Earle Bruce's handling of former quarterback Art Schlichter's gambling problems was an underlying reason for his dismissal as Ohio State's football coach, Ohio Gov. Richard Celeste has told the Des Moines (Iowa) Register.

Celeste said he was not surprised by the firing because he had known for some time that Edward Jennings, Ohio State's president, had intended to take such action. One reason, according to Celeste, is that Jennings did not approve of Bruce's handling of Schlichter's problems.

Celeste also said Bruce no longer had the support of major contributors to the school, and that members of the Ohio State Board of Trustees didn't believe his teams could win big games.

Schlichter, who played for Bruce in 1980-81, has acknowledged he is a compulsive gambler and ran up debts of hundreds of thousands of dollars during his college career. Bruce is an avid fan of horse racing and readily acknowledges betting on races. He has said on several occasions he has never seen anything wrong with going to the track, particularly because such activity is legal, the Register reported.

But Celeste said Bruce's connection with horse betting and with the Schlichter situation has been a source of irritation for Jennings for some time . . .

Columbia's football team has become so noncompetitive that the Ivy League is allowing the program to recruit football players who fail to meet the conference's academic requirements.

The variance from the standards, the first allowed by the conference for football since the requirements were imposed in the early 1980s, was approved by the Ivy League policy committee following the 1985 season, when Columbia went 0-10 and had extended its losing streak to 21 games.

Columbia is 0-9 this year, bringing its losing streak to 40 games, the longest ever by an NCAA Division I school. Its freshman team, however, went 6-0, the best freshman record ever at Columbia and the first winning season in 13 years . . .

Kansas forward Danny Manning, an all-America last season, was the top vote-getter for the 1987-88 Associated Press preseason all-America basketball team. He received 60 of a possible 64 votes cast by a nationwide panel of sportswriters and broadcasters. Also named to the first team were center Rony Seikaly of Syracuse, 40 votes; North Carolina forward J.R. Reid, 36, and the back court of David Rivers of Notre Dame, 33, and Michigan's Gary Grant, 32 . . .

No. 17 Pitt and either No. 14 Texas A&M, Texas or Baylor will be invited to play in the Bluebonnet Bowl on New Year's Eve, Ted Nance, the executive director of the bowl, said . . .

George Washington's men's basketball team will play the Greek national team Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at Smith Center. The exhibition game will be the Greek team's fifth in a six-game East Coast schedule.