Running back Derrick Fenner of the University of North Carolina, arrested on a first-degree murder charge two days ago, had applied for admission to the University of Maryland out of Oxon Hill High School but was turned down, according to A.H. (Bud) Edwards, Maryland's vice chancellor for institutional development.

"He applied to Maryland for admission, but was turned down on the basis of academics," Edwards said yesterday.

Fenner surrendered to authorities in Hyattsville Tuesday to face a murder charge stemming from what police allege was a drug-relating shooting spree on May 23 that ended with the death of Marcellus Leach, 19, who suffered a gunshot wound to the head.

Fenner, 20, was suspended by North Carolina last fall for academic problems. When arrested, he was attending summer school there, in hopes of regaining his eligibility.

Edwards also confirmed that former Maryland football coach Bobby Ross had pressed for an academic exception for Fenner, a highly sought recruit. The board of admissions denied his request. Ross resigned after the 1986 season because of differences with the university administration and moved to Georgia Tech.

Academic exceptions are not unusual in the case of talented athletes who lack the skills and board scores for regular admissions, Edwards said. However, Fenner was deemed unacceptable.

"It's not unusual for a coach to press on a number of exceptions," Edwards said. "They try to spend them intelligently . . . He was a gifted athlete we just couldn't take.

"There was a perception that you can just apply to Maryland and get in; that's not true, and here's a case in point. I'm glad someone took him because everyone deserves an opportunity for an education. But he wouldn't have made it here."