A.B. Williamson, Howard University's basketball coach, declaring that his program is the equal of any in the Washington area, claims that area colleges have refused to schedule Howard because they are afraid they may lose.

"We've called and written letters to all the area schools, and they just will not play us," Williamson said at a preseason press briefing Tuesday. "They don't want to give us the chance to beat them.

"There is a saying, 'When you're on top, never give the underdog a chance.' I don't blame them. I'd probably do the same thing. Someone gave Georgetown a chance when they were the underdog and look what happened."

Howard opens its season tonight against Bradley University in Peoria, Ill., but Williamson said he could generate more fan interest and cut expenses by scheduling more local opponents.

"We could have a tournament in the area. It would be tremendous for supporting basketball. It would make money and it would be good for recruiting. But no one wants to schedule Howard and then get beaten."

Of the colleges in the Washington area, only George Mason appears on the Howard schedule this year.

Informed of Williamson's remarks, American University Coach Gary Williams said, "Howard has a good team. Whether we're afraid they'd win, I don't know about that. Each team is in a conference. They have those games and they play eight or nine traditional rivals. We're also in two tournaments this year. Scheduling games can be difficult."

Maryland Coach Lefty Driesell declined comment,as did Georgetown Coach John Thompson, but Gerry Gimelstob, the coach at George Washington, said, "I've never talked with A.B. about scheduling.

"But I sympathize with his problem. I think it's a bad thing for college basketball in this area that all the teams don't play each other.