Looking to inject new leadership into the athletic department at the University of the District of Columbia, acting President Claude Ford has replaced athletic director Sidney Hall with Willis Thomas.

John Britton, the acting associate vice president for student relations, said the appointment is only interim.

Hall, a faculty member since the university's inception in 1968, was appointed athletic director in June 1983 by Robert Green, then-UDC president who resigned under pressure earlier this year. Sources say Hall was often at odds with the coaches and had problems relating to students. Hall, still on the faculty, could not be reached for comment.

"I think it's just a matter of a new president appointing a new athletic director," Britton said yesterday. "President Ford wants to let Willis Thomas take a long, hard look at the situation in the hopes he can continue to help the students at the university.

"There isn't a lot of hard evidence that people in the athletic department were totally unhappy but he (Ford) just felt a change was needed. The appointment is only a temporary one and since President Ford is acting himself, he didn't think it proper to appoint a permanent athletic director."

Thomas, a former basketball player for the Harlem Globetrotters and for the past six years assistant director at UDC's Center for Student Program Development, said he understands the appointment is temporary but plans to institute policies immediately to improve communications in the department and work with the student-athletes.

"We want to redefine winning here at UDC. We know about wins and losses; we want to win in other areas," Thomas said. "My main responsibility is to formulate a base for that and nothing else. We have an obligation to the students who come here. I'm not saying we haven't been doing that in the past but we just want to improve communications everywhere."