A former Notre Dame running back sued the NCAA in federal court yesterday in an attempt to overturn NCAA rules that made him ineligible for the upcoming season after he went through the NFL draft but was not chosen.

Braxston Banks, one of 20 underclassmen who applied for the April NFL draft and were passed over, filed the class action suit in South Bend, Ind. The suit also named Notre Dame as a defendant in an attempt to gain a preliminary injunction that would permit Banks, who had one year of eligibility remaining, to work out with Notre Dame when it begins practice Aug. 17.

"I very much want to continue my education, complete my fourth year of eligibility at Notre Dame, and play professional football, but none of these things is likely to happen unless the NCAA restores my eligibility. . . . I still believe I am an amateur," said Banks, in a statement prepared by Public Citizen Litigation Group, a public interest advocacy group founded by Alan Morrison and Ralph Nader. Morrison is Banks's lead attorney.

The suit claims that the NCAA rules -- specifically Rule 12.2.4, which excludes athletes who enter a professional sports draft, and Rule 12.3, which makes players ineligible if they hire an agent, even if they receive nothing of value from the agent -- violate federal antitrust laws.

"As a result of these rules, talented college athletes must either abandon crucial opportunities to explore pro sports options or lose all of their future eligibility," said Morrison.

"The rules deprive athletes of the opportunity to evaluate their talent," said Bob Dreyfuss, also of Public Citizen.

Banks graduated this summer, but would have one remaining year of eligibility and one more year on his grant-in-aid.

"I strongly believe that if I am given the chance to play at Notre Dame, I will play well enough to both help the team and help myself in the 1991 NFL draft," Banks said in an affidavit. "I do not believe that I should be punished any more than I already have been for having made what now appears to be the wrong choice in deciding to enter the draft."

Banks's suit also challenged the rule against agents, since he was represented in some dealings with NFL teams before the draft by a friend of his family. Banks said no money was exchanged between Banks and the friend, and he said that the only compensation he received was $200 in travel reimbursements from one NFL team.

The NCAA has said it would consider an appeal from Banks only if it was submitted by an institution, but Notre Dame would not submit an appeal, although the team expressed interest in having Banks return.

"Obviously, we're concerned with any legal action," said NCAA Executive Director Richard Schultz. "I'm on record as being in favor of allowing underclassmen to test the waters in the {NFL} draft while retaining their eligibility. But until we have legislation that makes that possible, we have to abide by the current rules."

In June, Schultz proposed the NFL and NBA conduct "open drafts," like those in major league baseball and the NHL, permitting athletes to retain their college eligibility after declaring for the draft.