Wanda Oates' quest to become a high school football coach was halted late yesterday when she was issued a letter restraining her from taking any action to obtain the job at Ballou High School.

Oates, who had said she planned to be on the field yesterday at 3 p.m. to assume what she regards as her rightful duties as head coach, said her principal Helena Jones presented her with the letter of restraint just before school was dismissed.

"The letter said Mr. (Frank) Young was officially the coach this year, and I could not do anything that would be contrary to that appointment," said Oates before leaving the Southeast school yesterday. "I'll abide by that now but I don't know what avenue I'll go next."

Oates applied for and was given the football position in June after Young, a temporary teacher at Ballou, was terminated. But Young, rehired the next day, assumed he still was the head coach. D.C. Schools Deputy Superintendent Andrew Jenkins intervened and officially named Young coach and negated Oates' temporary appointment.

Jones said she had to take some action yesterday to stave off a potentially confusing situation.

"I had no choice but to issue the letter. But I fully expect Ms. Oates to fight," Jones said. "She asked for a response from me and I gave her one."

Young, in his second year as head coach, had little to say about the situation. The Knights play their first game today at Carver in Baltimore and Young was busy issuing uniforms, checking forms and giving pep talks.

"If you want a story, talk about the poor condition of the football field and the gymnasium," he said.

"But in regard to Oates, the kids all know Ms. Oates would never do anything that is not in their best interests."

Oates, who has served in many capacities, including athletic director, during her 20 years at Ballou, would have become the first female high school football coach in the nation, according to the National Federation of High School Associations.