Miami Dolphins running back Ricky Williams tested positive for marijuana use and faces a fine of at least $650,000 for violating the NFL's substance-abuse policy a second time, according to unidentified sources quoted in three newspaper stories yesterday.

Williams said Friday that he is "in good standing with the NFL and the Dolphins," according to the Palm Beach Post, which first reported the alleged violation on its Web site.

"There is not a story here. I was in New York a few weeks ago and I did visit the league headquarters. I guess that's how rumors get started," Williams told the Post. The paper also said Williams was appealing the test.

The Post, the Miami Herald and the South Florida Sun-Sentinel all quoted anonymous sources saying that Williams had tested positive for the second time since joining the Dolphins in March 2002. The second positive test came in December, the sources said.

Williams scored a 15 on the league's testing scale -- the NFL's lowest positive score, the Post reported. Another sample came back at 14, equivalent to marijuana at a concentration of 14 nanograms per milliliter of urine, the paper said.

Because of the low score, a source told the Herald, Williams and his lawyer Gary Ostrow are confident Williams could avoid the fine and a second violation of the league's policy. Williams is expected to hear a decision on the appeal within a week, the source said.

The appeal will be decided by an independent arbitrator, the source said. If he gets a favorable ruling, Williams would be out of the NFL drug-testing program because he would be considered clean for two years.

A player who tests positive once for any drug that is banned by the NFL is admitted into the treatment program for two years and is subject to as many as 10 tests a month. If a player is clean during that time, he is removed from the program.

A player who tests positive twice is fined the value equal to his pay for four games. A player who tests positive a third time is given at least a four-game suspension. A player who tests positive a fourth time is suspended for at least a season.

The NFL announces only suspensions and league spokesman Greg Aiello declined to comment to the Associated Press about Williams.

"We do not comment on test results in our program," Aiello said. . . .

Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis traded in his football uniform for a cap and gown yesterday, receiving a bachelor's degree in management studies.

Lewis, who turned 29 yesterday, was among 2,000 graduates at the University of Maryland University College, a largely online institution that serves mostly part-time students.

"It was hard," Lewis told WBAL-TV in Baltimore. "I'm not going to pretend like it wasn't. It was very challenging, you know, being a father and being the leader that I am" on the football field.

Lewis said he hopes to use the degree to help him run a company he started last year.

* COLLEGE BASKETBALL: Missouri Coach Quin Snyder is accused by the NCAA of recruiting violations and providing meals and gifts of clothing for his own players, documents obtained by the Associated Press show.

Snyder is named in 17 allegations, dating from 1999 and last year, in the NCAA's formal notice of alleged rule violations.

The university last week released the list of allegations with names of school employees and students blacked out. But in response to an AP request under Missouri's open records law, the university provided a version yesterday naming the staffers.

Student's names were still blacked out, with the school citing federal privacy law.

The NCAA accused Snyder of recruiting violations including calling, making personal contact with and providing meals for prospective players. It also alleged Snyder provided meals and gifts for his players.

Snyder and other athletic department staff had no comment, department spokesman Sam Fleury said yesterday.

-- From News Services