After 25 years as the head coach of Nebraska’s College football team; after five years as the university’s athletic director, Tom Osborne is leaving the school he helped turn into a national powerhouse and later on help rebuild as the AD, also working to secure a better future.
But before we recap the past, it’s the present that’s important. He announced it’s over, because he feels it’s about time it happened. Not health issues, not yet. He just doesn’t want to be the kinda guy no one really understands what he’s doing at this kind of position anymore, maybe hinting at others at these positions across the nation.
At some point, whether you’re able to function or not, just the perception that you’re getting old can get in the way. I don’t want to be one of those guys everybody is walking around wringing their hands trying to figure out what are we going to do with him? That happens sometimes.
I’m probably healthier today than when I was a member of Congress. That takes a big toll on you.
His career in Nebraska? It can probably be summed up into two parts. One as a head coach and the second as the AD. He got the coaching job from Bob Devaney, after serving as an assistant and offensive coordinator under him. Devaney, who won two national championships with the Huskers, stepped down to become the athletic director at the school (until 1993) as his full time job while letting his protege take the helm.
Osborne was a huge success from the first moment. It took 20 years for the national titles to come, with Nebraska winning three (1994, 1995, 1997) in Osborne’s final years at the position, but they also never won less than nine games during his time with the program, never finishing out of the top 24 teams in the AP Poll at the end of the season.
As AD, titles didn’t come, but he did appoint Bo Pellini, who steered the nosediving program back on a more familiar course. Under Pellini (since 2008), Nebraska have won at least nine games each season and doing pretty well in the move to the Big Ten. Meanwhile, Osborne orchestrated the building (still not complete) of a 16,000 basketball arena in downtown Lincoln; a Memorial Stadium expansion that increases capacity to more than 90,000 and the Hendricks Training Center for basketball and Olympic sports.
Nebraska through and through – Osborne was the state’s High School Athlete of the Year in 1955. He played in Hastings College, winning two Nebraska College Athlete of the year awards before playing three seasons in the NFL, and moving on to coaching. Did we mention he was born in Hastings, Nebraska, as well?
No longer a national powerhouse, but an important and prominent team once again, Osborne feels he has the program in good condition as he leaves, left in good hands.
I feel we’re well positioned. We worked hard on the culture and part of that has not just been internal. We’ve tried to link this place with the former players. … Whatever we’ve accomplished couldn’t happen if we didn’t have a united fan base. It would be hard to find one equal to our fans around the country. It allows a program in a state of 1.8 million to be competitive with programs in densely populated areas.
Even though he’ll no longer be involved, it’s probably going to be more than a dream come true to watch the school win a national title, for the first time, without Osborne being involved.