Bob Staak, who guided Xavier to two 20-victory seasons in the past three years, was named head basketball coach at Wake Forest yesterday.

Staak said he had "mixed emotions" in leaving Xavier to take the Wake Forest job.

"It was a difficult decision that was emotionally draining and extremely difficult to make," Staak said in a prepared statement announcing his resignation.

Staak beat out Ohio University Coach Danny Nee and Belmont Abbey Coach Eddie Payne for the job. All three coaches were interviewed this week by Wake Forest Athletic Director Gene Hooks and the school's screening committee.

Staak succeeds Carl Tacy, who resigned unexpectedly July 15.

In 1983-84, Staak led Xavier to a 22-11 record, including victories over Ohio State and Nebraska in the National Invitation Tournament before a loss to eventual NIT champion Michigan.

Xavier was 16-13 last season as Staak finished with an 88-86 record at the Cincinnati school.

Staak came to Xavier in 1979 from Pennsylvania, where he served as an assistant coach. He also has been an assistant coach at William and Mary and his alma mater, Connecticut.

Xavier Athletic Director Jeff Fogelson said school officials were "sad to see Bob go. He built the Xavier program to where it enjoys national recognition. While I don't feel good about losing Bob, I must say that the legacy he has left has put Xavier in a very favorable position to find a replacement." . . .

Former Southern Methodist all-America wide receiver Jerry LeVias said he is paying cash to three current SMU football players for good grades because he is trying to fight a system he says doesn't encourage athletes to earn college degrees.

LeVias, who acknowledged the payments were in violation of NCAA rules, told the Dallas Times Herald he paid the three SMU players "a couple of grand" during the last school year based on their semester grades.

"I pay for passing -- some on Cs, some on Bs and great on As. But I don't pay for basket weaving," he said. "I'll pay for grades. I won't pay for tackles."