The University of Florida will appeal NCAA sanctions against its football program, university President Marshall Criser said, citing what he said was an unprecedented limit on football scholarships.

Stripping the football program of 20 of its 95 scholarships during two years of probation will leave the university with a deficit from which "it cannot get back to the level of other schools until the 1988-89 year," university attorney James S. Quincey said in a letter to the NCAA.

The school was notified Sept. 23 of a recommendation by the NCAA's infractions committee to curtail scholarships and to place the Gators on three years probation because of irregularities under Coach Charley Pell . . .

Evidence presented recently by the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers has concluded that freshman athletes earn median grades comparable to freshman nonathletes and were in better standing at the end of the year.

Stanford Athletic Director Andy Geiger said, "There is probably a better support system at most universities for athletes -- they're in a more managed and structured environment" . . .

Some football coaches attending a Chicago meeting of sportwriters covering the Big Ten spoke out in favor of making freshmen ineligible and increasing the number of scholarships offered to help offset the growing numbers of injuries.

Coaches in favor of both steps were Mike White of Illinois, Dennis Green of Northwestern, Hayden Fry of Iowa, Bo Schembechler of Michigan and Earle Bruce of Ohio State . . .

John Smith -- a 6-foot-8 center from Friendly (Md.) High School and a Washington Post all-county selection last year -- will attend Duke next year, it was announced yesterday.