Nebraska Cornhusker Weight Room Records; The Osborne Way and Steroids

Tom Osborne spent 25 years roaming the sidelines of Memorial Stadium while he was the head coach of the Nebraska Cornhuskers. He helped build a legacy that has contributed to an NCAA-record 347 consecutive sellouts. That alone shows the dedication that the Husker fans have towards their beloved program. So when Osborne retired, those fans have yearned for each new coach to recreate the dominance that Osborne had molded in Lincoln.

Simply put, those fans are looking for the “Osborne Way” to be brought back. Some fans believe that there is only one way to win and that is with the Osborne blueprint.

Sure, this is just one tweet, but I can assure you this attitude permeates the Husker fan’s psyche.

So when Mike Riley made the decision to remove the weight room records from the weight room, it did not go over well with fans or former players. You can say that it wasn’t Riley’s decision, but he’s the head coach so everything is his decision. You know, he is the CEO after all.

Former wide receiver, Kenny Bell, was one of those former players who expressed his disappointment with the Riley regime.

On one hand, I completely get it. Bell has every right to feel disappointed and even disrespected. I’ve been in situations like this and to put it bluntly, it sucks to feel like your contributions are easily erased from the program you helped build. However, Bell said something in one of his tweets that spoke louder than even he imagined. He said that the former players were told that their weight room records would no longer be on display because, and I quote, “we didn’t train right.”

Tom Osborne was known for many things, but perhaps his dirty little secret was that part of the “Osborne Way” was the use of steroids. I don’t expect any black shirt wearing Husker fan to accept this truth, but it is just that, truth. It is The Truth.

Let’s start with former Osborne offensive lineman, Bill Lewis. Lewis was one of the best offensive lineman to ever pave the way for those historic Husker rushing attacks. He also acknowledged in a 1988 Los Angeles Times article that some Husker players took steroids.

Lewis claims that he was not one of those players using steroids. Even though he admitted that others used them, he still defended the program and said that the accusations of steroid use were out of jealousy of the Osborne program.

“If you have a program that is successful consistently, it’s almost a matter of jealousy,” Lewis said. “People want to make excuses for why they don’t do as well.”

This 1988 interview with Bill Lewis was not the only time that steroids were linked to the Nebraska program. Back in 2005, Lincoln Journal Star reporter, Josh Swartzlander, wrote about the 13 Husker’s who were on the witness list of a steroid trial.

If you’re saying the mere accusations don’t equate to proof, well, yes, you’d be correct. But come on. There has always been smoke around the Husker program when it comes to steroids.

There was even a Lawrence Journal-World article from 1986 where Osborne sort of acknowledges the use of steroids in his program. But like Bill Lewis, Osborne acknowledged the use of steroids and then quickly stepped back from the admission. I bet those internal tests that Osborne discussed were completely legitimate. Weren’t they?

And just for good measure, let’s add one more source to this notion of steroids having been part of the “Osborne Way.”

The Shanahan Report ran a story title, “Nebraska Football Lives In Osborne Lost Fantasy World.” In this article, the author stated this gem:

But let’s not forget what else kept Nebraska’s program rolling in the 1980s when Osborne couldn’t win the big game yet provided momentum into the 1990s. Nebraska offensive Dean Steinkuhler revealed that ugly secret years when the NFL bust who won the 1983 Outland Trophy admitted he used steroids in college.

Again, there is a lot of smoke behind these accusations of steroids being part of the “Osborne Way.”

So when I read that Kenny Bell was told that the former Huskers weren’t trained right, I can only assume that Riley wants to distance himself from the “Osborne Way” and the role that steroids played in building the “Osborne Way.” This isn’t going to go over well with the portion of the Husker fan base that thinks it’s still 1985, but the “Riley Way” is the honest way. Which also means it’s the right way.

E-mail Seth at or follow him on Twitter @SethMerenbloom.

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