James Burke, who was described as a major figure in organized crime, was one of three men receiving sentences yesterday ranging from four to 20 years for conspiring to fix Boston College basketball games during the 1978-79 season. The federal judge in the case said the scheme had an "immeasurable" negative impact on college sports.

Burke, 51, received maximum sentences for his convictions of conspiracy to commit racketeering and sports bribery and violation of the travel act.

In Brooklyn, N.Y., U.S. District Judge Henry Bramwell, noting "this defendant has significant involvement with organized crime," gave Burke a 20-year sentence for racketeering and five years for each of the other counts, plus fines totaling $30,000. The terms are to be served concurrently following a term Burke now is serving for parole violation.

Anthony Perla, 36, got 10 years for his three-count conviction, and his younger brother Rocco, 25, four years. The brothers, who live in Braddock Hills, Pa., remained free in bail pending appeal.

Former Boston College basketball player Rick Kuhn, 26, of Swissvale, Pa., and Paul Mazzei of Pittsburgh also were convicted by the federal court jury in Brooklyn Nov. 23. Sentencing for Kuhn was set for Feb. 5, because his attorneys were tied up in another court, and Feb. 12 for Mazzei, because his attorney was ill.

In handing out maximum sentences to Burke, Bramwell spoke of Burke's extensive criminal past, which includes 30 arrests, 10 convictions and five prison terms.

Burke had objected to a presentencing victim-impact statement that called him a major organized crime figure, but following a hearing on the issue, Bramwell declared that he agreed with that characterization.

And when Kerry O'Malley, lawyer for the Perlas, argued that the betting scheme had taken place alongside other violations in college sports and in an atmosphere that encouraged gambling, Bramwell replied: "If what you're saying is true, maybe it's gone too far . . . If they're expecting illegality, maybe it's time for them to stop."

In a case in Providence, R.I., nationally known oddsmaker Robert Martin of Las Vegas, who helps to set the country's sports betting line, was sentenced to 18 months in prison and fined $10,000. Martin, 63, was convicted last year of transmitting betting information by telephone over state lines in 1977 in a case in which 16 people were indicted by a federal grand jury in Providence. U.S. District Chief Judge Raymond J. Pettine delayed the start of the sentence pending Martin's appeal of a pretrial ruling.