The Non-Revenue Sports Office is a sort of halfway house for the waifs of college athletics. Most athletic directors don't like to go there, lest they come out with their coats torn and ties missing.

The big problem with non-revenue sports programs is that they don't pay their own way, as football and basketball usually do. Athletic directors don't expect them to. But, for the last decade, the ever-compounding agonies of non-revenue sports have had many officials in a quandary.

NCAA regulations limit scholarships. There wasn't enough money to go around in the first place, then the federal government mandated that women's sports programs must be comparable to men's. Add in inflation and even Ph.D. administrators can't cope.

Many colleges have cut their non-revenue programs for men. The University of Maryland hasn't. Some schools have dropped some of their non-revenue sports. Maryland hasn't. Some schools have de-emphasized sports. Maryland hasn't.

It's struggling to support all eight of the minor sports its men play.

"We needed to make a decision," Athletic Director Dick Dull said. "We could either cut back, or go forward. We chose to go forward."

The problems, though, are reflected in win-lost records. Maryland's non-revenue teams are ending another school year in a way that, in the last decade, has become typical.

The track program that once turned out Renaldo Nehemiah finished fifth in the Atlantic Coast Conference outdoor championships. Maryland, which won the ACC title every year from 1956 to 1979, hasn't won since 1981.

Track Coach Stan Pitts doesn't like to talk about the decline of non-revenue sports. "If I told you what I really thought, I'd be fired," he said.

The wrestling team, which once went a year without losing a match, was 5-10 this season and fourth in the ACC. Maryland won the first 15 wrestling titles in conference history -- from 1953 until 1967. It hasn't won since 1973.

"We could become a revenue sport," the wrestling coach, John McHugh, said, "if they did it right and put more money in the program. It's a matter of priorities."

The lacrosse team, the best supported of the non-revenue teams, is 7-5 and last week lost for the first time ever to Maryland-Baltimore County, which upset postseason plans. Just two years ago, Maryland's team made the NCAA semifinals.

The lacrosse and tennis teams were at the top of the non-revenue priorities. The wrestling and track teams weren't; their funds were cut back.

"It's difficult to slice up the pie," Associate Athletic Director Randy Hoffman said. "No one likes it. No one is satisfied."

Because tennis requires fewer scholarships and funds, it has been favored over track, which would require massive funding to regain its competitive standing. An indoor bubble recently was completed for the tennis team, whereas Pitts has been discouraged by the lack of an indoor track facility for his team and his lower scholarship limits.

"It's more cost efficient to make a major commitment to tennis, because there are only five players," Dull said. "To make a major commitment to track at an Eastern school is not really feasible. Most Eastern schools do not become nationally ranked in the sport."

Maryland's athletic administration partially blames former administrations for the money problems. For example, football -- lifeblood of most athletic programs -- produces revenue, all right, at Maryland, but doesn't pay its own way.

Dull said that in 1975 the athletic department spent $3 million and went $300,000 into the red. And while the teams performed well, gate receipts did not cover escalating costs, he said. The football program lost $300,000-$400,000 every year from 1978 to 1981, he said.

Everything seemed fine during the non-revenue sports heyday of the 1960s and early '70s. But during the inflation of the mid-'70s, the school's athletic income of about $2.7 million stagnated.

"There was a long-term lack of commitment to some of the men's non-revenue programs," Hoffman said. "We were fairly successful in the mid-'60s and early '70s. Then tremendous inflation came along, and our operating budget stood still. In the meantime, other schools were increasing their income. We cut travel and expenses, and some teams began having trouble competing. Our problems today are because someone wasn't dealing with them 10 years ago."

Jim Kehoe disagrees. He was Maryland's athletic director from 1968 to 1979 and came back in 1981, just before Dull took over. He says Title IX, which mandated equal funding and scholarships for women's sports, affected non-revenue sports greatly, but sees no major problems in sports programs at Maryland. "Things adjusted, things worked out," he said. "Fees were raised and additional funds were brought in. I think it's being handled very well . . . Maryland has a wide spectrum and range. Across the board they're very competitive."

Some of Maryland's former coaches agree, wondering if today's problems are much different than 10 years ago.

"I think maybe coaches today think the only thing they are supposed to do is coach," said William (Sully) Kraus, Maryland's wrestling coach from 1947-78. "The job was a lot more then. It wasn't just getting guys on the mat. I did anything I could. People don't come to see you if you don't advertise yourself. I used to harass people for publicity. We drew good crowds. It seemed to work. We made a few dollars. We didn't operate in the red."

For 24 years Maryland teams have competed for the Carmichael Cup, a trophy for the ACC team with the best cumulative record in all sports. Ten times Maryland has won the trophy. But it hasn't won since 1976.

Now, ACC athletic directors have decided to forget about the award.

"We felt it had lost significance," Dull said. "Because of cutbacks and the crunch, only two or three schools could be competitive."

In 1979, the NCAA, realizing that many schools were dropping non-revenue sports because they couldn't compete with richer schools, limited men's scholarships in non-revenue sports to 70 per school. That may have been fine for those schools that de-emphasized sports or dropped non-revenue sports. But it compounded Maryland's problems. It lost 14 scholarships without dropping a single sport.

This season, the only men's sport that got its full load of scholarships was lacrosse, with 14. All others are one or two under the NCAA limit. Other schools, such as Clemson, North Carolina State, Wake Forest and Georgia Tech, simply dropped lacrosse because it requires more scholarships than other non-revenue sports. North Carolina chose to de-emphasize track.

The financial outlook might not be so good, but there's good news about scholarships. The NCAA is expected to raise the scholarship limit for men's non-revenue sports to 80, and Dull hopes all sports at Maryland will get the maximum under the limits.

Optimistically, he expects widespread improvement, particularly in lacrosse and soccer.

"I think there will be a resurgence," he said. "It may take two or three years, but then it will be dramatic . . . we've always been able to support the bill for scholarships, we just haven't been able to utilize them."

When Dick Edell was hired two years ago to coach lacrosse, he asked that it be put into his contract that he would get all 14 scholarships alloted by the NCAA. The university agrees. As a result, golf lost a scholarship and soccer and baseball lost partial scholarships.

In 1975, men's track and cross country awarded 20.25 of their 23 allowed scholarships. This season they gave out 12 of 14. Moreover, coaches gave more partial scholarships, hoping to attract more athletes. But that's only a partial solution because blue-chip athletes wind up at schools that give full scholarships.

"We were fifth in ACC scholarships," Pitts said, "and we got fifth place in the conference. That tells you something important about aid."

Inequities show up in other areas as well. McHugh teaches a five-course load in the physical education department in addition to his wrestling job, and he has only part time assistants. He is one of a handful of coaches at Maryland who also teach.

"It makes me wonder what the hell I'm doing two jobs for," he said. "It would be nice to do nothing but coach. I don't see Lefty Driesell or Bobby Ross teaching."

Maryland's women get more money and scholarships for non-revenue sports than men, and, in some cases, perform better. Gothard Lane, assistant athletic director in charge of non-revenue sports, estimates that the total budget for women's sports in 1973, the first year of Title IX, was about $17,000. Now that figure exceeds $1 million, Lane said. The men's budget is just under $1 million.

The women's programs at Maryland have 78 grants-in-aid, a 20 percent increase in five years. During that time, men's scholarships have declined 25 percent because of the NCAA limit. About half of the women's programs carry full loads of scholarships. Three out of the top four operating budgets for non-revenue sports are for women's sports.

"Title IX has put women on an equal level in the last 10 years," said Don Canham, athletic director at Michigan, which has one of the larger budgets in the country, $14 million, and fields 21 non-revenue sports teams. "Athletic directors have had to fund parallel programs. The money has to come from somewhere. That's the most obvious explanation."

Meanwhile, Maryland will continue to try to distribute its money at least semi-equally.

"We want to emphasize them all," Lane said. "That's our problem."