The Virginia attorney general's office has asked officials at the state's public colleges and universities to make their coaches aware that their contracts with shoe companies may lead to problems with the state's conflict-of-interest statute.

Among those who have such contracts are Virginia's Terry Holland and George Mason's Joe Harrington.

Almost all basketball coaches in Division I have such contracts, and indications yesterday were that if the attorney general's office found them to be in violation of the state conflict-of-interest statute, they could be brought into conformity by having the university become a third party to the contract.

The attorney general's action was initiated last month when Bill Axselle, a state legislator from Henrico County, asked for an opinion whether such contracts are in violation of the state's conflict-of-interest and public procurement laws.

In a four-page opinion, the attorney general's office said that the shoe contracts may be in violation of those laws, but said it needed more information to make a determination. As a result, the follow-up letter was sent last week to each public university in the state.

Dick Shultz, Virginia's athletic director, said he would compile the details of Holland's contract and ask the attorney general's office for a ruling.

"We'll give them the facts and let them make the ruling," Shultz said.

"All I know is that they are investigating it," said Harrington, who is under contract to Nike. "The whole thing is ridiculous. The university is saving seven to eight thousand dollars annually through me, personally. The stuff we get--basketball shoes, warmups, travel bags, running shoes--are just things the university normally would buy."

Holland, who is under contract to Adidas, was said by his office to be on the road and could not be reached for comment. Schultz said the university is given free basketball shoes by Adidas.