Some say it is a matter of money. Some say it is a matter of law. Others say it is a matter of time. All know the bottom line is equal opportunity, or the lack thereof.

That is why hundreds of people from all over the country will gather this weekend in Indianapolis for New Agenda II, the first nationwide conference on girls' and women's athletics in nearly four years.

"I see this type of conference as being very important," said Christine Grant, the director of the University of Iowa's highly successful women's athletic program. " . . . We need to keep making progress and stay up to date with each other and this will be an excellent forum for us to do that."

The theme of New Agenda II, hosted by the Girls Clubs of America, the National Association for Girls and Women in Sport and the Women's Sports Foundation, will be "a sporting chance for girls." Its goal is an increase in local participation and opportunities for girls between the ages of 5 and 18. It is an effort to increase grass-roots support for, and interest in, girls athletics.

However, because the conference, two years in the planning, has coincided with what is regarded as a critical time for women's college athletics, it is certain much of the informal talk between seminars, workshops and speeches will focus on the upcoming special NCAA Convention.

At that convention, June 29-30 in Dallas, legislation concerning reductions in athletic scholarships, with a major focus on women's grants, will be considered. Originated by the NCAA Presidents Commission, Proposition 18 calls for across-the-board cutbacks in scholarships for both men's and women's sports at Division I-A schools.

The catch is that football scholarships would not be touched, unless the convention agrees to a proposal that would reduce the annual limit on football scholarships from 95 to 90. And that isn't likely to occur.

According to a study by University of Texas Women's Athletic Director Donna Lopiano, there will be a 10.4 percent reduction in women's scholarships as compared to a 6.5 reduction in men's scholarships. These reductions will leave scholarship percentages generally unchanged (66 percent for men, 34 percent for women), but the possibilities of such large-scale reductions have many women involved in athletics concerned and angry.

"If approved, those cuts could dramatically affect the future of women's sports," said Women's Sports Foundation Executive Director Deborah Anderson. "Prior to 1972 {and the passage of Title IX}, there were virtually no scholarships for women. We're just starting to grow."

Combined with the Supreme Court's 1984 decision in the Grove City College vs. Bell case, limiting drastically the scope of Title IX, the effect of Proposition 18 could be damaging to women athletes.

To Anderson, the possibility of these disproportional cuts causes gut feelings of anger. To Grant, a native of Scotland who attended college in Britain and moved to Canada before coming the United States, the proposed cuts are staggering.

"When I first came to the States in 1969, the inequality of opportunity for women was so blatant," Grant said. "I had had very good competitive opportunities in Britain from the time I was 11 or 12 right on through college and it was much the same way in Canada. When I came here it just blew my mind.

"But since then, we've had a 180-degree change in attitudes towards women in sport here. I think the pride people felt in the accomplishments of American women in the 1984 Olympics was good reflection of the societal changes that have taken place in the last 15 years. Now to have the Presidents Commission come forward with a proposal so inconsistent with its stated commitment to equality is astounding."

Consider that at Iowa it is not uncommon for women's basketball games, for example, to draw more than 10,000 to Carver-Hawkeye Arena. The same is true at such schools as Texas and Tennessee.

"First of all," Grant said, "here we have separate athletic departments for men and for women. We have people here who are focused 100 percent on developing and promoting women's athletics. But because the economy is so bad you have a situation where single Division I athletic directors are having to divide their attention toward many different things, like trying to balance budgets that can't be balanced. How much of their time and efforts are going to be devoted to women's athletics? The {Presidents Commission} is saying we can't afford equality. I don't see how we can afford not to have equality."

Temple University may soon find out. In a case that has been pending since 1980, and that is expected to go to trial in U.S. District Court in Philadelphia late this year or early next year, the school is being sued for violations of Title IX, the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment and the Pennsylania Equal Rights Act.

"It is the first case based on federal legal claims," said National Women's Law Center attorney Ellen Vargyas, a lawyer for the plaintiff in the class action suit. "Depending how it turns out, it could a very significant case as far as women's athletics is concerned."

But what about girls athletics?

No matter how good or equal their administrative structures, the college programs would be nowhere without quality athletes. And, according to Anderson, the proposed scholarship cuts will have an affect that will run well below the college level.

Approval of the cuts as proposed "could greatly impede programs in the high schools," she said.

Citing previous studies, Anderson said, for example, that "for every one specific instruction on how to improve a sport skill, a boy receives eight."

"Sports are perceived as what turns boys into men," said Dorothy Harris, a professor of sports psychology at Penn State. "Girls who participate in sports are given such nonpositive appellations as 'tomboy' while boys who demonstrate less masculine tendencies are often pushed into sports."

"Sport," Harris said, "is something uniquely human. And there is no reason why all humans should not have the same opportunity to test their mettle and have the opportunity to maximize their performance.

"In the last Olympics, for example {where 179 events were for men only, 86 for women only and 16 mixed}, the new events added for women were rhythmic gymnastics and synchronized swimming. Now, there are certainly more women playing soccer than there are in synchronized swimming."

This is why New Agenda II is being held.

Said Grant: "It's a matter of attitude. Even if equal opportunity existed, without the existence of an equal opportunity attitude, it wouldn't mean much. And we're not there yet. Not by a long shot . . .

"We don't get that many opportunities to get together to discuss the kinds of issues and goals that will be touched upon this weekend. The first New Agenda conference {held in 1983 in Washington} was terrific. It was rejuvenating. And, let's face it, we need that because it's a hard, uphill struggle for us to reach our goals."