Tom Osborne has been all things to the Nebraska athletic program, and to the entire state of Nebraska.
The coaching legend will retire from his duties as Nebraska's athletic director on Jan. 1. He said he would stick around for about six months to help with the transition.
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Of course he will. The man didn't leave Nebraska hanging five years ago when it needed him to get its athletic department in line, so why would he now?
Osborne, who is 75, cited his age as a reason for stepping down. There are very few men in college football history who had a bigger impact on a program than Osborne had on Nebraska.
After he won three national championships during his 25 years as head coach (one of them was a shared title, in 1997), he retired and then was elected to Congress.
In 2007, Osborne was a senior lecturer at Nebraska in the College of Business Administration, and the Nebraska athletic department was a mess. The football team was in the midst of its second losing season in Bill Callahan's four years. Nebraska chancellor Harvey Perlman, who was visibly uncomfortable remembering that era when he was asked about it during Wednesday's press conference, asked Osborne to become his athletic director. Perlman said on Wednesday that there was a lot of anxiety during that time among Nebraska supporters, but he felt Osborne had the ability to bring them all together.
Osborne took the job.
"I thought, 'If I could help, I should try,'" Osborne said.
Osborne finished his teaching job that semester while he worked in the athletic department.
Osborne said on his first day as interim athletic director, mental health counselors were in the building talking to the executive staff about reducing stress. That's the situation Osborne walked into. He leaves the department in much better shape.
He hired Bo Pelini, who has led the football team to nine or 10 wins in each of his first four seasons, and is off to a 3-1 start this season, and other up-and-coming coaches for NU's other sports, such as Tim Miles to lead men's basketball (Miles was the first person to break the news that Osborne was retiring). Osborne oversaw the Cornhuskers' transition to the Big Ten, which helped lay a strong foundation for the future of the program.
For all the great things he did in 25 years as a head coach, Osborne somehow built on his legacy during his second act as athletic director.
"I wasn't sure if it was a good idea or not," Osborne said. "Hopefully it has worked out well."
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