The NCAA Committee on Infractions yesterday placed the University of Florida on two years probation for major rules violations in both football and men's basketball, but the only severe sanction prohibits the football team from participating in a bowl game this season.

Despite the relatively light sanctions, university president John V. Lombardi said the school might appeal the football sanction and seek an alternative penalty since no member of the current program was involved in the violations. The postseason ban "violates some rock-bottom sense of American fairness, that you don't shoot the bystanders because you're trying to stop a robbery," he said.

The infractions committee, in its report, cited these reasons for imposing light sanctions on the Gators:

The committee determined Florida did not qualify as a repeat-offender case, even though some infractions occured within five years after 1984 penalties, that were then among the most severe penalties, for violations in the football.

The university aggressively investigated the possible violations and took prompt action in forcing football coach Galen Hall to resign and basketball coach Norm Sloan to retire.

The major violations were isolated -- one each in football and basketball over a three-year period. In football, Hall provided cash for a player to bring child-support payments up to date; in basketball, Sloan bought an airline ticket so former star Vernon Maxwell could report to a job at a basketball camp in Boston.

The NCAA was convinced Florida had a strong compliance program in effect and the infractions committee was convinced the basketball staff and athletic department officials were unaware Maxwell was receiving cash from agents during the 1986-87 and 1987-88 seasons.

The NCAA also ordered Florida to pay back most of the $287,561 it received for participating in the 1988 NCAA basketball tournament and asked the NCAA executive committee to determine how much that would be and whether the university should return receipts from the 1987 tournament as well, because of Maxwell's participation. The basketball team was cut two scholarships for next season and one for 1992-93.

It was not clear if the football team would be eligible for the Southeastern Conference title.

Sloan and Hall both were cited for unethical conduct for willful violations. Hall is now a graduate assistant at Penn State, but his duties have been limited by the committee on infractions, including a prohibition from on-campus recruiting. In a three-paragraph statement, Hall said he will confer with his attorney before deciding whether to appeal. Sloan, coaching a professional team in Greece, was unavailable for comment.

An appeal must be filed within 15 days.

First-year coach Steve Spurrier said he strongly recommended "we do whatever we can to allow this team to play. For a former coach allegedly making a child-support payment four years ago -- that's the reason this team can't play for all the marbles any more? We got a problem with that."

Lombardi, who became the president of the Gainesville campus in March after serving as provost at Johns Hopkins, said that although it is hard to win an appeal, "it may be the way to voice our displeasure.

"We recognized the appropriateness of a penalty," Lombardi said in a telephone interview. "Our discomfort with the sanction involves unfair penalties on the current program for infractions in a previous generation. That does not sit well with us. We don't think the infractions committee is wrong or unfair, but was not given a broad enough range of {institutional} penalties."

As an alternative, Lombardi suggested a sanction that would allow "players to play and coaches to coach" who were not involved in the violations, while "any revenues generated would not go to the university." But he acknowledged, "It is tough to recognize a penalty that is entirely institutional."

Under rules adopted by the NCAA membership in 1985, Florida faced minimum penalties that included a one-year ban from the NCAA basketball tournament, a one-year ban on live television and more severe reductions in recruiting. But the infractions committee, which at its discretion can ignore the minimums, decided not to impose those sanctions because Florida had no previous basketball violations and the NCAA considered the university to have institutional control.

The leniency is likely to renew contentions by University of Maryland officials and fans that it was punished too severely when the basketball program received a three-year probation, with a two-year ban from the NCAA tournament and one-year prohibition on live television, for violations during the three-year tenure of former coach Bob Wade.

But the expanded infractions report in the Maryland case, the Florida infractions report and a source familiar with both investigations suggest why Maryland's sanctions were harsh compared to Florida's:

Maryland was cited for eight institutional-control violations; Florida for one and the NCAA staff determined Florida had its compliance program in place. An examination of infractions reports show the committee thought Maryland cooperated only slightly more than minimally, while Florida took decisive action much more quickly.

The two major violations in the Florida case were isolated and, in the case of football, Hall was forced to resign even before the NCAA began its investigation. The major infractions at Maryland included improper sale of ACC tournament tickets and a pattern of willful violations over Wade's entire three-year tenure.

Maryland officials could not be reached for comment.