DALLAS, JULY 1 -- The NCAA Special Convention on cost-cutting that didn't cut any costs was a resounding success or a phenomenal flop for the reform-minded NCAA Presidents Commission, depending on whom you talked to.

For some, it was a big-time victory for big-time sport, as football coaches fought off attempts to reduce scholarships and coaching staffs, and basketball coaches succeeded in restoring the two scholarships and one part-time coach the convention took away six months earlier.

For others, Monday's national forum was the beginning of what should be the most intense reexamination of the role of athletics in higher education since the Carnegie Report lambasted colleges and universities in 1929.

In reality, the success of these two days in Dallas, where the Presidents Commission was born 3 1/2 years ago, cannot be calculated for 18 months, until the dialogues are finished, the nine studies authorized by a record 1,117 delegates completed and specific reforms considered by the 1989 convention.

As Dave Gavitt, commissioner of the Big East Conference said, "I don't think you can give this convention a grade until you see where the forum leads. If it leads to a positive change of ideas and policy, then this convention gets an A. If it doesn't, it will be known as a flop."

The leadoff speaker, Chancellor Ira M. Heyman of the University of California, made a provocative speech in which he presented a scenario for taking some of the commericialism and overemphasis out of the enterprise.

Heyman, Division I chairman of the Presidents Commission, got the delegates' attention when he said, "We could do the unthinkable and abolish bowl games and postseason basketball tournaments." Even Heyman said he wasn't sure he would support such a radical approach.

But he opened a lot of minds to alternatives, such as scholarships based on need instead of athletic ability and a minor league farm system for football and basketball. "By creating alternative paths," he said, "we could stop insisting that all aspiring professional football and basketball players become college students."

Lew Perkins, University of Maryland athletic director, said, "If he backs off {abolishing} the NCAA basketball tournament and bowl games, those things he said were very good."

The proposal to make cuts in 12 men's and 10 women's sports was so ill-conceived -- "their first bad piece of legislation," according to Texas women's athletic director Donna Lopiano -- that the presidents may not even have realized it discriminated against women, as some leaders of the women's groups who opposed it believe.

At this convention, not one woman had to approach a microphone on the convention floor. Two male university presidents spoke, and the membership quickly voted to postpone indefinitely the proposal. "I was hoping it would be that easy," said Lopiano. "I'm just relieved that logic and sanity still rule at some levels within the NCAA."

In some ways, the Presidents Commission's cost-containment proposals were ill-timed, just when the forums were beginning and studies commissioned.

That seemed to be the mood of the convention -- to wait for the research to be completed. NCAA delegates have waited before and put off key proposals. But this time there seems to be good reason to do so.

As NCAA Executive Director Walter Byers said in his post-convention news conference: "In retrospect, all participants came to the conclusion that it might have been better for a total reexamination first before we {made any cuts}. I don't think the need for reduction in the long term will be postponed. It will come. It's just a question of how."