REELING AFTER FOUR straight losses, the University of Utah football team will take most of this week off, thanks to a bye Saturday, but head coach Ron McBride won't be idle. He's in San Jose, talking to former San Jose State coach Claude Gilbert.

The offense that Gilbert established with the Spartans from 1984-1989 is the one the Utes have tried to copy this season. Gilbert was quite successful with the offense. His Spartans led the nation in total offense and passing in 1986, and repeated as national passing leaders again in 1987. At least Gilbert was successful for awhile - until hard times hit last season and he was fired.That meant Gilbert is out of a job, and meant, to McBride, that the ex-coach would have time to look at what the Utes are doing, or not doing. No sooner did McBride get home from last weekend's loss than he packed up Utah's game films and was on the way to San Jose. "I'm not afraid to ask questions," said McBride. "I'm not afraid to have other people take a look."

BUT WATCH THE PAPERCLIPS: With the reconstructed contracts of Karl Malone ($3.2 million a year) and John Stockton ($2.3 million), the Utah Jazz have made an uncharacteristic leap near the top of the NBA's salary cap of $11,871,000.

"It's a change in profile for us," says Jazz general manager Tim Howells. "But we have to look at (escalating) salaries the same as we look at income taxes. It's just a card we've been dealt. You have to pay them."

Howells says the Jazz can still be profitable this season. With projected revenues of approximtely $26 million, that leaves around $15 million, after salaries, to cover all operating expenses.

"We can do it (be profitable)," says Howells. "But the (player's) salaries are in a world of their own. There's a whole different mindset in every other area of the organization. In the front office, a dollar is a dollar. Two hundred dollars of unauthorized expenses presents a real problem to us. This is still a business."

NO SWEAT: After having last Saturday off, BYU Coach LaVell Edwards looked with amusement as the UPI Coaches Poll, released Monday, ranked his idle Cougars No. 9 in the country, an improvement from No. 10 a week ago.

"We've finally figured a way to beat the system," said Edwards. "Let everybody else play and beat up on each other - and we'll bye our way to the (national) championship."

THEY SHIP US CARS, WE SHIP THEM MICHAEL JORDAN JERSEYS: Speaking of the Jazz's finances, the franchise reportedly won't do much better than break even on its trip to Japan to start the regular season with two games against the Phoenix Suns the first of November.

"The deal the NBA struck with the Japanese promoters was lucrative, but not that lucrative," says Dave Checketts, the former Jazz president who is now an NBA vice president in New York in charge of the international market.

Checketts explains that one of the key reasons the NBA is interested in going to places like Japan is to tap virgin merchandising territory. "We're taking thousands of dollars of merchandise over (when the Jazz and Suns play)," says Checketts. "We're going to place a lot of it in one department store in Tokyo, the Isetan Department Store. They have 300,000 people go through there - and that's just on the weekend. Jackets that cost $80 here will be $150 over there. We're doing our part to help the trade deficit."

ADD JAPAN: Checketts says that another object of the Jazz-Suns trip is to crack down on black market sales of NBA merchandise in Japan.

"There's a Basketball Digest magazine in Japan that sells 400,000 copies a month," he says. "There's all kinds of black market stuff advertised in there that you can order. What they do is they come over to shops in L.A. and buy retail, and take the stuff back. But it's like buying wholesale to them. Plus it's illegal. We're going to put some of those guys out of business."

LAST ADD JAPAN: To put the clamps on illegal sales of NBA merchandise means going through the courts, and that's not as easy in Japan as here, says Checketts. "They have 15,000 lawyers in Japan," he says. "In the U.S. we have 700,000.

"But at least one of their 15,000 belongs to us."

QUOTE OF THE WEEK: Phoenix Suns Coach Cotton Fitzsimmons, on keeping 5-foot-7 Greg Grant on the roster. "I like a player I can look in the eyes."