An agreement has been reached between the Associated Press Sports Editors and the NCAA, preventing a credentialing problem for next month's NCAA basketball tournament.

The NCAA, concerned with gambling on campus, had threatened to withhold credentials from USA Today and several other newspapers that print tout and tip service advertisements.

Paul Bowker, deputy sports editor of the Cedar Rapids Gazette and president of APSE, said Thursday the sports editors' organization viewed the matter as a First Amendment issue and met with the NCAA to reach a solution.

Bowker said APSE agreed to send a letter to publishers of the organization's member newspapers, joining the NCAA in acknowledging the problem of gambling on college sports.

``We recognize the seriousness of the issue and urged that they look at their policy on ads,'' Bowker said. ``As long as the letter did not ask papers to pull ads, we were comfortable with that. We couldn't ask them to do that.

``I'm happy with this compromise. Now everybody can be writing about the Final Four.''

Dave Cawood, assistant executive director of the NCAA, said his group was satisfied.

``We are working together to make sure that publishers understand what these tip sheets are all about,'' he said. ``This serves as a reminder that gambling is a problem in college sports and has an adverse effect. We're excited about working with APSE and finding a solution to this problem.''

Jim Welch, deputy managing editor for sports at USA Today, also expressed pleasure about the compromise.

``We were confident right from the start that a compromise could be worked out,'' he said.

``We, too, have always felt that gambling on college campuses was a serious matter, and we've written about it regularly, and in fact have co-sponsored seminars on college gambling with the NCAA at each of the last two Final Fours,'' Welch added.