LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) – Nebraska athletic director Tom Osborne is retiring as of Jan. 1.
The 75-year-old Osborne announced his decision Wednesday at a news conference. He says “the perception” that you’re getting old “can get in the way.” Osborne says he doesn’t want to be a distraction.
Osborne was one of the most successful football coaches in history. Every one of his 25 teams won at least nine games, and three of his last four teams won national championships. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1998, the year after he retired.
After serving in Congress and losing a gubernatorial bid, he returned to the university in 2007 to take over the athletic department and oversee the rebuilding of the football program and shepherd the school’s move from the Big 12 to the Big Ten.
LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) – Politicians, coaches, former athletes and donors reacted to Nebraska athletic director Tom Osborne’s announcement that he would retire Jan. 1.
Here is a snapshot of the reaction:
NEBRASKA FOOTBALL COACH BO PELINI:
“It has been a great privilege to work under coach Osborne. Obviously, he trusted me to lead the football program here at Nebraska and he has been a valuable resource for me and our entire coaching staff the past five years. His leadership and vision has pushed our football program and our entire athletic department forward in many areas. To me personally, he has been a great leader, mentor and friend.”
GOV. DAVE HEINEMAN:
“Tom Osborne is an outstanding athletic director, and he is the greatest collegiate football coach of all time. When he became the athletic director five years ago, Tom immediately restored trust, confidence and stability in University of Nebraska athletic programs. Tom’s record on and off the field is extraordinary. Nebraskans are very proud of coach Tom Osborne, and we thank him for his years of service to the university and our state.”
U.S. SEN. BEN NELSON, D-NEB.:
“Tom Osborne and I have been friends since we were students at the University of Nebraska and lived in the same duplex in Lincoln. In all those years and in every endeavor he has always conducted himself with honor, integrity, passion and compassion.
“When he became head coach there were those who wondered if he could fill the big shoes of Bob Devaney. He not only filled the shoes but in the true Nebraska spirit took the team to even greater heights.
“Nebraska is a far better place because of the good work done by this living legend from his historic national football championships, to his six years in Congress, to athletic director, to founding TeamMates, one of the country’s premier mentoring programs.
“This humble, soft-spoken man who has national respect, may be retiring as athletic director but he will forever be in our hearts as a role model inspiring generations of Nebraskans yet to come.”
3rd DISTRICT REP. ADRIAN SMITH, R-NEB.:
“Coach Osborne is a legend not only because of his success as a football player and coach, but also because of his life-long dedication to our state and service to others. During his time in Congress, he was an outstanding representative for the 3rd District. Today, I join all Nebraskans in wishing Coach Osborne the best and thanking him for his leadership, class, and countless contributions to our state.”
DARIN ERSTAD, NEBRASKA BASEBALL COACH, FORMER MAJOR-LEAGUE PLAYER, PUNTER ON 1994 NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP FOOTBALL TEAM:
“I don’t throw the word ‘leader’ around very often. If there ever was a leader, it was him, and is him. So much of what I believe in today came from playing for him. He just stands for everything that is right. It was a pleasure to play for him and work for him.”
JOHNNY RODGERS, 1972 HEISMAN TROPHY WINNER:
“It caught me by surprise. I’ve wondered how long Tom was going to hang in there. He has done so much for the university and the state, and it’s a lot to ask for him to keep going now that he’s in his 70s. He needs quality time for himself. He’s been a great example and mentor not just for university but the state, United States and college football. He’s had such a great run that we’re just proud we know him and have been able to experience some of his leadership qualities.”
BARRY ALVAREZ, WISCONSIN ATHLETIC DIRECTOR AND FORMER NEBRASKA FOOTBALL PLAYER:
“Tom Osborne has been a steady and stabilizing presence as athletic director at Nebraska since he moved into the position five years ago. Everyone knows about Tom’s football coaching legacy, but he has really helped guide Nebraska through some significant challenges in recent years and he was, obviously, a key figure in the school’s transition to the Big Ten. His departure is a loss for college athletics and the Big Ten, but I wish Tom well in his retirement. He’s earned it.”
DAN COOK, NEBRASKA ATHLETIC DONOR:
“I told him this morning that I’m unhappy he’s not going to be there. We all get older and it’s one of those things he felt it was good for the program to move on. His biggest legacy is his character. The men who played for him weren’t just football players. They were men who loved him. As an athletic director, he’s a giant in the business. He’s a master, and he did a great job.”
DALE JENSEN, NEBRASKA ATHLETIC DONOR:
“Thank you, Tom, for the years you gave us – again. (Steve) Pederson tried to do everything he could to reinvent the program to his own liking. It had its own life. You can’t reinvent the program. Quite frankly, I can’t think of one other person who could have stepped in with the credibility Tom had and right the ship.”
BILL CALLAHAN, DALLAS COWBOYS OFFENSIVE LINE COACH AND FORMER NEBRASKA HEAD COACH:
“I’m happy for him. The old coach did retire. He’s paid his dues. … He’s got such a great love for Nebraska that I thought he was going to probably be there forever. I know his family means a lot to him, and he’s very diligent about spending time with his grandchildren and his own son and daughters. … I think he’s a smart man, one of the greatest football, college football, coaches in the history of the game. I’ve got nothing but great respect for him and wish him well.”