A federal appeals court in San Francisco yesterday rejected an equal-pay suit by Marianne Stanley, former women's basketball coach at the University of Southern California, saying USC was entitled to pay the men's coach more because he had more experience.

The long-awaited ruling by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sidestepped the most hotly disputed issue in the case: Whether the higher revenue, greater publicity and resulting increased pressure to win in a men's program justified a higher salary.

Stanley, who also was the women's coach at Old Dominion from 1977 to '87, contended those disparities reflected the university's discriminatory treatment of the women's program.

The court, in a 2-1 ruling, said it wasn't necessary to decide whether the job duties of the men's coach were more demanding, because the evidence showed that USC's men's coach, George Raveling, was more experienced and qualified than Stanley.

Auto Racing

Mechanic Improves

Steve Fried probably is the only hospital patient with an Indianapolis 500 rookie of the year trophy at his bedside. Fried, the chief mechanic for rookie driver Robby McGehee, was critically injured in a pit accident during the race Sunday. His condition has been upgraded to serious at Methodist Hospital, although it may take another few days to determine the full extent of his injuries.

Fried was working in McGehee's pit early in the race when he was struck from behind by Jimmy Kite's car, which had been hit by another car. Fried landed on his face and injured his head and chest. McGehee wound up fifth, the best finish among four rookie starters, and at the Victory Celebration Monday night he dedicated his award to Fried.

Boxing

Bouts in Doubt

The heavyweight fight picture grew more clouded yesterday amid talk of a George Foreman-Mike Tyson fight and new trouble in arranging the title rematch between Evander Holyfield and Lennox Lewis.

A Foreman adviser said he was trying to put together a Foreman-Tyson fight for December that would match the two former heavyweight champions in a bout that would pay Tyson $25 million and Foreman $20 million.

Meanwhile, the rematch of the controversial fight between Holyfield and Lewis was in jeopardy despite promoter Don King's announcement last week that the fight would be held in November at a Las Vegas casino.

"There's no deal," HBO Vice President Lou DiBella said. "There are some problematic issues that need to be worked out." . . .

More than 14 years after they first fought, former heavyweight champions Larry Holmes and James "Bonecrusher" Smith were in town at the Loews L'Enfant Plaza hotel to announce a rematch. The 49-year-old Holmes (66-6) and 46-year-old Smith (43-16-1) will meet for the inaugural "Legends of Boxing" title June 18 in Fayetteville, N.C. Holmes stopped Smith in the 12th round of their first fight on Nov. 9, 1984.

Jermaine Fields (16-0) of Landover will meet Fayetteville's Khalil Shakeel (16-5) in an undercard bout.

Colleges

Football Player Charged

Washington State's top wide receiver, Nian Taylor, has been arrested for investigation of domestic assault. Taylor, 22, was charged with third-degree malicious mischief and fourth-degree assault, misdemeanors carrying a year in jail and a $5,000 fine. . . .

NCAA investigators decided that the DePaul men's basketball program didn't commit a major recruiting violation last year when it signed one of the best freshmen classes in the nation. The only infraction investigators cited was when two recruits were served pizza in the DePaul locker room after a game, said James R. Doyle, the school's vice president for student affairs. . . .

Four Cal State-Fullerton baseball players were suspended from NCAA tournament play after being arrested Sunday for throwing rocks from the roof of a building in South Bend, Ind.

Olympics

Change of Venue

Rupert Murdoch's Fox Studios won a minor battle with Sydney Olympic organizers when they agreed yesterday to change the route for the road cycling races at next year's Summer Games.

SOCOG had intended taking the races away from the eastern suburbs of Sydney and moving them to Bankstown, closer to the main Olympic precinct. But the plan was rejected by the Olympic Roads and Transport Authority because of traffic concerns.

Soccer

Honors for Lassiter

D.C. United forward Roy Lassiter was named Major League Soccer player of the month for the second time in his career after scoring six goals during United's 4-1 May run. Lassiter leads the MLS in scoring with 11 goals and four assists. . . .

D.C. United midfielders Jason Moore and Judah Cooks, along with players from the minor league Northern Virginia Royals and Northern Virginia Majestics, will host a free clinic for youth soccer players tonight at 7 at Borders Books in Bailey's Crossroads. Local author Dave Ungrady will sign copies of his book on minor league soccer. Proceeds from the event will benefit D.C. Scores, an after-school soccer and writing program for District students. Eddie Pope, Ben Olsen, Tom Presthus and A.J. Wood will host a clinic and autograph session for Montgomery Soccer Inc. players Sunday from 1 to 4 p.m. at Falls Road Park in Potomac.

Locally

Earnhardt's Signings

Seven-time NASCAR Winston Cup champion Dale Earnhardt will make an appearance at Koons Chevrolet of Tysons Corner this afternoon. Earnhardt will sign autographs on a first-come, first-serve basis from 5-7 p.m. The dealership is at 2000 Chain Bridge Road in Vienna. . . .

The MCI National Sports Gallery will host a dinner and auction benefitting the Brianna Haley Fund for Minority Marrow Donor Recruitment tonight at 7. Guests will include Redskins Coach Norv Turner and TV personality James Brown. For more information call the Marrow Foundation at 202-638-6601.

CAPTION: Mechanic Steve Fried, lower right, being attended to after a pit accident during Sunday's Indianapolis 500, was upgraded to serious condition.