Tag Archives: Tom Osborne

Scott Frost Is In Over His Head At Nebraska

I have respect for the success that now-retired coaches once had. That success can be looked back upon with a feeling of nostalgia. Having respect and nostalgic reverence for that success should not mean trying to recreate what Tom Osborne built at Nebraska. In chasing Scott Frost, that is precisely what the state of Nebraska is attempting to do.

When Shawn Eichorst and Mike Riley were each fired, the attitude that oozed out of Nebraska was that this was the state’s opportunity to go back to its nostalgic past. The self-proclaimed opportunity being presented was a chance for the program to go back to its rightful place of 1990s success.  Bill Moos was hired to replace Eichorst and his top priority was to replace Mike Riley with someone who “gets” Husker football. Whatever that means.

But let’s be honest. Anyone remotely close to the Nebraska program knows why Nebraska hired a relative no-name athletic director who had made a name for himself at Washington St. He is in place to be athletic director in title only. The person calling the shots for this football hire is Tom Osborne.

Frost’s name had been a hot commodity early on in the coaching market and Florida seemed like a reasonable destination for the young coach. But then Osborne called and told his protege that it was “time to come home.” And Frost reportedly “understood the message.” 

If this call to come home did in fact happen, it’s a troubling sign for Nebraska football. It’s troubling because it’s indicative of a search that wasn’t an actual search. In addition to that, it’s troubling because Frost and Moos will be seen as Osborne’s puppets. Hell, maybe that’s exactly what the state of Nebraska wants. If its 70 year old legend won’t put the headset on again – Bill Snyder is somewhere asking “why not”- then the next best coach is a person who was a contributor to that now nostalgic glory.

Frost is a solid coach. Many programs would be lucky to have him. Just ask the University of Central Florida. Frost engineered a magical turnaround, but Orlando isn’t Lincoln. The Knights are not the Huskers. The AAC isn’t the Big Ten. You get the point.

Omaha attorney Mike Fitzpatrick is front and center in the Scott Frost fan club. He’s gone as far as to print up coasters imprinted with “Hire Scott Frost Now!”  Fitzpatrick summed up the feelings of Nebraska fans everywhere with these prophetic words.

“Mr. Moos, not being from the state of Nebraska and only being here a short period of time, hasn’t had a chance to see the culture and how we do things in Nebraska. I’m convinced the only way Nebraska is going to gain prominence again is by having one of the guys who was there at the time we were (prominent).”

This would be a tough environment for any coach to win in. Short of undefeated seasons and national championships, nothing will pacify these fans. It’s simply too much for a talented, but young coach to handle.

Is Frost going to be seen as the same kind of true son home run hire as Jim Harbaugh was at Michigan? The question has been asked. Now that the comparison is in your mind, ask yourself this: Will the state of Nebraska accept 3rd and 4th-place finishes while never beating its rival? That’s what Harbaugh has accomplished at Michigan and he’s an experienced Power 5 coach.

It’s time for Nebraska to move on from the Osborne-era. Sure, look back on his won-loss record with the respect it deserves, but these are different times. Expecting Frost to recruit to Lincoln like it’s the 1990s isn’t realistic given the changing landscape of college football. The biggest difference between college football in the 21st-century and the 1990s is social media. When Lawrence Phillips broke into Frost’s apartment, fetched his former girlfriend and dragged her down three flights of stairs, he was allowed to stay on the team. Remember what Osborne said – He just needs football in his life. That attitude won’t stand up to the scrutiny of a 24/7 news cycle.

Frost will have to run a tighter ship than what Osborne ran. If he doesn’t, he may win a championship at Nebraska, but will wind up sacrificing his career in exchange for recreating that nostalgic glory. The state of Nebraska may consider that to be a fair trade-off but I doubt Frost will.

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E-mail Seth at [email protected] 

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Missouri Tiger Football Fans Shouldn’t Forget Corby Jones

The proverbial “roar” had not been restored to Missouri football in 1997. At 7-5, the team was still just a blip on the radar of college football. That 3rd place finish in the Big 12 North gave hope to the Missouri fan base and provided a glimpse of what the program could be. And for that, Corby Jones deserves more credit that he gets even from Missouri fans.

A 7-5 record may not look like much to many, but it meant the world to a program that hadn’t enjoyed a winning season since 1983. For 13 long, cold, dark years, Missouri fans suffered through an average of three wins a season. And then Larry Smith struck recruiting gold with the local quarterback recruit from Columbia.

Jones was recruited by the best-of-the-best blue blood programs when Nebraska’s Tom Osborne tasked Turner Gill with bringing Jones to Lincoln. Smith had an ace up his sleeve, though. Jones’ father had been retained by Smith when Bob Stull and his coaching staff were fired after the 1993 season. It’s not a stretch to say that this relationship helped seal the recruiting deal that kept Jones in Columbia.

The Missouri fans who spin Tiger folklore consider Brad Smith to be the savior of Tiger football. Smith was as exciting a player as Missouri and college football had experienced in quite some time. Think of a 2001-2005 version of Lamar Jackson. Smith either held or holds countless Missouri, Big 12 and NCAA records. He was more electrifying than Jones had been but excitement only counts for so much.

 

Jones’ best win and one that is too often forgotten about was the 1997 game against Oklahoma State. Played in Stillwater, Missouri not only took the 12th ranked team in the country to overtime, but the Tigers beat that ranked Cowboys team on the road. That win meant enough to the program that I remember where I was as Jones hit Ricky Ross down the sideline to tie the game with 20 seconds left in regulation. I was at a friend’s wedding. I know. Who gets married on a football Saturday?

 

This is the game that truly put the Missouri program back on the road to recovery and it had everything to do with the quarterback who most thought was destined to go to Nebraska to be the heir apparent to Tommy Frazier. Later in the 1997 season, Nebraska would have first-hand experience of the impact that Jones’ athletic ability and desire to win could have on a football game.

It was that 1997 game against the top-ranked Huskers that made the nation really take notice of what was going on at Missouri. Moral victories aside, that 45-38 overtime loss to Nebraska was symbolic. For starters, Missouri had lost 51-7 to Nebraska in 1996. That was the kind of score that had become all too common in this series. Taking a Tom Osborne coached Nebraska team into overtime only to lose by a touchdown felt good. And the 38 points that Jones helped to orchestrate was the most points a Tiger team had scored against Nebraska since scoring 47 in 1947.

 

It’s this game against Nebraska that Missouri fans like to reminisce about when thinking about the 1997 season. The notion is that Missouri somehow won in losing. This game did mean something but not what so many Missouri fans think it meant. What playing Nebraska into overtime showed was that Missouri could be competitive against programs like Osborne’s Nebraska machine. I’ll still take that road victory over Oklahoma State as the crowning achievement of the 1997 season.

In beating Oklahoma State, Jones proved what Missouri football had become and Jones was the centerpiece of that tangible accomplishment. And in losing a heart-breaker to Nebraska, Jones offered a glimpse of what the future could hold for Missouri football.

That future became reality when, in 1998, Jones led Missouri to another winning season as the Tigers finished the year at 8-4. Unlike the 1997 season, there wasn’t that signature win over a ranked team. The four losses did include some near upsets of ranked Nebraska, Texas A&M and Kansas State teams. But 1998 was about the season in aggregate, not the individual games.

The 1997 season had been the first winning season in 13 years for the Missouri program to enjoy. Having experienced a 13-year drought of winning, expecting back-to-back winning seasons wouldn’t have seemed like a reasonable expectation. But that is precisely what the Missouri football team did on the back of Jones.

Missouri fans like to romanticize what Brad Smith meant to Missouri football. He filled up the stat sheet and in 2003 he was the first Missouri quarterback to beat Nebraska since 1978. The accomplishment of beating Nebraska was remarkable and one that I remember fondly. But again, it was just one game.

 

Brad Smith’s accomplishments were awe inspiring, but we shouldn’t allow Smith’s highlight reel to mask what Corby Jones meant to the program as a whole. Each of these quarterbacks deserves to have their Tiger legacy’s acknowledged. Including Jones.

 

E-mail Seth at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @SethMerenbloom.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

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Are Nebraska’s Expectations Too High?

To some degree or another, all fans of college football have expectations. Depending on how optimistic or negative you are, your expectations will obviously differ. Some have very lofty, unrealistic expectations while others have more widespread and realistically attainable ones. Then, there are those who have zero faith in their team whatsoever and expect nothing but losing and heartache.

For Nebraska fans, expectations are incredibly high every year and with such a rich, storied history it’s not hard to see why there’s a championship or bust mentality. For over three decades (1969-2001), Nebraska was a powerhouse on the college football landscape, finishing in the Associated Press Top 25 every year including being in the top 10 in 24 of 33 seasons and winning three national championships in the 90’s.

At the same time, their last title was in 1997 during a different era with different players and coaching personnel. The game has evolved since then. For years, the Cornhuskers were ahead of the competition, especially in recruiting, but the reality is they just aren’t near the top anymore. There is more parity in recruiting than ever before with the rise of the SEC and advancements in technology.

With this in mind, the question is do the Nebraska faithful have too lofty of expectations?

First, competing for and winning division titles on a yearly basis is something that should be expected from a storied program like Nebraska, but even that is going to take some time. When looking at their current roster and how it stacks up with the rest of the Big Ten, it’s clear they have areas of concern.

Despite having three seasons under his belt, starting quarterback Tommy Armstrong has been sub-par, never completing more than 55 percent of his passes and throwing a conference-worst 15 interceptions in 2015. Also, while the entire corps of receivers and running backs returns, they need to replace three starters on the offensive line. With a schedule that includes stops at Wisconsin, Ohio State and Iowa, an already suspect offense could be in trouble.

On the other side of the ball, their pass defense was one of the worst in the country, allowing 291 yards per contest and ranking 122nd nationally. This is not an elite defense by any stretch of the imagination and they need a lot of improvement to compete with the conference’s best.

Second, despite how polarizing former head coach Bo Pellini was, he still won at least nine games every year. Was it fantastic or ideal? No, but it wasn’t dreadful. He won more games than Tom Osborne did in his first seven years and Nebraska gave Osborne 20 years. I feel the Cornhuskers did not appreciate their team, no matter how hard they tried. I know the majority of college programs would love to average nine or more wins per season.

Moreover, I agree that the Nebraska faithful need to cut Mike Riley some slack because it was his first year and it was a season of incredibly bad luck, the very definition of Murphy’s Law. Lose to BYU on a Hail Mary? Check. Lose in overtime by three to Miami after overcoming a 23-point deficit? Check. Lose by two after Wisconsin nails the game-winning field goal in the waning seconds? Check.  Lose by one to Illinois after holding a 13-0 lead entering the final quarter? Check. These games could’ve gone either way and the odds of this repeating are pretty slim. And besides, all seven of their losses were by a total of 31 points. Why should the coach get all the blame?

Plus, let’s say Nebraska became a top contender in the Big Ten overnight but still didn’t win a championship or make the Playoff. Would Riley still have a job?

I know, don’t be silly right? But I’m serious. What is satisfactory for the Nebraska faithful? Man, if it truly is championship or bust In Lincoln, I would certainly lower my expectations immediately or I’d go insane. Personally, I have lower, more realistic expectations so that if they are blown away I will be pleasantly surprised and not crushed with agony when they aren’t met.

Honestly, it will be a minimum of a few years for them to be on par with Ohio State and Michigan, and even then winning a title is not guaranteed.

Sometimes you have to come to terms with reality. It’s a hard pill to swallow but the fact is you can’t compare the past to the ever-changing present. Dynasties come and go. As of now, the days of national titles are gone and truthfully may never come back. I know it’s hard to be patient but some programs have never even tasted championship glory and still stand behind their coaches even when they don’t win 10 games a year.

Don’t get me wrong, 2015 will go down as a lackluster season but it was also filled with bad luck and Riley deserves some time to turn things around. Until then, my advice is keep those expectations in check.

Image courtesy of Flickr user Jared Hansen

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 [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @SethMerenbloom.

*Featured image courtesy of en.wikipedia.org

Auburn: Is Kevin Steele The Answer?

Kevin Steele is the new defensive coordinator at Auburn University. He indicated, at his press conference on Tuesday, that his goal is to make Auburn the last stop on his coaching journey. That is certainly possible, but is it likely? Steele’s path, like that of countless other assistant coaches, is often long and circuitous. That is simply the nature of the business.

Here is look at Steele’s ‘long and winding road’.

After his playing days, as a linebacker, at Furman and Tennessee, he became a graduate assistant for the Vols from 1978-1979. He was promoted to outside linebackers coach in 1982. He held this position for one year.

1983 saw Steele as the coach of linebackers at New Mexico State.

Steele then took the job as linebackers and tight ends coach at Oklahoma State for three seasons. Afterwards he returned to Knoxville to coach defensive backs from 1987-1988. The head coach at Tennessee throughout his playing and coaching time there was Johnny Majors.

Lincoln, Nebraska was the next stop for Steele. He spent six seasons with the Cornhuskers, under the tutelage of the legendary Tom Osborne, as a linebackers coach. He departed the Midwest for an opportunity to test the waters of the NFL. Charlotte was the destination and the job was linebackers coach of the Carolina Panthers for four seasons. Dom Capers was the head man for the Panthers during those years.

In 1999 Steele was offered an opportunity that every coach must relish. He was hired as a head coach. The job was with the Baylor Bears. The four years in Waco did were not productive, as far as wins and losses were concerned, and he moved on to Tallahassee, Florida to assist another coaching legend, Bobby Bowden. Linebackers were his duty there.

In 2007, the University of Alabama, in an effort to end years of frustration, announced Nick Saban as head coach of the Crimson Tide. Saban lured Steele away from the Seminoles to be his defensive coordinator. Assistant head coach was added to his title in 2008.

Dabo Swinney enticed Steele away from Tuscaloosa to Clemson as the DC of the Tigers in 2009. He remained in that capacity through 2013, when he was dismissed after a blowout loss to West Virginia in the Orange Bowl. Then it was back to Alabama where Steele, again, coached linebackers for one season.

The phone rang early in 2015. Les Miles was on the line. He offered Steele another shot as a defensive coordinator. Steele accepted. And, as you know, things got a little dicey down in Baton Rogue this past season.

“It’s certainly an exciting time for (his wife), myself and my children. … It’s an exciting time to be here with coach. It was a very, very easy decision for me.” – Kevin Steele

Everything wasn’t coming up roses for another group of Tigers during this most recent campaign. The Auburn version of fierce felines went 6-6 on the Plains of east Alabama. Auburn’s DC, Will Muschamp, was given the chance to turn it around in Columbia, South Carolina and he, wisely, embraced it. If you are afforded a shot as a head coach in the SEC then you are probably set for life, as far as your finances are concerned.

Gus Malzahn said that he was looking to build stability and continuity in his hiring of a new defensive coordinator. Will this be possible with Steele, or anyone else for that matter? If you follow football, whether it be college or pro, you know that coaches move and move and move, again and again and again. You just read of a perfect example in the words above. It is somewhat rare that any coach stays at a job for a lengthy period of time, be he the head coach or an assistant, these days. The pressure to win NOW, and continue to do so, is enormous.

But, Steele has very strong ties to the state of Alabama and Auburn. His daughter is a graduate of Auburn. His mother lives in Prattville. The first college football game he attended was at, then, Cliff Hare Stadium in Auburn. That was back in the late 60’s when his father was a head coach in Gordo, Alabama. Steele said that most of his relatives live within a one-hundred mile radius of Auburn.

Auburn has, for multiple reasons, and not all of them good, changed defensive coordinators SEVEN times in the last ten years. They desperately need that stability and continuity that Malzahn spoke of before he hired Steele. The Tigers haven’t fielded a truly good defense since the 2008 unit. That takes a toll on the program.

“I don’t know how to read a contract.” – Kevin Steele

Will Kevin Steele, at 57 years old, actually find the last stop of his coaching career at Auburn University? Will he help bring the stability and continuity that both he and Malzahn, together, seek? Will the Auburn family, finally, be able to step off the roller coaster ride that has been Auburn football since Pat Dye’s last SEC Championship in 1989?

Stay tuned.

E-mail Bird at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @Autull.

Photo: TigerNet/Flickr

Georgia vs. Miami: Who Got The Best Deal?

If you follow college football at all, by now you know that the University of Georgia has hired Alabama defensive coordinator, Kirby Smart to be their head football coach. You also know that the University of Miami has hired, recently deposed, GEORGIA head coach, Mark Richt as their CEO.

Welcome to this edition of “As the Coaching Carousel Turns: Dawgs and Canes”, or “Sanford or South Beach?”, or “Hedges or Hialeah?”.

At any rate, we could all join ole George Jones in singing his classic, “The Race Is On”.

The race IS on for NCAA football coaches all across this great land. It’s kind of like a Whack-A-Mole game. And for those of us who eat, breathe, and sleep college football, particularly FBS football, we’re dang near giddy.

Now back to the business at hand. I’ll pose a question to you. Who do you think got the best deal, the Dawgs or the U?

Hmmmmmm… right? Or no?

For me, the immediate answer to that was, The U!

That was my initial, gut response. And my first response, if asked, as to why I thought that Miami was getting the best deal is this… Mark Richt is a PROVEN winner as a HEAD coach in the SEC.

His record is 145-51 for a .7397 winning percentage. That’ll round right up to 74%. I was a bad ass in arithmetic. Now I’m not too shabby with calculators.

That’s for starters. More at 10 PM!

Richt is also, by all accounts, a great guy. And a good Christian. That DO help, maybe, but give me a Wiccan who wins football games and I’ll be just fine.

Ahem, Richt has won two SEC Championships and five SEC East titles. He was named SEC Coach of the Year twice and was a finalist for the Bear Bryant National Coach of the Year in 2002.

Richt is one of only five men in NCAA Division 1A history to record 132 or more wins in his first 14 seasons as head coach. Other guys on that short list? “Big Game” Bob Stoops, Tom Osborne, and Gary Patterson.

The only coaches to win two SEC titles in their first five years? Frank Thomas at Alabama, 1933-’34. Bernie Moore at LSU, 1935-’36, Vince Dooley at Georgia, 1966-‘68 and Mark Richt 2002-’05.

Now that’s just a smattering of info from his days at UGA.

You can go to the University of Georgia Official Athletic Site, as well, and read much, MUCH more. Thank you GEORGIADOGS.COM.

See! I did all the heavy lifting!kirby smart

Now, how about Bainbridge, GA native son and first team all-SEC defensive back, Kirby Smart? A Georgia grad.

Do you think that defense at the University of Alabama is pretty darn good? Well, Smart has been defensive coordinator there for for the past seven years. He has been on the staff there for nine years.

Smart was named the 2012 AFCA Assistant Coach of the Year and he took home the 2009 Broyles Award as the top assistant coach in the country.

His defense, in 2011, led the nation in total defense (183.6 ypg), scoring defense (8.2 ppg), rushing defense (72.2 ypg), passing defense (111.5 ypg) and passing efficiency defense (83.69 rating).

That’s JUST the 2011 season!

Nick Marshall completed 27 of 43 passes for 456 yards and 3 touchdowns as Auburn amassed 630 total yards and 44 points against Smart’s defense in the 2014 Iron Bowl.Nick Marshall

Oops!

NOOOOOO! I kid! Just funnin’ with ya’!

Smart has also been an integral part of 3 SEC Championships and 3 BCS National Championships, to date.

Suffice it to say, Kirby can coach him some D!

And that info above? You can traipse over to the University of Alabama Official Athletic Site, at ROLLTIDE.COM (OUCH), and complete your, already begun by me, search for info on the new Head Coach in Athens, GA.

AND… I don’t care if Kirby Smart is an atheist or a Buddhist. He is a defensive mastermind.

So there you have it!

Once again, I’m going with Miami as getting the best deal. Could I be wrong? Time will tell.

What say ye????

Nebraska Cornhuskers Just Need Football in Their Lives

After Nebraska’s 31-14 road victory over Rutgers on November 15, there was a party at the home of current Husker players Tommy Armstrong, Jordan Westerkamp and Trey Foster. An unnamed woman attended this party and reported an alleged sexual assault. The report indicated that there were a total of 6 people at the house at the time of the alleged assault.

Police Chief Jeff Peschong said while he believed the story that the victim told the police, there was not enough evidence to prove a crime. Lancaster County Attorney Joe Kelly had this to say in regards to the story and the evidence on hand:

“Filing charges would require proof beyond a reasonable doubt, that simply isn’t there,” Kelly said. “There’s not enough there to prove the crime.”

Simply being accused of a crime does not make a person guilty of the alleged crime. However, it is surprising to me that the police investigation did not last more than what seems to have been a few days. While the police department was quick to dismiss a longer investigation, the university is doing their due diligence and pursuing the alleged incident in more detail. A Title IX investigation does require a lower burden of proof than a criminal investigation would require, but this still creates questions in my mind when thinking about a potential criminal investigation.

The University of Nebraska is handling this situation as they should. While in my opinion, the local police department is being quick to dismiss the investigation. This is noteworthy because of the added scrutiny that criminal investigations of athletes have received at Florida St. Yes, Florida St. is not the University of Nebraska, but the all to common appearance is that athletes receive preferential treatment regardless of the campus being placed under the spotlight.

Something to keep in mind is that Nebraska has churned through head football coaches because of their inability to recreate the Tom Osborne glory years. Those glory years were propped up with incredible coaching and loose academic restrictions. The foundation of these glory years was also a coaching philosophy that was lackadaisical at best towards situations such as the alleged rape that was reported after the Rutgers game.

While I am not suggesting that current Husker coach Mike Riley is taking the stance that these players just need football in their lives, I am suggesting the Riley needs to be exceptionally careful in how he deals with this situation. Soon after taking the job in Lincoln, Riley was named as a defendant in a lawsuit claiming that the culture at Oregon St. had led to the rape of a young woman.

Time and time again we see college football players being accused of assault, domestic violence and rape. We’ve seen this at Nebraska, Missouri, Oklahoma, Baylor and Boise St. to name just a few campuses that have had to deal with these accusations. There are times when nothing of substance is found due to the absence of proof and times when nothing of substance is found due the the young women involved not pursuing charges out of fear for her well being.

Nebraska yearns for the glory years of Tom Osborne, but this pursuit should not be at the expense of abiding by the law. The Lincoln police department needs to perform a thorough investigation before clearing the players of all potential charges. Tom Osborne was the king of not only Lincoln, but of Nebraska in general. Mike Riley is not considered royalty, especially with a first year record of 5-7.

Riley’s only potential safety net is Tom Osborne acting as his guardian angel, and the facts suggest that Osborne was anything but an angel.

E-mail Seth at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @SMerenbloom.

Photo: Sam Swartz/Flickr.

Campus Pressbox 18: Damien’s Barry Alvarez Mea Culpa with Max Brusky

A few weeks ago Damien reached out to BuckAround’s (@Buck_Around) Max Brusky to ask him why Barry Alvarez was at Wisconsin. After a lengthy Twitter discussion the two did this podcast for a bit over two hours. A complete deep-dive into the Bret Bielema years at Wisconsin along with a discussion about Jeff Long and his relationship with Barry Alvarez, an obvious Top Gun reference, and off topic on the Big Ten and it’s next television deal.

Hosts:

Damien Bowman | Campus Pressbox | Twitter | E-Mail
Maxwell Brusky | BuckAround | Twitter

Missing Co-Hosts

Mike Wilson | Twitter | E-mail
Rich Branch | Twitter

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Coach Osborne and His Well-Oiled, Prop 48 Machine; 3 Decades Of Dominance

If there is one college football team that I am closely attached to, other than the Missouri Tigers, it is the Nebraska Cornhuskers. Having a Husker-bred wife will do that to a guy. I will be going into my third season of Husker football with my better half.

While I appreciate the historical prominence of the Husker program, I also have some critical opinions of the Big Red that ruffle the husks of the Cornhusker’s faithful followers.

Back in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, Tom Osborne built a machine. I despised Nebraska and how the kicked Missouri’s butt while playing in the Big 8, but it was a thing of beauty. Osborne played his system perfectly and that included recruiting kids who were perfect fits for that system.

Like I said, the 1970s – 1990s were very good years for Osborne and the Huskers. Osborne coached the Huskers to a record of 255-49-3, won 14 conference titles and won three National Championships. A coach is able to do that when he is running a well oiled machine that is stocked with the perfect player.

Since those golden years, Nebraska has remained a winning program, but the kind of domination that the 1970s – 1990s Husker teams leveled on its competition seem to be distant memories.

Many true Cornhuskers attribute this slide back to the pack to the fact that Osborne is no longer on the sidelines. These children of corn believe that the way to get back to their dominating ways is to find the reincarnation of Osborne, hire him and prop him up on the sidelines.

This brings me to newest doomed head coach, Mike Riley.

Riley seems to be a likeable enough guy. He has certainly been around the block. Both the collegiate and NFL block. With varying degrees of success, I would not call him a home run hire for any program, but you could certainly do much worse.

In the eyes of Husker Nation, Riley is the man to resurrect their dormant program.

In comparison to Osborne, some people around the country consider Riley to be the closest thing to Osborne that the Huskers have been able to hire. Who knows, maybe Riley is the next Osborne when comparing him to Pelini, Solich and Callahan. I would not place my money on that bet.

And why wouldn’t I make that bet? I wouldn’t make that bet because the landscape of college football has changed dramatically since Osborne was driving the Husker bus. The element that changed the most for Nebraska has been recruiting. Osborne himself acknowledged this when interviewed on January 3, 1996 after finishing off Florida in the National Championship game. Here, read Osborne’s own words for yourself.

For all of the talk that the Husker’s fan base offers in regards to their academic prowess, they seem to have been admitting anyone with a pulse to play for Osborne. I have brought this Prop 48 topic up with fans close to the program and you would think I was making it all up.

Once the Big 12 formed, Osborne would no longer be able to field players with sub 2.50 high school GPAs and these same high achievers would also have to have completed more than 11 core high school courses.

College football teams operate within the rules of their individual conference and the NCAA. I am not faulting Osborne for accepting questionable students to his program and beating the hell out of the competition with those players. I am, however, faulting the Husker fanbase for presenting Osborne as some Mount Rushmore-esque football deity. Osborne was an incredible coach, but he was also able to take advantage of the Big 8 system.

This is not to say that Riley won’t have success at Nebraska. He very well may restore Husker dominance over college football, but I think it is highly unlikely that he regains the Osborne-esque glory of the 1970s – 1990s.

Does anyone want to take bets on how long it takes Husker Nation to tar and feather this coach?

Best Experience for the Free Agent College Fan

UF Champs
Idle hands are the devil’s play-pen, right? I wonder how the devil feels about too much time alone with one’s thoughts. It’s during that time that I start theorizing about going to college, putting aside things like educational value and the social aspect, and wondering which institution would have offered the best four-year experience for the sports fan. This is a thought process that works much better with the advantage of hindsight in my back pocket.

Each July, we get the better part of a week that lacks any sporting event of real consequence. Sure, the Home Run Derby demonstrates might, because chicks dig the long ball. The actual All-Star game despicably determines home-field advantage for the World Series, but even thought I’m a big baseball fan, I find myself less inclined to watch it each year. In fact, I skipped the Mid-Summer Classic this year. A day later, I skipped the ESPY’s, the awards show for sport, which I’m thinking we don’t need, but allows ESPN to fill the void with their own program taking center stage. I checked in on Twitter long enough to see that enough people excitedly tune in, or at least settle for the annual extravaganza. My theory is that in sports, unlike other aspects of entertainment, the games themselves determine the winners and losers, so you really don’t need an academy or committee to determine who deserves the trophies.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DzMnCOG-C1o#t=470

More so than the nominees and winners, the host seems to be the target of the hoopla, year in and year out. None of them are exactly in the ballpark of Billy Crystal at the Oscar’s, but Norm McDonald had the epic joke about Charles Woodson’s Heisman legacy in 1999 and the rest tend to fall into the Rob Riggle Pantheon of Forgettable Awards Show Hosts. This year, ESPN gave the viewers Drake, the former child actor turned young adult hip-hop artist. The trend seems to be to dislike the guy for a multitude of reasons, but sports fans are quick to point out that the trendy Canadian tends to latch himself to superstars and winners.

For the common man, this is a sports fan sin of the highest order, but if you’re able to laugh off the notion that he should be fiercely loyal to the Maple Leafs, Blue Jays, Raptors, and no other teams in all of sports, it’s fair to say that Drake is somewhat of a free agent. After spending the better part of my 36 years rooting for the Cleveland teams, I know I don’t have that luxury, but that time alone with my thoughts took me back to a “what if” scenario that allows me to be just that, a free agent fan.

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In reality, I took my talents to Parris Island and the United States Marine Corps out of high school, a school of hard knocks, rather than a traditional place of higher learning. If I’ve learned anything about fans, especially younger ones, over the last decade, it’s that geography and alma mater don’t matter as much as they used to, but when you have those things going for you, it sure justifies your allegiance a lot more. Now, choosing a school based on the games you might attend and the glory you might share with those teams you watch play is foolish, but this was my time alone with my thoughts; I wasn’t considering any real word factors, just trying to have the fun that Drake seems to, without constantly transferring to chase National Championships.

Since I would have first set foot on campus in the Fall of 1997, we’re only considering what I would have been able to see from the 1997 College Football season thru the conclusion of March Madness in 2001. I’m also only weighing the top two college sports, football and men’s basketball; it is tough to say how open-minded I would have been a half a lifetime ago, but I don’t see myself with fond memories of volleyball or women’s hoops under any circumstances in the present tense. I’m also eliminating baseball as part of the criteria, though a trip to Omaha for the World Series would be on my bucket list, if I had one.

I had to consider the champions in football; Michigan and Nebraska in 1997, Tennessee in ’98, Florida State in ’99, and Oklahoma in 2000. Remember, this is a parllel world and it doesn’t matter that 18 year-old me despised Michigan and all of the Ohioans that chose to attend. I don’t quite weigh basketball success evenly, but if you’re going to get a decent seat for a big March Madness game, there is no grey area between the student body and the extraordinarily wealthy; the path of least resistance to those premium seats involves enrolling at a school that’s going to play in those types of games often.

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Oklahoma would have provided a fine conclusion to my final year in 2001, with the upset of Florida State in a sloppy game in Miami to win the Orange Bowl 13-2, which gave them a National Championship. If I consider Oklahoma from a Class of 2001 alumni perspective, there’s no questioning fifteen years of Bob Stoops, a few seasons of Adrian Peterson, a victory in each BCS Bowl game, and four appearances in the title game would have me screaming “Boomer Sooner” from the rooftops, but this is strictly about the four years on campus. That would have meant two seasons of John Blake before Stoops turned things around in 1999; the Sooners were 9-14, good enough for fifth place in the Big 12 South both years. sure, a National Championship washes away those scars, but outside of that 2000 season, they’d have given me three losses in the Red River Shootout and an unremarkable trip to Shreveport for an Independence Bowl loss to Mississippi to end 1999 with a 7-5 record. On the hardwood, Oklahoma made the tournament in all four of my college years, but a Sweet 16 loss to Michigan State in 1999 highlighted those years.

I had a friend from elementary school in Cleveland that actually spent those four years in Tallahasse; he sat on the bench with the Seminoles basketball team as a manager. In what would have been our freshmen year, Steve Robinson led them to a #12 seed in the NCAA tournament. A second round knockout at hands of Valparaiso dropped them 18-14 for the 1997-98 season, and it would be the last post-season action the Class of 2001 would witness in their four years on campus.

Of course, Florida State, under the charge of Bobby Bowden was a football school. It would have taken until the 11th game, the rivalry game in Gainesville on November 22nd, before I’d have seen Bowden lose a football game. Aside from the table in the ACC in ’97, the ‘Noles went to USC and beat the Trojans, slaughtered then-Big East rival Miami at home, and took down Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl. If not for the three-point loss to Florida, Peter Warrick and company presented a great argument over Michigan and Nebraska for the title; it leaves me to wonder how the pre-BCS system would have paired the top teams up for the bowls. In ’98, a Week 2 loss at NC State meant they needed help in November to get to Tempe for the inaugural BCS Championship at the Fiesta Bowl, and they got it, so they met Tennessee in the desert.

They lost to a great Volunteers team, but bounced back to take down Michael Vick and Virginia Tech in the second BCS title game at the Sugar Bowl. They had to deal with #3 Florida in the swamp first, and came away with a 30-23 win before neutralizing “Beamer Ball” by 17 points in New Orleans. Four years of Bowden Ball ended on a sour note when Heisman Trophy winner Chris Weinke couldn’t figure out Bob Stoops defense at the Orange Bowl, but if you do the math, 45 wins and 5 losses with a realistic chance at a title on January 1st in each of those seasons, Florida State was’t a bad place to be for that period.

At Tennessee, I’d have gotten Peyton Manning’s senior year. Sure, the guy couldn’t beat Florida and they’d lose to co-National Champion Nebraska in the Orange Bowl, but the 1997 season set the scene for the ’98 season well. With Manning gone, it was up to Tee Martin to take the reigns on offense, doing just enough to let a defense littered with NFL talent win a title. They stormed the field at Rocky Top when the Vols edged the Gators at Neyland in Week 2 and beat four Top 10 teams, including #2 Florida State in the desert for the first BCS Championship. Florida got them in Gainesville the next season, but they took down #10 in consecutive weeks and reached the Fiesta Bowl, where they’d lose to Nebraska. In 2000, they’d suffer their worst season of the four years, going 8-4 with losses to Florida, at LSU, at Georgia, and to Kansas State in the Cotton Bowl. For the travel alone, with bowl games in Miami, Tempe twice, and Dallas, this Ohio-born kid would have loved it. Throw in Peyton Manning and a 43-9 for Phil Fullmer, and Tennessee probably didn’t even need the four NCAA tourney appearances in basketball, which included losses to Illinois State, Missouri State, Charlotte, and a Sweet 16 loss to national semi-finalist North Carolina in 2000.

Nebraska and Michigan gave their basketball fans positively nothing in the way of post-season play during the years in question, but it starts with a National Championship where #1 didn’t play #2. Both were unbeaten, Michigan wrapping up their season with Heisman winner Woodson in the Rose Bowl over Ryan Leaf and the 11-1 Washington State Cougars, while Nebraska’s Scott Frost outplayed Peyton Manning in the Cornhuskers’ 42-17 Orange Bowl win over Tennessee. Michigan would go on to defeat rival Ohio State in two of the next three seasons and beat SEC teams from Alabama in January for the next three seasons, Auburn in the 1999 and 2001 Citrus Bowls, and Alabama in a thrilling 2000 Orange Bowl. Meanwhile, Nebraska’s bowl travels took them from Miami, for the title, to San Diego, Tempe for a rematch of the 1998 Orange Bowl, and the Alamo Bowl in San Antonio. 1997 was the legendary Tom Osborne’s last season coaching the Big Red. Alumni considerations, which again are not a factor, don’t treat either school well.

From 2001 to 2013, Michigan has lost in all but two seasons to Ohio State, and when they’ve been bowl-eligible they haven’t fared well; the exception being a forgettable Sugar Bowl win over an even more forgettable Virginia Tech team in 2012. Things don’t shape up well for Nebraska either; Frank Solich managed to get them to a National Championship after a stunning 62-36 defeat in Boulder which knocked them out of the Big 12 Championship Game, but not out of the BCS Championship at the Rose Bowl, where Miami kicked their asses. Over the next decade, they showed they didn’t belong on the same field with the likes of Big 12 powerhouses Oklahoma and Texas, and went running for the Big Ten in 2011.

Two schools without a title in football or basketball during the alotted time do make a good case for a great fan experience. First, Arizona; they’re a basketball school, but the final years of the Dick Tomey Era in football weren’t awful. They went from 7-5 with a loss to New Mexico on their home field for the Insight Bowl in 1997 to 12-1 season in ’98, the only blemish being a 52-28 home loss to UCLA in a season where the Wildcats handed Washington State their only loss of the year. They would beat Nebraska in the Holiday Bowl, but whiffed considerably in 1999 and 2000, going 11-12 and opening the door for John Mackovic to take over for Tomey in 2001. It would be a while before Lute Olsen and the Arizona basketball program would part ways. They would have a single one-and-done year in the tourney with a 1-point Opening Round loss to Oklahoma in 1999, on the heels of a 12-1 football season, but losses to Utah (’98), Wisconsin (’00), and Duke (’01) on the hardwood should have left Wildcats basketball fans with little to hang their head about. Utah played for the National Championship, Wisconsin reached the Final Four, and the loss to Duke was the National Championship.

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Speaking of Wisconsin, I’m not sure where people in Madison rank that Final Four appearance among the great moments in school history. They are, after all, a football school. They made the tournament in three of these four years, but were 0-for-4 against Michigan State in 1999-2000 and were one-and-done to Missouri State and Georgia State in their other tournament cameos. On the football field, with or without this “what if” scenario, Wisconsin serves as one of the ultimate “what if” teams; what if Michigan didn’t trip them up in their eventual Rose Bowl winning seasons in ’98 and ’99 (they also lost to Cincinnati in 1999)? You may not have anything nice to say about and 1998 Outback Bowl loss to Georgia or their Sun Bowl win over UCLA in 2000, but back-to-back Big Ten Championships and Rose Bowl victories don’t happen very often. If only I could say I was there for it.

In the end, given the choice and the clairvoiance, Tennessee seems like it would have been the best place to spend the time, even though Drake might have had to change into the Florida and Nebraska track suits at halftime on occasion. While Florida is being mentioned, I can’t think of a more choice experience than aligning with the Tebow years in Gainesville; only 2009-2012 Alabama rivals 2006-2010 Florida, but the Gators needed an assist from Billy Donovan, Joakim Noah, and company to lift them to the top.

Where would you spend your college years, strictly from the perspective of a sports fan? Do you think there’s a better four years than any mentioned here? Where do you think you’d see the best teams and the most desirable post-season travel itinerary? I’d love your thoughts, either in e-mail ([email protected]) or Twitter (@JRichRadio); let me know what you think.