NCAA policy-makers hearing firsthand the views of student-athletes, got an earful yesterday in Chicago.

"We told them athletes don't even know what the NCAA is, what it stands for," said Leslie Daland, a swimmer from the University of Southern California. "We told them most athletes think of the NCAA as just an evil institution that makes rules.

"Their reply was, 'Well, we're used to being the scapegoats.' "

David Berkoff, a swimmer from Harvard; Kristi Groteke, a track athlete from Manhattan College, and Daland, all members of the new student-athlete advisory committee, met for more than 90 minutes with officers of the NCAA Presidents Commission, the first time NCAA officials formally had sought the views of athletes.

By the end of its two-day meeting, the commission hopes to set an agenda for the 1991 NCAA convention.

The athletes said they called for tougher penalties for drug use, at least a small monthly stipend for athletes, continuation of freshman eligibility, allowing student-athletes' representatives to speak at the NCAA convention, not lumping all nonrevenue sports in 1991 legislation to limit time demands for student-athletes. . . .

Texas-El Paso basketball coach Don Haskins said he wants proof of allegations carried in a Los Angeles Times article that quoted former UTEP recruit John Staggers as saying he told the NCAA he received free lodging, housing and meals from UTEP assistant coaches for six weeks in 1988. Haskins said the article was inaccurate and he did not believe it.

The reporter "needs to prove this, is what he needs to do. And then I guess if he can't prove it, he'll say John Staggers told him," Haskins said. The newspaper stood by the story; Staggers said in a phone interview that the story was accurate.

The NCAA has been investigating UTEP for six months. . . .

Mississippi State Athletic Director Larry Templeton says no coaches or full-time athletic department employees took part in campus gambling ring activities. A three-week investigation also showed "less than 12" former athletes bet on games or acted as debt collectors for a bookmaker, he said.

University officials opened the investigation after a professor and a former student pleaded guilty to federal charges related to bookmaking in unrelated cases.