NASHVILLE, JAN. 9 -- The NCAA continued to move toward overall reform of intercollegiate athletics today at its 85th annual convention.

The overall membership voted to place time limits on playing seasons and practice periods, and the Division I membership approved a 10 percent reduction in the number of scholarships its schools may award in any sport.

The Division I schools also established a series of membership criteria that was watered down so that most members without big-time football programs likely will have little difficulty remaining in Division I. These criteria mean that schools such as Georgetown, American, George Washington, Howard and George Mason likely will not have to make major changes in their programs to stay in Division I basketball.

In today's major votes, the schools: Reduced the number of scholarships in all Division I sports by 10 percent, with a three-year phase-in for football and a two-year phase-in for basketball.Established for Division I and II time limits on in-season practice and competition, and on organized out-of-season practices.Established a series of limits on recruiting in those divisions.Reduced the length of the Division I basketball season from 28 games to 27 beginning in the 1992-93 season, rather than 25, as was voted at last year's convention.Reduced the lengths of all other Division I and II sports seasons except football.

"It's a possible dawning of a new world in some of these areas," NCAA President Al Witte said. "There's obviously a mood on all levels to do something under the heading of reform."

The scholarship reductions were not made happily, but they occurred as part of the university presidents' cost-containment drive. On Tuesday, that effort resulted in votes to cut and limit the sizes of Division I coaching staffs.

"I think everybody kind of searched their souls on" cutting scholarships, NCAA Executive Director Dick Schultz said. "I think the major message there was that the presidents were willing to cut scholarships in football and basketball in the hope that they will be redistributed to those sports that are suffering.

"I think to come away with the opinion that it's going eliminate opportunities is the wrong opinion. They're doing this to save sports, not lose sports. Without the scholarship cuts, you're going to see sports dropped because of the financial pressure that's out there.

"The other part of it is that outside of football and basketball, the vast majority of schools aren't up to the maximums anyway. So it's not a 10 percent cut in the scholarships that you have. It's a 10 percent reduction in the maximum amount of aid you can give. That's a very important point."

Under the time limit legislation, which will go into effect Aug. 1, in-season practice and competition can be no more than 20 hours per week and four hours per day with one day off per week required. In addition, organized out-of-season practice time will be limited to eight hours per week for weight training and conditioning activities, football spring practice being excepted. In general, daily preparation time such as taping and dressing is not included in the restricted time.

The regulations passed despite concerns about record-keeping and enforceability. There also was concern that elite athletes in Olympic sports would not have enough training time.

The battle over Division I membership criteria centers major football-playing schools, which are all in the Division I-A subclassification, attempting to gain greater control over the whole group.

This has been a source of unease for Division I-AA schools like Howard, and schools like American, Georgetown, George Washington and George Mason, which play football at the Division II or Division III levels or not at all and are now classified Division I-AAA.

Today's fight ended in a split decision, but one that, for at least the time being, protects the schools without big-time football programs.

The Division I schools voted to increase the numbers of sports they must offer for men and women, as the I-A schools wanted. They also voted to set a minimum in the amount of financial aid schools must give. However, a vote on the manner in which schools may reach that minimum helped the non-big-time football schools.

In the area of sports offered, the members decided that by the start of the 1993-94 school year, Division I schools will have to increase the number of sports for men and women from six for each to seven for each.

But following some neat maneuvering led by Georgetown Athletic Director Frank Rienzo, the members voted down a portion of the proposal that would have forced schools to stop counting indoor and outdoor track as separate sports for the purpose of satisfying the requirement.

Rienzo and others argued that if schools could no longer count indoor track as a separate sport, many would drop it. "I don't think we should restructure by killing indoor track," Rienzo said.

In the area of financial aid, the requirement itself was approved and it will become effective for the 1993-94 school year. But the proposal, as originally written, would have allowed schools to meet that requirement only with aid that comes from athletic department budgets.

This posed potential problems for two types of schools:

Those without big-time football programs, many of which use money that does not come from athletic department budgets in the financial aid packages they give to student-athletes.

Historically black schools like Howard, many of which use money from federal grant programs in the aid packages they give to student-athletes.

The historically black schools won a reprieve rather handily.

"It will give us tremendous relief," said Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Commissioner Ken Free. The requirement "will hurt us," he added, "but it won't be devastating."

The schools without big-time football also won, but they did so in a vote that was decided by just 161-160, with four abstentions.

Because of the vote, "I don't see any I-AAA schools dropping out {of Division I} because of financial aid requirements," said Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Commissioner Rich Ensor, whose league of schools such as Manhattan, La Salle, Iona and Loyola (Md.) led the floor debate.

The vote came as a disappointment to the Division I-A schools, which are trying to gain more control over the direction of Division I.

"We're just not being able to move this ship," said Southwest Conference Commissioner Fred Jacoby, who chaired the special committee that studied the stucture issue and developed the membership criteria proposals.

What the future holds is another question, however.

"I think the big schools probably feel it's a temporary setback," Schultz said.

In what some viewed as a mostly symbolic measure, the Division I schools voted 170-141 to require student-athletes to complete at least 50 percent of the courses they require for graduation by the beginning of their fourth year in school in order to be eligible for competition.

But the Division I schools voted against other more substantive academic reforms. Under one proposal, schools would have been required to graduate at least 50 percent of all student-athletes receiving athletic scholarships in order to remain in Division I. The sponsors of that proposal tried to force a roll call vote on the issue, to no avail.

The Big East Conference's proposal that would have given non-qualifiers under the so-called Proposition 48 a chance to earn a fourth year of eligibilty also failed.

Reduce scholarships in Division 1 by 10 percent, with a three-year phase-in for football and two years for basketball.

Create time limitson in-season practice and competition.

Reduce basketball seasons from 28 games to 27.

Prohibit telephone calls to or having off-campus contact with prospects or their parents prior to July 1 following junior years in high school.