SOUTH BEND, IND., AUG. 23 -- Former Notre Dame football player Steve Huffman said today he informed a high-ranking university official a year ago that there was widespread steroid use and insensitivity to injured players in the Fighting Irish program under Coach Lou Holtz.

In a letter last August that also included a request for a 1988 national championship ring, Huffman said he told Notre Dame executive vice president Rev. E. William Beauchamp "activities are going on that you would be interested in."

Huffman said he did not identify those allegedly participating in the "activities," which he said were the ones he described in the Aug. 27 issue of Sports Illustrated. In an article written with magazine senior writer Rick Telander and for which he was paid $5,000, Huffman said two unnamed assistant coaches suggested he use steroids, that Holtz "had to know" the muscle-enhancing drugs were used at some time by "almost half the lettermen," and that Holtz ignored the severity of a shoulder injury for which Huffman eventually required reconstructive surgery.

Huffman's request for the ring and its denial by the athletic department were revealed by Holtz during a Wednesday news conference at which he and other university officials denied the allegations in Huffman's article. They also revealed that five football players had tested positive for steroids in the past three years.

Beauchamp said he received Huffman's letter and had "at least one, I think two" subsequent conversations with Huffman. Beauchamp added: "There was nothing as a result of my meetings with Steve Huffman or his letter that led me to believe we had a problem. . . . The mere fact that he says things doesn't mean they are true.

"We have never taken accusations lightly and we don't now," Beauchamp said. "We don't care what the source {of allegations of improprieties} is. We check to make sure they are not true."

Holtz became the subject of additional attention when the Chicago Tribune reported in its editions today that a source close to the NCAA investigation of the University of Minnesota football program told it the coach could be called before the NCAA infractions committee, perhaps as early as September, to answer allegations in the probe.

Holtz was Minnesota's coach in 1984 and '85. The allegations apparently center on money allegedly given Gophers players.

The Tribune said Holtz declined to comment on the investigation. The coach, however, did deny a report in The National sports daily that he has pursued a head-coaching job in the National Football League. Holtz said he hopes to remain at Notre Dame until "my career is over."

Huffman's article, which also alleges steroids were sold by Notre Dame football players, has attracted the attention of NCAA officials.

"Obviously, we take note of that," said David Berst, assistant executive director for enforcement. "We try to follow information that becomes available through the media . . . . We will review all available information."

However, Berst said he had not yet read Huffman's article. He also stressed the NCAA would not investigate the matter without "reasonable cause to find out what happened.

The NCAA's main area of interest likely would be Huffman's allegation that two assistant coaches suggested he use steroids. But Huffman today remained steadfast in his refusal to identify the assistant coaches who allegedly suggested he use the muscle-enhancing drugs.

"That's something we would be interested in," Beauchamp said. "If ever a coach at Notre Dame was found to have been involved in that {suggesting steroid use}, he would be fired in an instant."

Huffman said he does not want to identify the assistant coaches for "obvious legal reasons" and because "I don't want people to lose their jobs."

Huffman, 23, who now lives in Dallas, said his motivation for writing the article was not to expose a steroid scandal at Notre Dame, but rather to talk about the "less than professional" manner in which he was treated by Holtz, who disparaged the way Huffman left the 1987 Fighting Irish team in a book about Notre Dame's 1988 season.

"I would not have done this if he had not portrayed me in the book as a quitter," said Huffman, who added he did not know he had been mentioned in the book until some friends told him about it last spring -- well after he said he had seen it for sale.

But after several days of fielding questions from television and print reporters, Huffman seemed satisfied with the uproar he has created.

"I've caused a nation of sports journalists to ask questions" about Notre Dame's program, Huffman said. "People will say it was sour grapes or I had an ulterior motive, but it caused them to think. That's what I want."

Of the $5,000 payment he received from Sports Illustrated, Huffman said: "People are saying I sold my story. I approached them last spring. After the story was completed {last week}, they offered me the money. Of course, I accepted it."

Steve's brother Dave, 33 and going into his 11th season as an offensive lineman for the Minnesota Vikings, is a Notre Dame graduate, as is Dave's wife. Yet, he expressed dismay with the current Fighting Irish program -- its well-publicized pregame fights and disciplinary actions against star players. He also said he backs Steve completely.

"I've seen things happen at that school that didn't happen" when he was there, Dave Huffman said. "Nobody's perfect, and college is part of the learning process and growing process. We won a national championship when I was there and Notre Dame always had this assumption of being above the fray. Now it seems like they're doing it just like everyone else is doing it."

Of his younger brother, he said: "He's a decent kid, a nice normal guy who would never do anything to disgrace the family or lie to hurt the family. He doesn't have the Golden Dome in the background or a tear in his eye, but, by God, I'm going to stand with him."