WOMEN'S SPORTS have come a long way since the 1960s.

At that time there was little competition between schools. Mostly it was intramural-type stuff. There wasn't much of an opportunity for women to demonstrate their abilities. Those who yearned to compete were looked at as "tomboys," since they virtually had to play with the boys for any kind of athletic experience.That, thankfully, has changed. There are now plenty of scholastic athletic outlets for girls and women - beginning in junior high and continuing through high school and college.

The latest breakthrough was the announcement Wednesday that the Utah High School Activities Association approved the establishment of soccer and softball as official sports for girls.

A threat of legal action may have influenced the announcement, but still, the UHSAA is to be commended for giving girls new opportunities to excel in interscholastic competition.

*** COLOR PAT DYE classy for his demeanor following a loss to Florida State in the Sugar Bowl.

Dye received a lot of criticism last year when he went for a tie in the Sugar Bowl against Syracuse by kicking a field goal instead of taking an all-or-nothing gamble for a win with a pass into the end zone on fourth down. He had good reason to be bitter this time, but he wasn't.

With less than a minute to play, Auburn was nearing paydirt after a dramatic drive kept alive by a couple of fourth-down passes. A pass near the goal line was incomplete but replays showed there was pass interference, which would have given Auburn a first down at the 1-yard line. In all likelihood it also would have given the Tigers the victory. But the penalty wasn't called and the next Auburn pass was intercepted in the end zone, enabling Florida State to run out the clock.

Naturally, one of the first questions put to Dye while he was still walking off the field was about the pass where pass interference wasn't called. Instead of saying something like he was robbed by the officials and that Florida State, therefore, didn't deserve to win the game, he said it didn't play a part in the outcome, that Florida State outplayed Auburn, and that the Seminoles deserved the victory.

*** ANOTHER CLASSY LOSER on bowl day was Tom Osborne of the Nebraska Cornhuskers. Unlike Auburn, Nebraska wasn't in a close game. Jimmy Johnson's Miami Hurricanes pounded the Huskers, 23-3, and drew criticism from commentator Bob Trumpy for trying to pour it on by passing late in the game. It might have been expected that Osborne would storm off the field without the traditional postgame handshake, but as TV cameras showed, Osborne not only gave a handshake but had to do some broken-field running to weave his way through the crowd to deliver it.

*** KAREEM ABDUL JABBAR should have retired last year after helping the Los Angeles Lakers to their second straight NBA championship. He is now a minor player on a struggling team.

*** JOE MONTANA should retire after the Super Bowl. It's not that his skills have deserted him. On the contrary, he's played perhaps his best professional ball during the playoffs. The question with Montana is his health. How much longer can his fragile back last? Why not go out on top like former running great Jim Brown?