EVANSTON, Ill. (AP) _ Darnell Autry will be in the movies, after all.

The NCAA decided Friday that Autry, Northwestern's star running back, ought to be in pictures _ or at least have that right.

The administrative review panel granted the sophomore theater major a waiver of an NCAA rule prohibiting student athletes from appearing in commercial films.

Autry, 19, of Tempe, Ariz., could have been suspended or been stripped of his remaining two years of eligibility if he had appeared in the movie and the NCAA's rule had been upheld in court.

On Wednesday, a circuit judge in Chicago granted the 1995 Heisman Trophy finalist a temporary restraining order so he could accept the unpaid movie part this summer in Rome.

NCAA spokeswoman Kathryn Reith said from Overland Park, Kan., that the panel decided to waive the rule in Autry's case because he is a theater major and the role is not connected to his athletic ability. She also noted conflicting interpretations of NCAA rules, saying one interpretation lets student athletes appear in television productions but not in films.

Reith said she did not think this issue had ever come up before. ``I think it certainly will lead to this rule being examined'' again, she said.

In Chicago, Autry's attorney, Mike Abernathy, said, ``We haven't seen the waiver yet, but it sounds like it's great news and it sounds like the NCAA did the right thing.''

Autry, of Tempe, Ariz., has been offered an unpaid part in two scenes of a supernatural thriller called ``The 18th Angel.'' The movie's director, William Bindley, planned to pay Autry's travel expenses and other costs, but would not pay him for acting.

Autry rushed for 100 yards or more in every game last season, and he led Northwestern, a perennial Big Ten doormat, to a 10-1 season and a berth in the Rose Bowl for the first time since 1949.