LINCOLN, Neb. (Oct 14, 1995 - 02:01 EDT) -- Suspended tailback Lawrence Phillips has met one of Nebraska coach Tom Osborne's conditions to return to the second-ranked Cornhuskers.
The NCAA ruled Friday that Phillips did not violate benefits rules by accepting a car, airline tickets and spending money from the owners of a West Covina, Calif., group home where he lived as a teen-ager.
"Barring an official letter, we feel things are basically cleared up," Osborne said. "We never felt there was any institutional problem at any time."
Phillips awaits sentencing Dec. 1 on misdemeanor assault and trespassing charges following last month's assault of former girlfriend Katherine McEwen at the apartment of quarterback Scott Frost. Prosecutors have said they will recommend probation.
The NCAA decision was one of four conditions Osborne has mentioned Phillips must meet if he is to play again.
Phillips also must complete anger-control counseling approved by doctors; his return must be approved by the team; and his status as a student must not be in doubt.
A university student conduct committee is expected to meet next week to discuss the case and Osborne said a court order barring contact between Phillips and Frost would have to be modified.
Osborne said a decision on if and when Phillips would return could come next week. Nebraska (5-0) plays host to Missouri (2-3) today and No. 8 Kansas State on Oct. 21. The Cornhuskers play at No. 9 Colorado on Oct. 28.
"It is certainly good news," said Al Papik, Nebraska's athletic director in charge of compliance. "We've put a lot of time into providing the information and it's been our belief that he was never in violation."
The NCAA investigation centered on information provided by the school regarding the Tina Mac Group home in West Covina.
Papik said the NCAA investigated the 1995 Mustang convertible leased in the name of one of the home's owners and driven by Phillips since January; at least five round-trip airline tickets to California; and an undetermined amount of spending money.
Nebraska officials contend the owners, Tina McElhannon and Sam High, act as Phillips' legal guardians and should be able to provide money and other items, and the NCAA agreed.
"Based on the facts submitted, the NCAA was not prepared to say the benefits were based on his status as athlete," NCAA spokeswoman Kathryn Reith said. "The staff believed there was enough of a parental relationship there."
Reith said the ruling by NCAA legislative services staff would be relayed to the eligibility and enforcement departments and an official notification would be made next week. Papik said he wasn't sure that meant the NCAA had finished investigating Phillips.
Osborne also met Friday with James Griesen, the university's vice chancellor in charge of student affairs. Griesen would say only that Phillips remained a student and that the running back was not at the meeting.