Dave Wilson. In junior college, he broke his arm on his first play. As a college junior, he was declared ineligible for football. Now, finally, it's history.

Quarterback Wilson of the New Orleans Saints has received a cash settlement from the Big Ten, out of court, on his claim of damage to his earning power. Thus ends a 3 1/2-year legal struggle that at one stage found Wilson's school, Illinois, under conference sanctions and considering withdrawal from the league.

Amount of the payoff is secret; reportedly, it "exceeds $100,000." Wilson had sued for $9 million.

Says Wilson's lawyer, Bob Auler: "It's a substantial amount of money. What this means is that the athlete was right and the Big Ten was wrong. I never saw anybody give money away in a case if he was right."

No comment from Big Ten officials. They counted his one-play season (1977) along with '78 and '79 at Fullerton J.C., so allowed him only one year to play at Illinois--and ruled him academically ineligible in 1980. He played 1980--under court order--and broke Big Ten passing records. Judicially sidelined in '81, he went to a special NFL draft. Tony Eason became Illini passer in '81 and '82, and got an estimated $2.3 million to sign with the NFL Patriots. Wilson's Saints deal was about $1.6 million.

See, Auler says, that bears out his 1981 legal brief that said, "Clearly, participation in college football was an essential part of Wilson's college education and would have enhanced the opportunity and rewards of professional football" . . .

In New York, a judge promises to rule next week in a challenge by St. John's U. and basketball player Walter Berry of the NCAA requirement that incoming freshmen need a 2.0 high school grade average or a satisfactory score on the GED test. Berry, 19, dropped out of Ben Franklin H.S., Manhattan, in 1982 and earned an equivalency diploma by taking 24 credits at St. John's; NCAA says that won't do. Berry says if he can't play this year his pro basketball ambitions will be "irreparably harmed" . . .

Then there is Steve Morgan, a Jamaican sprinter (10.4 for 100 meters, 21.3 for 200, and 1390 on Scholastic Aptitude Test). Texas Coach Cleburne Price thought he had Morgan when the athlete signed a national letter of intent in June and ended his visit to Austin by flashing the "Hook 'em, 'Horns" sign. But now Morgan has decided to attend Princeton (Ivy League schools aren't bound by national letter). Price reckons Morgan read of the poor graduation rate of UT basketball players under former coach Abe Lemons and was turned off. Shucks, Price concludes, until then, Morgan "was happy (about Texas) as a tick on a dog" . . .