- Adam Rittenberg, ESPN Staff Writer
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Tom Osborne, the face of Nebraska football and Nebraska athletics for the better part of the past 40 years, announced Wednesday he will retire Jan. 1 from his post as athletic director. Osborne, 75, will remain with the department for about six months afterward to assist in the transition to a new AD. After serving as Huskers' football coach from 1973-97, Osborne took over the athletic director duties in the fall of 2007.
Here are some notes from Wednesday's news conference in Lincoln:
Although Osborne talked a lot about aging during the announcement, his health wasn't a factor in his decision to step down. "I’m probably healthier today than when I was a member of Congress," he said. "No, I’m fine. I have no special issues." He noted he had double-bypass heart surgery in 1985 and has "a few wires" still left in him.
Osborne simply felt this was the right time. "At some point, whether you’re able to function or not, the perception that you’re getting old can get in the way," he said. "I don’t want to be one of those guys where everybody's walking around wringing their hands, figuring out what are we going to do with him."
Osborne made the decision to retire this summer and informed Perlman that he'd stay on through the football season. Perlman already has started the search for Osborne's successor, hiring noted sports executive consultant and former football coach Jed Hughes to assist him in the search.
Perlman already has interviewed several candidates for the position and could conduct more interviews. He's considering both internal and external candidates. The search will be out of the public eye, and Perlman has hired a 12-15 advisers (coaches, former Nebraska athletes, donors) to assist him. "I will still assist in any way I can," Osborne said, "but I'm smart enough to know not to meddle."
Osborne inherited a mess from former Nebraska AD Steve Pederson -- "Things were fragmented. Some people had quit, some people were thinking about quitting," he said -- and feels the culture in the athletic department has improved in the past five years. "You never know, when you’re on the inside, exactly what the perception of a program is," he said. "But I feel we're well-positioned. We've worked hard on culture, and part of that has not just been internal." Osborne added: "Whatever is accomplished here could not happen if we didn’t have a very loyal and a very unified fan base."
Osborne considered retiring this summer, but had hired a new men's basketball coach (Tim Miles) and several new athletics staffers, including associate athletic director Jamie Williams, a potential candidate for the AD vacancy. He also thought about "one more grab at the brass ring" with sports such as football and volleyball.
Osborne had no timetable in his mind when he took the job on an interim basis in 2007. "I had a grandfather who was a preacher, and he felt he should move every five years," he said. Osborne then joked, "I coached a lot longer than that. Many of you thought I maybe should have moved on after five years." Nebraska fans are glad he didn't.
Asked about his legacy at Nebraska, Osborne not surprisingly replied that he'd rather have others state what he accomplished.
Perlman on Osborne: "There are people you can admire from a distance and up close, you see all the warts. That's not true with my experience with Tom. It's been really fun to interview head coaches with him and to see the kind of national respect and awe they have of his reputation, his position in the coaching community." Perlman added that Osborne's achievements will be celebrated at a later date, calling Osborne "a treasure" to Nebraska.
Perlman on the school's next AD: "They have to understand the rich tradition of this department and the culture of this department, and what has made Nebraska athletics so important to the state of Nebraska. ... Fans play an important role here. Former student-athletes play an important role here. You have to be open and embracing of all the constituents."
Osborne said his wife, Nancy, is more approving than disapproving of his decision. But he's a little worried about the future. "She keeps reminding me that the garage has not been cleaned in three years," he said. "I can see a whole list of things popping up."
It's truly the end of an era at Nebraska. More to come ...
Tom Osborne, the face of Nebraska football and Nebraska athletics for the better part of the past 40 years, announced Wednesday he will retire Jan. 1 from his post as athletic director.