Former Notre Dame running back Braxston Banks began his challenge of NCAA eligibility rules in federal court in South Bend, Ind., yesterday with his attorney saying the NCAA's lengthy written arguments present no valid reason why Banks should not be able to return to the Irish.

"I suppose if this were a baseball case, I would say there is a lot of windup and not much pitch," said attorney Alan B. Morrison.

Banks, from Hayward, Calif., says he needs another year at Notre Dame to prove he can play professionally. NCAA rules say Banks gave up his final year by contacting an agent and entering the NFL draft. He was not picked.

William C. Barnard, an attorney representing the NCAA, said Banks failed to show the rules are an unreasonable restraint on the market of college football.

A suit filed last week in South Bend on Banks's behalf by a Ralph Nader legal organization claims the NCAA violated the Sherman Antitrust Act by unreasonably restraining trade and commerce. Banks seeks a court order to stop the NCAA from enforcing those rules; the suit asks the court for a class action ruling. The NCAA had no comment.

A ruling is expected this morning. . . .

Charges of malicious wounding against Virginia Tech football players Damien Russell and Jeff Gallman were dropped when Judge Thomas D. Frith Jr. ruled he found no probable cause that the two committed a felony in a recent altercation with Bernard Jordan, another student at the Blacksburg school.

The players, who were suspended from the team by Coach Frank Beamer, still face misdemeanor charges of assault and battery; no hearing date has been set.

Russell, a starting junior safety from H.D. Woodson, was reinstated to the team; Gallman, a redshirt freshman from DeMatha, will not be allowed back on the team before January.

"I'm pleased that the felony charges have been dismissed," said Beamer. "Jeff Gallman's suspension continues because he has not lived up to the standards expected of a Virginia Tech athlete. Damien Russell has been a model citizen at Virginia Tech and in the Tech football program and thus is being placed back on the team." . . .

Pete Rose, former Cincinnati Reds manager and baseball's all-time hits leader, is earning 11 cents an hour working in a prison machine shop and isn't playing for the inmates' softball team yet, according to assistant warden Randy Davis.

Rose, who began serving a five-month sentence Aug. 8 at the Federal Work Camp in Marion, Ill., for cheating on his income taxes, spends eight hours a day in machine shop welding and fabricating metal.

The Marion Daily Republican reported Wednesday that Rose was receiving preferential treatment, including a television in his cubicle, delivery of meals to him and a deal with federal officials for an early release.

Davis, however, said Rose is treated as any other inmate, doing basic chores -- mowing grass, preparing food, etc. -- and sharing a dormitory cubicle with another prisoner.

"He's housed just like any other inmate in camp," Davis said. "There's no TV in cells or rooms or anything else."