The District's high school athletics program was in deplorable condition 15 years ago. Dangerous equipment. Grossly inadequate and condemned facilities. Ineffective security. Unsafe fields, gyms and tracks. Underpaid personnel. A lack of qualified coaches.

Some disgraces never change.

This week, a 26-member task force used those exact words -- deplorable, dangerous, inadequate, condemned, substandard, insufficient, ineffective, underpaid, drastic shortage -- to conclude its report on the current state of sports in 11 D.C. high schools.

As though anybody needed a task force to document the obvious.

The panel's report recommended an immediate $4.3 million injection into one of the neediest and most deficient high school sports programs in America. In the future, another $1.2 million.

A radical request? The District has a $482 million school budget next year. In 1987, athletics received $320,000. That's about one-twentieth of 1 percent. Even with the proposed increase, sports would receive less than 1 percent of the school tab.

So, what did the D.C. school board do?

On the same day it approved a $482 million budget -- one of the nation's more generous on a per student basis -- the board voted against the full athletic overhaul that was recommended by the school superintendent's task force.

No way, boys and girls. Come back next year if you want a decent locker room or track, a decent swimming pool or a helmet that won't endanger your life.

Or transfer to private or parochial school. Or maybe you could wait another 15 years and come back next century.

Excuse me for being bitter. But I've seen Interhigh League football players passing helmets from the offense to the defense so all 11 men had one without a visible crack. I've seen players who were told by doctors that their life was at risk if they suited up again, but who slipped past swamped administrators and made All-Met. I've seen players lie unconscious with no doctor in attendance or ambulance on call. I've seen underpaid coaches washing the team's uniforms on their own time or getting their wives to stitch the players' names on their old uniforms so they'd be a little bit proud.

That was then. It's still that way now.

What is the school board's tacit message to students?

Why bother playing sports after classes? Go find something else to do. Why get in shape? Why compete? Why learn to be part of a team? Why listen to a coach? Why fail and try again? Why be proud of yourself or maybe even be proud of your school? Why stretch yourself and be all you can be? Leave that to the kids in the affluent suburbs where school sports are booming.

The D.C. school board certainly wouldn't want the children it supposedly represents to have the same breadth of opportunity that children in Fairfax and Montgomery County take for granted.

It's incredible to think that this city can't give nine-tenths of 1 per cent of its budget pie to an aspect of school life that is universally assumed to be part of a total education from the smallest rural schoolhouse to Harvard.

Remember what the District's $320,000 athletics allocation has been buying: all boys and girls sports combined, from basketball, track and football to golf, tennis, swimming, baseball, soccer and others. That figure also includes stipends for athletic directors, coaches and assistant coaches, plus every shoulder pad and jersey.

This week, the school board did approve an additional $300,000 for equipment and $373,000 for more athletic personnel next year. Before we cheer too loudly, let's note that this finger-in-the-dike act is not new. The D.C. sports budget was doubled in the '70s (after staying the same since Brown v. Board of Education in 1954). It was a drop in the bucket then and it is now.

No one who has not had direct contact with D.C. athletics has any conception of the shoestring on which the whole operation is run. One cardboard box holds all the trophies for the whole school system for the year. Frank Bolden, a former Interhigh athletic director, has shown up every day for years at his de facto "office" and worked for free despite the fact that he is retired. A school athletic director gets $1,400 a year as a stipend. "One year I made $10,000 in my part time selling insurance," said Frank Parks, athletic director at Spingarn. "But I quit {and went back to spend the extra time being A.D.}. I couldn't do it. I saw the kids and how much they were in need."

So far, the big result of the recent blue-ribbon panel report is that the city's athletic director, Otto Jordan -- who has overseen this entire athletic system for 15 years without a single assistant -- has been "removed" laterally to a new job. That's his reward for (and this is a rough guess since nobody really knows) quadrupling the number of students, especially girls, who have profited from school sports since he took the job.

The man named yesterday on an interim basis to succeed Jordan -- Allen Chin of Anacostia High -- is a school-system jewel. But it's wrong to see Jordan scapegoated. Caspar Weinberger couldn't run the Interhigh by himself. And if Chin doesn't get staff help, he'll be swamped and, eventually "lateraled," too.

The board says it is concerned about the ability of the schools to manage financially. So, it says, show us a new athletic director and maybe we'll finally fork over more money next year. Spare me.

Maybe the school board should meet Sam Taylor, who is working on his doctorate in chemistry in his spare time so he can teach the subject better, that is, when he isn't coaching his Coolidge football team, a team that has played in three straight Interhigh championship games. Why not give the money to Taylor now and worry about whether he spends it on shoes or helmets (or microscopes) later.

"We hear the same thing {from the school board} every year," said Parks of Spingarn. "It's always the same thing we got this week -- 'We'll get back to you next year.' "

Some year it would be nice if "next year" would be this year.