Howard University yesterday announced it is ending its pursuit of a berth in the 1987 NCAA Division I-AA football tournament.

Howard, which was not selected for the 16-team tournament despite having the second-best record among teams in Division I-AA, last week failed to obtain a temporary restraining order that would have halted the tournament unless the Bison were included in the field.

Monday, the NCAA turned down the university's proposed alternative that would have allowed Howard and three other schools to join the tournament this weekend.

"While the NCAA committee's reasons for rejecting our proposition to reformat the playoffs are unresponsive to the university's claims, the university has determined that the best approach at this time is to concentrate its efforts on its pending lawsuit against the NCAA rather than seeking immediate injunctive relief," Daniel Bernstine, Howard's acting vice president for legal affairs and general counsel, said in a prepared statement.

Howard legal counsel Francis Smith said the university will spend the next three months preparing its $27 million lawsuit against the NCAA. The suit alleges antitrust violations and breach of contract in Howard's original exclusion from the tournament.

Smith said the university will seek a court date around March and hopes a trial will begin by next summer.

The NCAA called Howard's alternative proposal for the 1987 playoffs, which had some later round games being played on Thursdays and Mondays, "unsafe" for teams forced to play three games within 11 days.

The NCAA also said a hardship would be created because travel arrangements already had been made for this Saturday's scheduled quarterfinal games and Howard's proposal would cause problems with academic schedules.

Monday, Howard officials contacted the three other schools that would have been incorporated into the tournament under its plan. Delaware State was receptive to the proposal, but Sam Houston State and New Hampshire did not return a definitive answer.