PROVO -- Once again, the Sunday play issue has reared its head at BYU -- and the victims could be the school's women's basketball and soccer programs.

The NCAA Board of Directors is deciding whether or not to allow those BYU teams the opportunity to compete in NCAA tournaments whose play includes games held on Sunday. The school does not participate in athletic events on that day for religious reasons.If the legislation passes, "any school that would not change its policy would be ineligible to play in the NCAA tournament," said BYU athletic director Val Hale.

NCAA championship games for both women's basketball and soccer are played on Sunday.

As it stands now, Cougar teams are not excluded from competing in championship tournaments that include Sunday play. However, if BYU were to advance to a game scheduled for that day, the school would forfeit and drop out of the tournament.

The NCAA's decision to revisit the controversial topic has taken BYU officials by surprise.

"We have no idea where this is coming from," Hale said. "It sounds pretty discriminatory. We're saying you can't preclude us from playing.

You can't deny us a chance to play. It's our decision to forfeit or play. We won't change our religious beliefs."

In 1998, the NCAA Board eliminated the longstanding "BYU Rule," only to reinstate it later with the stipulation that a waiver could be granted if changing the schedule to accommodate a particular school would "unduly disrupt the orderly conduct of a championship."

The NCAA Championships/Competition Cabinet petitioned for that waiver at a meeting last month. The NCAA Board has been meeting this week to discuss the issue.

"Last year the Board said no team or student-athlete should be excluded from the opportunity to participate," Hale said. "Now, here they come and say, 'We want an exception.' It's time to quit doing this. Let's set the legislation once and for all. It will be interesting to see if the Board goes against what it said before."

BYU administrators, including President Merrill J. Bateman, have been writing letters the past month to the NCAA Board to re-emphasize the school's position regarding Sunday play. But, because BYU's league, the Mountain West Conference, is new, the Board is not represented by an MWC institution.

One ostensible BYU ally on the Board is Lane Rawlins, president of Memphis University. He is also a member of the LDS Church and a stake president.

BYU soccer coach Jennifer Rockwood says she is aware of the impending legislation discussion but it trying not to think about it until a final decision is reached.

"It would affect us, obviously," she said. "Every team shoots for the chance to compete for a national championship. Taking that away from us would not be fair. I don't know why the NCAA would single out one school. We're the only soccer team that would be affected by this."

The Cougars, who start practicing for the 1999 season on Wednesday, were ranked No. 14 in the country in the recently released preseason poll.