MINNEAPOLIS, DEC. 14 -- University of Minnesota athletes and recruits received cash, loans, entertainment, money for parking tickets and other benefits in violation of NCAA rules, according to allegations announced today by the NCAA.

A letter of official inquiry requested responses from the Big Ten school to 21 alleged violations, the most serious stemming from the activities of Luther Darville, a former university administrator who says he gave university funds to athletes.

"This case appears to be major in nature," David Berst, the NCAA's assistant executive director for enforcement, said in the letter. "It appears reasonable to expect that the NCAA Committee on Infractions will find violations."

"In my judgment, the 'death penalty' is not a candidate at all," Minnesota Law School dean Robert Stein said at a news conference. The death penalty, under which a program can be shut down, can be invoked when a school is placed on probation twice in five years. Minnesota's basketball team went on probation in 1988.

The names of suspected violators were omitted from copies of the letter distributed by the university.

But the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported on Saturday that football coach John Gutekunst and basketball coach Clem Haskins are implicated, as well as ex-football coach Lou Holtz.

On Thursday the Philadelphia Daily News reported that Holtz, at Minnesota in 1984-85 and now at Notre Dame, has looked into coaching in the NFL. He has been implicated by LeRoy Gardner, a former Minnesota academic adviser, who said Holtz gave him $500 to give to a player.

Jerry Keeble, an ex-player, has said he received $500 from Gardner and $500 from Holtz's secretary.

In South Bend, Ind., Holtz said during a news conference that "I vehemently deny" the charges.

"I have always had great respect for {Gardner} and thought he did a fine job with our athletes within the academic program. It is true that on three different occasions I loaned him money for his personal needs. . . . Why he said {money} was to be given to athletes, I do not know.

"In 22 years of being a head football coach I have never been accused nor have I been guilty of violating NCAA rules. I have always conducted my program both within the letter and the spirit of the NCAA rules."

Notre Dame spokesman John Heisler said Holtz will return next year.