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Osborne gets in a huff when the question got too tough

(c) 1995 Copyright Nando.net
(c) 1995 Associated Press

LINCOLN, Neb. (Oct 31, 1995 - 23:48 EST) -- Nebraska coach Tom Osborne cut short a news conference Tuesday because he resented a question about star running back Lawrence Phillips.

Phillips was suspended seven weeks ago for attacking his former girlfriend and has since been reinstated.

The question put to Osborne came from a CBS television reporter: "If one of your players had roughed up a member of your family and had dragged her down a flight of steps, would you have reinstated that player on the team?"

Osborne declined to answer on camera. He told the reporter in the hall outside the interview room the answer would have been yes.

The story is expected to air Friday, a day before Phillips is expected to play for the first time in two months.

Osborne said there was no definite plan for Phillips' return against Iowa State (3-5, 1-3 Big Eight), though he is not expected to start. Phillips sprained his ankle in practice but it was not considered serious.

Freshman tailback Ahman Green has started the last three games for No. 1 Nebraska (8-0, 4-0) and leads the team with 821 yards and 10 touchdowns. Nebraska also has Clinton Childs, Damon Benning and James Sims available.

But the focus Saturday will be on Phillips, who hasn't played since the Sept. 9 game at Michigan State. In two games, he had rushed for 359 yards and seven touchdowns and was being tabbed a Heisman Trophy contender.

That ended Sept. 10 when Phillips climbed into the third-floor apartment of transfer quarterback Scott Frost and attacked Katherine McEwen, a 20-year-old Nebraska basketball player.

Police said McEwen, who has received 24-hour protection paid for by the university since the attack, cut her head when she was knocked down by Phillips and was struck several times. She then was dragged down stairs into the building's foyer before she was pulled away from Phillips by Frost and other neighbors.

Osborne, who has said he asked Phillips and McEwen to stay away from each other, dismissed his star tailback the same day of the attack.

Osborne later said Phillips, a junior from West Covina, Calif., could come back if he received counseling, cleared an NCAA investigation into his background and was approved by university officials and his teammates for breaking the student conduct code and team rules.

All of that has been done. Phillips awaits sentencing Dec. 1 for misdemeanor assault and trespassing convictions.

Osborne was criticized last month when he said Phillips would suit up for the Iowa State game. Some women's groups and fans said Phillips should have been kicked off the team for good or at least suspended for the season.

They also pointed to two other run-ins Phillips has had with police in the last 1 1/2 years. Phillips was fined $50 for disturbing the peace following a party and avoided misdemeanor charges by agreeing to pay a Doane College student $400 for a necklace the student said was damaged in a scuffle with Phillips.

Osborne has said football provides an essential structure for Phillips. Osborne and school officials also say psychological profiles of the 20-year-old player indicate he is not a threat.

Except for an Oct. 18 radio interview, Phillips has been silent about the issue. In written statements issued through the university and on Omaha radio station KFAB, he said he was sorry for making a mistake, for reacting "without thinking."