Thomas William "Tom" Osborne (born February 23, 1937 in Hastings, Nebraska) is the Athletic Director at the University of Nebraska. He was the head coach of the Cornhuskers football team for 25 years (1973-97), succeeding Bob Devaney. After coaching, Osborne was elected to Congress in 2000 and served six years in the United States House of Representatives as a Republican from Nebraska's 3rd congressional district.
Devaney stepped down as head coach after the 1972 season to concentrate on his duties as athletic director and named Osborne to succeed him. Osborne remained as coach until the end of the 1997 season, serving for most of that time as his own offensive coordinator.
Osborne's teams were known for their powerful rushing attack and strong defense. The defense--also known as the Blackshirts--refers to the black jerseys that are worn in practice by the defensive starters and certain selected special teams players. Nebraska led the nation in rushing several times in the 1980s and 1990s, due to the efforts of men like Jarvis Redwine, Heisman Trophy winner Mike Rozier, Calvin Jones, Ahman Green and Lawrence Phillips. After struggling to defend Oklahoma's wishbone option in the 1970s, Osborne switched from a balanced attack to an option offense in 1980 in order to utilize the versatility of dual-threat quarterbacks, such as Turner Gill, Tommie Frazier, and Scott Frost.
Entering the 1984 Orange Bowl game, the Cornhuskers were 12-0 and ranked #1 in the country for the entire season. In the Orange Bowl, Nebraska scored a late touchdown against the then #5 ranked University of Miami to narrow the score to 31-30. Rather than attempt an extra point to finish with a tie, Osborne opted to attempt the 2-point conversion and go for the win. However, Gill's pass attempt was batted away in the end zone, giving Miami the victory and the national championship.
In 1993, the Huskers again narrowly lost a national championship. Having gone into the game as a 17-point underdog to Florida State, Nebraska fought back from a 15-7 deficit to take a 16-15 lead with less than two minutes remaining in the Orange Bowl. After Florida State drove to retake the lead 18-16, Nebraska managed to hit a quick downfield pass as time ran out in order to get one last field goal attempt, which sailed wide. It was the last bowl game Osbourne ever lost. The next year, however, Osborne earned his first title as head coach, defeating Miami in the Orange Bowl. The Huskers, who initially trailed, rallied to win 24-17. The next year, the Huskers roared through the regular season, stayed atop the rankings for all but one week, and defeated Florida 62-24 in the Fiesta Bowl, earning Osborne his second national championship. The 1995 team was voted as the greatest college football team of all-time in an ESPN poll.
Osborne announced his retirement as head coach late in the 1997 season, selecting Frank Solich, his longtime running backs coach, to succeed him. In his final four years, Osborne's record was a staggering 49-2 (.961), the strongest finale to any coaching career in college football history.
Osborne was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1999, and in 2000, he received the Jim Thorpe Lifetime Achievement Award. In 1999, ESPN honored Osorne as the coach of the decade for the 1990s. This honor is even more impressive considering the fact that he did not coach for 20% of the decade. In a 2007 online ESPN poll, Osborne was voted the "greatest college football coach of all time". Osborne was chosen as the 2008 recipient of the American Football Coaches Association's (AFCA) highest honor, the Tuss McLaughry Award for the highest distinction in service to others.
On December 19, it was announced that Osborne would remain as athletic director through June 30 2010, effectively moving him from interim status to permanent. Osborne will be paid $250,000 per year and will manage Nebraska's 23-sport program.
In Congress, Osborne's voting record was moderate to conservative. He garnered a lifetime rating of 83 from the American Conservative Union.
Osborne was initially thought to be the favorite in the race, given his tremendous popularity in the state. However, Heineman took 49 percent of the more than 197,000 votes cast while Osborne took 45 percent
The Lincoln Journal Star analyzed the race:
While Osborne captured populous Omaha and Lincoln, Heineman sealed his victory in rural counties and key population centers in western and central Nebraska’s critical Republican battleground....
...it was the political impact of two gubernatorial vetoes that appeared to lift [Heineman ] into a late surge, especially in Osborne’s congressional district.
Heineman’s opposition to Class I rural school reorganization and the granting of resident college tuition rates to the children of illegal immigrants cut into Osborne’s support.
Osborne declined to sign referendum petitions seeking voter repeal of the rural school legislation and said he would have signed the resident tuition bill."
However, the prospect of running against the still-popular Osborne caused many top-tier Democrats to pass on the governor's race, and may have helped Heineman win election in November by a 73 percent margin, one of the largest margins for a gubernatorial race in Nebraska history.
The steadfast (and misunderstood) Tom Osborne has guided his team through storms of controversy He's champion of Nebraska's cause
Dec 27, 1995; Most of the brush fires have been put out, extinguished by the overpowering presence of the man and the program, which have...