An attorney for Ohio State University said yesterday that fired football coach Earle Bruce had dropped his $7.4 million lawsuit against the school in return for a $471,000 settlement.

"I have consulted with the individual trustees, who are my clients in this matter, and they fully support this settlement and believe the settlement to be in the best interest of the university," John Elam said in a statement. "Is there a winner? Hopefully, the Ohio State University will be the winner in that the focus can come back to a tremendous institution."

The firing sparked an outburst of public criticism against university President Edward Jennings, who fired Bruce, and the university trustees.

The $471,000 Bruce will receive represents what he would have been paid if his contract had remained in effect and the amount he would have received from outside income sources, such as television and sporting equipment contracts.

If he takes a new job before July 1, 1989, he will have to pay back part of the settlement.

Neither Bruce nor his attorney was present at a news conference in Columbus called to announce the settlement. Bruce, however, issued a statement in which he expressed his thanks to the community for support during what he called "this personal crisis" . . .

North Carolina faculty chairman George Kennedy recently wrote in a letter to two faculty members that football coach Dick Crum is being fired, the Durham (N.C.) Morning Herald reported. The story contradicted university statements that Crum may serve out the remaining years of his contract if he wishes.

"My inquiries lead me to conclude that the real reasons for Coach Crum being fired are deeper than loss of games," Kennedy was quoted as writing. "The decision that he go seems to have been made almost entirely on what could be described as educational grounds in the wide sense: the judgment that the football program is not meeting the internal standards of what it should be within the academic setting."

Crum recently completed the sixth year of a 10-year contract. The university has been negotiating with Crum over the past two weeks, providing him with the option of a cash settlement for him and members of his staff if he chooses to resign.

On Thursday, the Daily Oklahoman in Oklahoma City reported that Oklahoma offensive coordinator Jim Donnan likely would succeed Crum. Donnan, a former quarterback at North Carolina State, would not confirm the report . . .

The Oklahoma-Nebraska game on CBS last Saturday received the highest rating of any regular season college football telecast since 1983, the network reported. The game, which Oklahoma won, 17-7, received a 13.1 rating, the highest since the 1983 Missouri-Nebraska game on ABC and 1983 Nebraska-Oklahoma game on CBS, both of which received a 13.2 rating.