Because of the decision by the Prince George's County School Board this week to cut $400,000 from the athletic budget for the 1983-84 school year, at least six varsity sports on the high school level may be eliminated, sources say. In addition, to save more money, coaches may be asked to work on a volunteer basis.

The board Wednesday approved cuts totaling $31 million. About 900 employees, half of them teachers, are expected to be laid off. The county athletic budget, which is $1 million, was cut 40 percent.

Sources said among the sports most likely to be cut are boys and girls tennis, girls softball, golf, boys and girls cross country and boys and girls indoor track.

"What we are faced with is devastating," said Nick Paskalides, county athletic director. "You can't take a $400,000 chunk out of a million dollars. We're looking at some alternatives and we plan to submit some recommendations to the board. I can't disclose what they are right now, but we are going to do everything we can to work something out."

Head coaches of football, boys and girls basketball, boys and girls outdoor track and field, boys baseball, girls softball, boys and girls soccer and boys wrestling are paid $985 in addition to their teaching salaries. Head football coaches are also paid on a per-diem basis for coaching summer practice. Coaches of tennis, golf, cross country, indoor track and gymnastics are paid about $700.Assistant coaches get 70 percent of what the head coach is paid.

Board member Norman Saunders said the board would consider any proposal from the athletic department.

"I'm the same fellow who got the resolution passed to get lights for night football in the county, so saying this is difficult for me," Saunders said. "You have to question which is important: the cutting of teachers or sports programs. This is not a hopeless case. Some monies could be found from other places and possibly save some of the positions."

Another board member, Leslie Kreimer, who along with Saunders advocated eliminating the entire athletic budget, said, "Coaches working for free could be the only alternative unless some other money comes forward from other sources.

"I can't blame the coaches for wanting to be paid," Kreimer said. "We don't pay them that much now. I don't want to be portrayed as a person who opposes athletics. It's just a matter of priorities and a lot of organizations agreed with the board that athletics shouldn't take priority over the classroom teachers or programs."

Some coaches agreed with the board's decision.

"I guess I have mixed feelings. I believe in athletics and the good it does, but what do I do when a good friend is losing his job?" said Bill Vaughan, baseball coach at Bowie High School. "I don't think we should be in this bind. I know it was a tough decision for them and I'd like to see them save some of the sports.

"Speaking of priorities, maybe they could cut out some of the smaller club activities in the schools and use that money. I'm sure some money can be found in other places."