Headline in Saturday's Washington Post: "NCAA Weighs Reforms/But Unanimity Lacking on Details." In newspaper shorthand, that nicely sums up this century's attitude toward collegiate athletic corruption.

Everybody senses it; few agree on how to effectively bring change.

But let's not be too impatient, for the NCAA has only had 79 years to deal with the mess, it being formed as the alternative to President Theodore Roosevelt's threat to abolish collegiate football.

In theory, the NCAA was to be a collection of college presidents. In practice, most of the presidents have only recently gotten involved.

Tulane was exactly right in dropping basketball this past week. The closer its president, Eamon Kelly, got to the truth, the raunchier the smell.

Three members of last season's team are under indictment for point shaving. One pleaded guilty in the conspiracy and two more are testifying against their former teammates.

Cocaine is alleged to have been involved in the scheme.

Athletic Director Hindman Wall, Coach Ned Fowler and two assistants have resigned. Kelly said Fowler admitted paying at least one player.

The central figure in the scandal, John (Hot Rod) Williams, is alleged to have received $10,000 from a booster to attend Tulane and as much as $100 a week, at times, from Fowler.

Also, Sports Illustrated reported that Williams told a Tulane assistant he "couldn't even read the English part" of the Scholastic Aptitude Test. SI said its sources reported Williams scored near the 200 minimum on the verbal portion and about 270 on the math.

Kelly would have been irresponsible not to have pushed for at least a temporary halt to basketball.

"Permanent is permanent," he has said.

No, it's not.

Long before the point-shaving charges surfaced in basketball, Tulane hardly was a model of enlightened sport. A former football coach, Wally English, backed a suit filed by his son, quarterback Jon English, against the school and the NCAA transfer rule.

Also, I have been told by a source in Tulane's athletic department that a president prior to Kelly wanted to hire George Welsh, then with Navy now at Virginia, as football coach in 1976 but alumni had Larry Smith in mind.

Smith was hired.

When the president of Clemson, William Atchley, asked his board of trustees for a reaffirmation of confidence in his academics-above-athletics policies, he was turned down.

During conversation about Atlantic Coast Conference basketball about a year ago, a Clemson booster, casual as you please, told me: "We've got to go out and buy us a 7-footer."

A source close to Wally Walker mentioned last week that the former Virginia star was offered extra benefits several times by alums but declined.

"You wouldn't believe some of the stuff," the source said.

Yes, I would.

College presidents long have wondered whether boosters are the backbone of college athletics or the bane.

Boosters, under whatever tax-exempt euphemism, provide nearly all the athletic scholarship money at most schools.

North Carolina's "Educational Foundation", according to a recent basketball brochure, "consists of $50,000 endowed scholarships, life memberships of $15,000 and $30,000, wills and bequests and a new dimension -- a pooled income plan.

"Under the pooled income plan, a member gives a principal sum to the foundation and then receives the interest off that during the remainder of his life."

All this to watch an oversized biology major in trunks and tank top slam a basketball through an orange hoop. Or a linebacker try to pop a pig's blatter from a halfback.

"Over one half of all contributors (to the Maryland Educational Foundation) did not attend the University of Maryland . . . " the Terrapin football guide brags.

What coaches and administrators want from such boosters is their money but not their meddling. That's impossible.

Many, perhaps most, boosters contribute generously either as a tax dodge or as an entre'e to a high-powered sports program.

Knowing they already provide most of the means for winning, many booster clubs figure they also ought to be able to select a coach.

Frequently, they do.

The coach hired under such circumstances realizes very quickly that the boosters place a much higher priority on winning than integrity.

To keep a job given him either outright by win-at-all-costs boosters, or through their influence on the president, he cheats.

If the coach cheats to get players, it sort of follows that some players won't mind shaving points for pay. The players, after all, are the ones benefitting least from the expanded economics of college sport.

Some presidents, among them John W. Ryan of Indiana, believe part of the solution is having them gain control of athletic-department budgets.

Auditing is an answer, Ryan argues.

Perhaps. But I seriously doubt that any assistant basketball coach ever turned in an expense account that included: "$50 for hooker to tempt prospect to sign with us."

Though collegiate corruption in sport isn't new, dating at least to betting on crew races in the mid-1800s, it is no less painful.

Ideas on reform are as old as the sins. Right now, there are too many games, too much money and not enough academic honesty in college sports.

Most of that can be corrected by bright and tough-minded presidents. Kelly at Tulane might be such a man, though he had been there long enough (four years) to at least establish some routine checks.

Sadly, sport brings more fame -- and shame -- to a school than scholarship does. Which suggests that the first question a new chief executive officer of a university should ask is not about the quality of research or how stipends for underpaid faculty might be generated but:

"Is my athletic department sleazy?"