This first article shows how close Nebraska came to firing Tom Osborne.  There was still some talk of this when Bill Byrne came to Lincoln in the early 90s, and Osborne himself almost took the Colorado job in the late 70s.  After the 1968 season there was a petition started to have Devaney fired, and another in the late 80s or early 90s to have Charlie McBride fired as well.


Published Sunday | November 25, 2007
Osborne faced same fate

How close did the powers-that-be at the University of Nebraska come to snuffing out one of the greatest coaching careers of all time?

By one game, apparently.

While talking Saturday about holding coaches to the same standards that he held himself to, Tom Osborne related a story about a discussion he had with an NU regent after the 1976 Astro-Bluebonnet Bowl.

To that point, Osborne had gone 9-2-1 in 1973, 9-3 in 1974, 10-2 in 1975 and went into the Astro-Bluebonnet Bowl in 1976 with an 8-3-1 record. Luckily for Osborne, as it turned out, NU beat Texas Tech 27-24 to finish 9-3-1.

"Afterward one of the regents took me aside and told me, 'I'm glad that you won tonight because if you hadn't, you'd have been fired.' I gathered that there had been some serious conversation about my future at that point. That was four years with about a 77 or 78 percent winning percentage and yet that was the nature of the deal here.

"Believe me, I would not expect anything from any coach here that I hadn't expected of myself as a coach."

These next two articles are from shortly after Frank Solich was fired.  I thought they were worth saving.


Nebraska State Paper

For Nebraskans, This Is More Than Football

by ED HOWARD,  Nebraska State Paper   January 13, 2004

LINCOLN –Nebraska football fans are going through the change of life. So to speak

The hot flashes and psychotic vocalizing are responses to more than the end of a decades-old era.

They are responses to the end of football as a metaphor for the soul of Nebraska's history, and the pride the Husker Nation takes in its self-image.

Virtually everything about the recent changes in the Husker football program insulted that image, whether you regard it as historic or mythical.

Let's talk first about the coming change in the offensive scheme, which will move to a West Coast offense, full of short, quick passes and such.

It is easy to liken the Huskers' traditional option offense to Nebraska's traditional values.

Example: Remember when NU whacked Miami and that fat-mouthed Warren Sapp years ago? That victory was a perfect metaphor for how Nebraska sees itself.

Miami's players were mouthy and its offense was flashy, throwing its hopes in the air all the time, hoping for a quick payoff without much work.

Not Nebraska.

The Nebraska team pounded away at its goal, relentlessly. Everyone pulled his weight, the I-back looked for the best opportunity and then made the best of it. Pluggers.

And then came that glorious fourth quarter.

The Hurricanes had literally gone to the beach that week and laughed at the Huskers – the big, husky Huskers who sweated and exercised and ran all week. In the fourth quarter, Miami stopped laughing and trash talking. The Hurricanes had run out of wind. They were wheezing and gasping, making pathetic, grunting and guttural sounds as those NU stalwarts knocked them on their attitudes.

That kind of victory, that style, speaks to Nebraskans. "We work harder. We do more pushups and sit-ups and lift more weights. We run the stadium steps. We don't just rely on our ability, we make the most of it, we enhance it. We sweat. We work. We don't panic. We keep on keepin' on. We do it in Miami's heat and we do it in Nebraska cold. And we can kick your New Age ass!"

Nebraskans could look into the cameras at the rest of the country and effectively say: "That's right, neighbors. No skyscrapers, no beaches, no mountain skiing. We eat lots of red meat, too! We drove pickup trucks before Madison Avenue made 'em fashionable! A cold spell on the East Coast is what we call `a break in the weather,' and if you bring your sophisticated selves out here, we can probably sell you a license to hunt jackalope!"

And another thing. Remember when Nebraska lost to Miami, but could surely have claimed a national title by simply kicking an extra point for a tie? What did Nebraska say to the world? "We don't play to tie. We play to win, and we'll risk the loss." Whaddya' think the blow-hard Hurricanes would have done in that spot?

Well, there you have it. At least, in terms of why that option game was so popular.

The tradition of the Black Shirts and the NU defense speaks for itself. We don't just defend our turf, we take enormous pride in defending it, just like we defend our way of life, pal!

The horrendous insult and additional injury came through Athletic Director Steve Pederson's ill-mannered handling of the coaching changes.

"Hey! Steve! We don't treat the good hired help that way! You're embarrassing us! You're rude!"

Pederson is the foreman and he can hire and fire. But when you're done with a faithful workhorse like Frank Solich you lead him out to pasture, and tell folks he pulled his weight for a long time. You don't toss him in a ditch like a varmint you were finally able to get rid of. Nebraskans don't do it that way.

At least, they like clinging to the notion that they don't do it that way. They like clinging to the notion that, in the changing world outside Memorial Stadium, they would live those values every day if they had a choice.

The NU football team is the child through which they have lived vicariously. Not only for the thrill of victory, but also for the reassurance that what makes Nebraskans different makes them strong, year after year after year after year after year.

Wishbones and pro sets and wide outs and whatever else come and go. The Nebraska offense, maligned by some because of its predictability, was loved by others for the same thing.

Hey! Our worst years are pretty good. And we are consistent, dependable. We roll on and on, like the Great Plains. We come back every year like hearty, winter wheat. Not always a bumper crop. Sometimes weakened by drought. But always good, always better than most, always dependable, always hard working, and sometimes great.

Change is a natural thing. But it comes slowly out here. And if a change can't prove its worth, it might stay, but it will never be accepted.

Omaha World Herald

Published Tuesday January 13, 2004

Todd Cooper: There's no I in NU


Excuse me for a moment as I put on my (Raider) black shroud. I’m in mourning.

Not for Frank Solich. Not for Bo Pelini. Not even for Turner Gill. No, those three all probably deserve their due - and, perhaps, one day, they will get it.

But this lament is for something bigger than them. As Steve Pederson would say, it's for something bigger than all of us, something as identifiable with Nebraska as the thin N on that helmet.

This eulogy is for the running game.

For the old I-formation. For the I-backs, standing back there, seemingly in York, Neb., seven yards from the line of scrimmage. Like statues, they waited motionless for the snap and the power sweep that everyone in the stadium saw coming - but no one could stop.

For the painfully slow-developing option. For the Turner Gills and the Mickey Josephs and the Gerry Gdowskis, sliding down the line, turning the corner, waiting to get hit and then, at the last blink, making the pitch.

For the little-used receiver. Sure, there was Johnny R, Superstar, and Irving Fryar, dazzling us with highlight-reel receptions. But I'll miss the Von Shepards and the Corey Dixons and the Rod Smiths who held their blocks more than they did the ball.

For the 21/2-hour games where the Big Red tractor crushed some hapless opponent, injured half of its defense and sent its faithful home before the fourth quarter of the ABC game.

For the offensive line, all bloated and supersized and ahead of their time with the weight gaining and the weight training. They invented the terms "no-neck" and "pancake" and "Fumbleroosky." Now, the old Pipeline will be flushed, for the frisk-and-pat of pass blocking.

For the fullbacks. Ken Kaelin, Omar Soto, the Makovicka brothers, Micah Heibel - we hardly knew ye. You got three carries a game, threw five times as many bone-crushing blocks and then you left us, disappearing down some fullback trap door.

For the painstaking way Nebraska used to pummel teams - yard by yard, helmet stain by helmet stain, first down by first down.

National title by national title.

Of course, we all knew the running game would come to pass, that the "I" would eventually die. After all, we weren't always as one-dimensional as drywall. Tom Osborne, with the likes of Dave Humm and Vince Ferragamo, went through a passing phase in the 1970s, albeit one that lasted about as long as disco and the Carter administration.

Somehow, some way, running the football just seemed to fit Nebraska. It was so vanilla. So straightforward. So unhip and unbending and unapologetic.

And unbeatable.

The running game was as plain as the plains, as stale as the state. We beat you - and we bored you. Like a long drive through western Nebraska. Or a trip to the Archway. Or a soyburger.

Husker football was as methodical as that Mars rover, slowly pointing north-south, steadily inching along, occasionally running into immovable objects and, yet, amazing us all along.

Of course, we'll come to accept Bill Callahan's West Coast offense, if and when it wins. After all, OU snapped the wishbone and Sooner fans seem to be surviving.

That said, I'm not sure that we'll ever fall in love with five-receiver formations, four-hour games and offensive sets with more shifts than a meatpacking plant. At least not the way we loved the I.

And so I'll wince as we move from Dr. Tom to VViid Bill, from the 20th Century to the 21st.

Farewell, rugged running game. Farewell. five passes a Saturday. Farewell, Smashmouth U.

Farewell, Nebraska as we knew it.

Todd Cooper is a World-Herald news reporter, a lifelong Nebraskan and a University of Nebraska-Lincoln alumnus.