Beaches in this nation are currently awash with disposable medical waste. Can we afford to see our country awash with disposable student athletes who have been used, abused, and abandoned by a sports mad society?The NCAA adopted Proposition 42 in a continuing effort to protect students, not to deprive members of any ethnic or socio-economic group.

Though it is easy to hurl the charge of discrimination, it is not easy to ignore facts in the process. A score of 700 on the SAT requires answering only one out of five questions in math and only one of four on the verbal.

Would it not be better to address the deficiencies than attack the instrument, which is far from perfect but the best test scholars can currently devise?

These tests are under constant review to neutralize and remove cultural bias and they have been in use for seven decades. In my opinion, the argument that the tests are overly burdensome will persuade few parents who want their children to have a sound, usable education rather than an unearned degree that will be accorded little weight in the harsh reality of the market place.

Many students after leaving high school do acquire the necessary skills to do satisfactory university work.

At the University of South Alabama, the Academic Opportunity Program provides courses to help students grasp the first rung of the ladder. The success rate in these courses, which do not carry degree credit, is impressive.

But only a small percentage of students have the opportunity to succeed in gaining the necessary skills through taking non-degree credit courses after entering college. According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, 40 percent of graduates by 1990 will need preparatory non-credit work. Higher education cannot and should not take on this burden.

Should not one then be convinced that education must begin the instant the student walks into the first grade?

In this controversy is an unspoken, but very damaging, sentiment that an athlete cannot make it academically. I deny this. I strongly believe in the ability of nearly all individuals to overcome great odds to achieve, given proper motivation, materials, and teachers. I defend the need for standards in athletics.

Accepting an unprepared student into a college or university only for athletic abilities makes a travesty of our educational system, of our athletic endeavors, and cannot be defended in the eyes of the student who is exploited because of athletic skills.

I agree with the noted Chicago educator, Marva Collins: "Telling kids in high school that they need a 700 is too late. You've got to aim for the 700 when they start school."

The preparation for a 700 on the SAT begins not in college, but in the first grade. One of the greatest services that higher education can lend to the system is to require such skills as an admission standard.

Why not admit students without regard to performance on standardized tests or the requirement of a 2.0 average on core high school subjects?

A student who cannot attain minimum standards in 12 years will fail in negotiating the more rigorous academic requirements of a university. Allowing a student without the basic tools and skills to take college courses for credit is the means by which human wreckage is wrought.

A double standard of admission is not permitted by the constitution of the NCAA. No ground, therefore, is left for the charges of discrimination from the ranks of such institutions.

Every coach, athletic director, and president must sign a yearly pledge to uphold the constitution of the NCAA. When the president affixes his signature, he thereby commits the entire institution.

(Frederick P. Whiddon is founder and president of the University of South Alabama, established in 1963 in Mobile, Ala.)