NCAA officials confirm that University of Kentucky officials have invited an investigation into allegations of rule violations in the Wildcats' basketball program.

The Lexington Herald-Leader reported Sunday 26 of 33 former Kentucky players interviewed said they participated in improper activities including taking cash payments of up to $500 from boosters, selling free season tickets for $1,000 each or more, and receiving excessive payments for public appearances.

Several of the players deny the allegations, saying they had been quoted out of context. "I received this after the season was over," said Bo Lanter, referring to pay for speaking engagements. He said those payments were within NCAA regulations but the newspaper did not report that.

Sam Bowie, now in the NBA, denied having said he received cash from boosters.

John Carroll, editor of the Herald-Leader, said the newspaper stood by the story, which included extensive taped interviews. He said the tapes would not be provided to NCAA investigators -- "We are not agents of the NCAA, of the player or of the university . . . We've been advised by our attorneys to hold on to the tapes."

The newspaper plant was evacuated for a time yesterday because of a bomb threat.