former president of the student body and member of the track team: "As much as I respect Dr. Cheek and his accomplishments at Howard, this report more than anything convinces me he should have kept his promise to resign as president after seven years." Brown is chairman of the Alumni to Save Howard Athletics.

"It is depressing that Dr. Cheek is becoming an apologist for incompetence. Something is wrong when the man who has worked so hard to expand the university at a revolutionary pace can't bestow dignity to the athletic department."

Cheek's report was his first official response to nearly two years of controversy in the athletic department. The president appointed a task force 14 months ago to examine the department's problems.

The first in a series of controversies arose two years ago when several football players accused two members of the staff of Coach Floyd Keith of physically and verbally abusing members of the team.

Cheek said both coaches -- neither was named -- violated implicit standards for teachers and the university, and recommended a written code of conduct for all coaches. Both Brown and Phillips said Cheek should have further disciplined the staff members.

The department's biggest controversy occured last October, when football player Ivan Thompson, a nonscholarship running back, complained publicly of having to go hungry during the season. Thompson was later dismissed from the team, an action Cheek's report called "justifiable."

As a result of the Thompson incident, Cheek's report recommends procedures for all walk-on athletes that outline the terms for athletic participation, including financial aid, meal arrangements, housing, travel and equipment.

Cheek's report also calls for increased availability of medical assistance and as improved meal plan for the athletes, although Brown said the report does not specifically call for a training table he believes the athletic department needs.

"But this is not a food or a medical problem. The athletic problem is a political problem," Brown said yesterday in a telephone conversation from Los Angeles. "It's an if-you-don't-tell-on-me-I-won't-tell-on-you situation -- internal political debts. There will probably be no serious changes in the athletic department until Cheek's administration has departed." c

Brown said he had just finished a trip to Atlanta, New York and Bermuda during which be visited many Howard alumni.

"The alumni I talked with are down and disappointed," Brown said. "Morale is really affected, especially in the Caribbean area, about Lincoln Phillips' dismissal. (Phillips, from Trinidad, won an NCAA soccer championship in 1974 with several Caribbean players).

"The program is in a quagmire," Brown said.

Phillips, who is about to open his own national soccer acedemy, said he was not surprised by Cheek's report.

"I don't think Cheek is that concerned with the athletic department. He just runs and hides," the former coach said, referring to Cheek's refusal to talk to reporters or many granduates about problems in the athletic department. t

"Why pay any attention to recommendations?" Phillips continued. "They've been making promises for years and years. Nothing has been improved."

Cheek's report did not mention Athletic Director Leo Miles, who has been a target of criticism.

"I never expected Cheek's report to take a position," Phillips said. "They -- Cheek, (Vice President Carl) Anderson and Miles -- are forced to support one another."