The president of Iona College said yesterday he will not stand in the way of Pat Kennedy leaving as basketball coach to switch to Florida State, but did not rule out legal action over the coach's departure with two years left on his contract.

"It has been indicated that Iona may be damaged by this kind of activity," Brother John Driscoll said. "In which case, we would seek to understand what these damages are, who did the damage, and in what way appropriate repayment or restitution or recompense would be made."

Driscoll said he had not yet received an official report from the school's lawyers, but wanted Kennedy to clear up "the untidiness and even the unseemliness of what is taking place."

Kennedy, named Florida State coach Thursday, said Friday that Iona Athletic Director Rick Mazzuto had released him from the remainder of his four-year contract. Mazzuto denied that.

"We're still paying him," Driscoll said. "Unless we mutually release each other, I expect him to be here as head coach on Tuesday." Monday, St. Patrick's Day, is a school holiday. Driscoll conceded, however, Kennedy likely is gone.

"Pat, in his own mind, has accepted the job at the university in Tallahassee," he said, adding that neither the coach nor Florida State officials had contacted him, thus failing their NCAA obligations . . .

Two former University of Houston football stars said coaches violated NCAA rules by paying them thousands of dollars in cash, the Houston Post reported.

The newspaper quoted Houston Athletic Director Tom Ford as saying the university will conduct an independent investigation into the allegations.

Lonell Phea and David Roberson, Cougars wide receivers in the late 1970s and early 1980s, signed affidavits stating they received money from staffers including Coach Bill Yeoman. Phea said he received at least $18,000 in four years; Roberson said he received $8,000 to $10,000. Four other early-1980s players told of cash disbursements.