The Colonial Athletic Association has engaged Thomas Yeager, NCAA director of legislative services, to be its first commissioner, starting work Oct. 21. The CAA, formerly the ECAC South, includes American, George Mason, Navy, James Madison, Richmond, William and Mary, East Carolina and UNC-Wilmington. Yeager, 35, was chosen by the eight schools' athletic directors. A native of Allentown, Pa., and a graduate of Springfield College, Yeager has been with the NCAA nine years . . .

The University of Houston has canceled its Feb. 8 basketball date with Louisiana State, citing strained relations because of the recruiting controversy over center Tito Horford. The 7-footer was expected to enroll with the Cougars but the NCAA ruled that out after investigating his recruitment, and eventually he entered LSU.

To make up for the game at Baton Rouge, the Cougars scheduled Louisville at home Feb. 22 . . .

In New York, Columbia Coach Jim Garrett has apologized for harsh remarks he made about his football team following a season-opening loss, and has been reprimanded by school officials.

On Sunday, the day after Columbia blew a 17-0 lead and was routed, 49-17, by Harvard, Garrett defended his statements comparing the football team's recent losing tradition with an addict's submission to drugs. Monday, Garrett was told by his superiors his comments could not be tolerated.

"I understand I made a gross error," Garrett said. "They told me the case is closed, and now it's back to work . . . I have to just talk Xs and Os."