DALLAS, JUNE 30 -- In an NCAA special convention that was supposed to be devoted to cost-cutting in college athletics, the only major item approved by delegates today restored the two scholarships that had been taken away from Division I basketball teams in January.

Thus, basketball again is allowed 15 total scholarships per squad. The NCAA had ruled this proposal out of order, but sponsors, after failing by seven votes to overturn the chair in the morning and vote on the proposal, anyhow, persuaded enough delegates at lunch to change their minds.

When the proposal finally came to the floor, it won, 164-124, with most of the opposition coming from the smaller Division I schools that do not play football and from the schools that play Division II football.

"People had an opportunity to reconsider and understand we had to correct what we did in January," said Georgetown Athletic Director Frank Rienzo, a floor leader of the proposal.

"It was a false savings with so many negative impacts," he said. "To save money on the backs of kids and on the backs of coaches is inappropriate. You can't always be saving money at the expense of the athlete."

That was one reason most of the other cost-cutting measures were either defeated or referred back to committee for further study. They are not likely to come up for a further vote until the January 1989 convention.

At one point, Vanderbilt Athletic Director Roy Kramer pleaded with delegates not to refer a key proposal. "Otherwise," he said, "this convention shall have changed its name to the National Collegiate Study Association, and we won't vote on anything."

Ten resolutions to conduct what probably will be the most comprehensive study of college athletics in almost 60 years breezed through this afternoon. That followed a morning session in which the football powers fought off scholarship and coaching staff reductions, and that set off a domino effect that helped doom other key proposals.

Postponed indefinitely was a proposal making across-the-board cuts in nonrevenue sports. Women's groups also opposed it for its disproportional cuts and many schools, including those in the Pacific-10, would not cut nonrevenue sports without cutting football as well.

By the end of the day, the sum of what passed was restricting playing seasons to six months in all team sports, reducing from seven to six the number of full-time assistant football coaches in Division I-AA, allowing fewer paid visits to campus by football (95 to 85) and basketball (18 to 15) recruits, reducing the number of permissible contests in six nonrevenue sports and allowing only 15 days of contact work in 20 spring football practice sessions.

A proposal to eliminate spring football practice in Division I-AA was defeated, 75-9, with eight of the yes votes coming from the Ivy League, which only has one day of spring football practice.

"Our people figure it cost about $1.8 million to put on this convention," said Big East Conference Commissioner Dave Gavitt. "How many baseball scholarships would that pay for?"

This was the first time that proposals initiated by the three-year-old Presidents Commission failed to get near-unanimous support. Neither Commission Chairman John B. Slaughter, chancellor at the University of Maryland, nor NCAA Executive Director Walter Byers thought the membership was repudiating the presidents.

"This morning illustrated the differences between people who think football is king and those who do not," Slaughter said. "It's a confirmation of what we said yesterday {at the beginning of the national forums}.

"We won't make progress until people are better educated about the proper place of athletics in higher education. Until we agree on some basic principles, we'll never get those two diverse views together."

Slaughter also said the Presidents Commission failed to do a good job convincing other presidents and chancellors why it was important to support the commission's 16 recommendations. "Presidents and chancellors around the country have not followed our lead," he said, "and that's probably our fault."

Hootie Ingram, athletic director at Florida State, said, "I'm not against presidents getting involved, but I don't think presidents have enough time to spend on athletics to take the role they're in."

The Presidents Commission decided not to touch football scholarships at this convention, but the Pacific-10 Conference nevertheless proposed a cutback from 95 to 90. After Penn State Coach Joe Paterno and Nebraska Coach Tom Osborne spoke in opposition, the proposal lost, 69-39; Maryland and Virginia both voted for the cutback.

In fact, Maryland, on Slaughter's instructions, voted in favor of all cost-cutting issues. "I'm sympathetic to the coaches," said Lew Perkins, Maryland's new athletic director. "But this convention was called for cost-cutting, and I'm sympathetic to the budget, too."

With one of the resolutions calling for a study of athletic department personnel, the football powers were successful in deferring to committee a Presidents Commission proposal that would have reduced full-time assistants from nine to eight and eliminated one volunteer coach or graduate.

After a 95-minute debate on the length of playing seasons, complete with 14 amendments to the amendment, President Paul Olum of Oregon quickly took the floor when the scholarship cutbacks came up and laid the groundwork for postponing this initiative indefinitely.

"It's an unconscionable proposal under current circumstances and should be disposed of," he said. "To refuse to cut football -- even this small amount -- seems to me disgraceful. It sends to people a terrible message that it's clearly sexist in effect, whether that is intentional or not."

Delegates agreed and the vote to postpone indefinitely was overwhelming.