Tom Osborne reaches a milestone as an assistant coach, head coach and AD.
By Randy York
If you like history, Saturday’s Nebraska-Minnesota game goes beyond the 29 Cornhusker seniors who will play their final game at Memorial Stadium. The game also marks Game No. 500 in which Nebraska Athletic Director Tom Osborne will be in an official role with the Husker football program. Osborne was an assistant coach at Nebraska from 1962 to 1972. He served as NU’s head coach from 1973 to 1997, winning 255 games in 25 years. After serving three terms in the U.S. House of Representatives, Osborne returned to Nebraska as athletic director in 2007.
In this, the 50-year anniversary that will celebrate consecutive home football sellout No. 325 on Saturday, it seems only fitting that Osborne’s last home game in an official athletic department capacity represents another major milestone. At the same time, we all know Osborne would prefer that the spotlight focus on a senior class that has won 46 games over the past five seasons. The four-game win streak gives the Huskers a chance to win 50 games before they leave the program. There is only one way the Huskers can make that happen: Prevail in the final two regular-season games, then win the Big Ten Championship in Indianapolis and then triumph in the Rose Bowl.
Pelini Recruited the Entire 2012 Senior Class
The 29-man senior class is Nebraska’s largest since having the same number in 2007. The seniors making their final Tunnel Walk appearance Saturday represent the first senior class that was entirely recruited and signed by Bo Pelini, who became Nebraska’s head coach in December of 2007, less than two months after Osborne was named NU’s athletic director.
Twenty-four Nebraska seniors are in their fifth-year in the program. Three seniors did not redshirt – Rex Burkhead, Eric Martin and P.J. Mangieri.. Two others – Joe Carter and Daimion Stafford– were junior college transfers. The 2012 Nebraska football senior class includes 14 in-state players and represents nine more states – California, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Ohio, South Carolina and Texas.
Chance to Play in Three League Title Games
The 2012 seniors have played in four consecutive bowl games and in two conference championship games. If the Huskers reach the Big Ten title game in the next two weeks, they will play in three league championship games in five years. Since Pelini recruits character and places a heavy emphasis on academics, it’s no surprise that seven members in NU’s senior class already have earned their undergraduate degree. Thirteen more Husker student-athletes are on track to receive their diplomas next month.
Osborne launched that academic-first culture 50 years ago and whatever “Thanks Tom” kudos that fans see Saturday inside Memorial Stadium will be tied to that important legacy. Even though Osborne sees college athletics more in terms of winning character than winning games, we will answer the question that Nebraska fans will be compelled to ask: In the first 499 games in which Osborne has been directly connected with Nebraska football, how many games did the Huskers win? For the record, here’s the bottom line:
402 wins, 91 losses and 5 ties
More importantly, the Huskers have a nation-leading total of 299 Academic All-Americans. Sometime soon Nebraska will become the first NCAA school to reach 300 Academic All-Americans – another meaningful milestone in a groundbreaking year for an athletic director set to retire on Jan. 1, 2013. Let’s end this historical update with something Osborne would prefer – recognizing 29 Nebraska seniors with a chance to help write some important history of their own:
Kenny Anderson DT Omaha, Neb.
Justin Blatchford DB Ponca, Neb.
Rex Burkhead IB Plano, Texas
Joseph Carter DE Jackson, S.C.
Seung Hoon Choi OG Lincoln, Neb.
Will Compton LB Bonne Terre, Mo.
Ben Cotton TE Ames, Iowa
Jase Dean CB Bridgeport, Neb.
Taylor Dixon WR Wauneta, Neb.
Sean Fisher LB Omaha, Neb.
KC Hyland WR Lincoln, Neb.
Justin Jackson C Roca, Neb.
Micah Kreikemeier LB West Point, Neb.
Brett Maher P/PK Kearney, Neb.
P.J. Mangieri LS Peoria, Ill.
Matt Manninger LB Omaha, Neb.
Tim Marlowe WR Youngstown, Ohio
Eric Martin DE Moreno Valley, Calif.
Conor McDermott TE Omaha, Neb.
Cameron Meredith DE Huntington Beach, Calif.
Courtney Osborne S Garland, Texas
Steven Osborne WR Garland, Texas
Kyler Reed TE Shawnee, Kan.
P.J. Smith S River Ridge, La.
Daimion Stafford S Norco, Calif.
Baker Steinkuhler DT Lincoln, Neb.
Graham Stoddard FB Lincoln, Neb.
Brandon Thompson OL The Woodlands, Texas
Alonzo Whaley LB Madisonville, Texas
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