With the announcement yesterday of Tom Osborne's retirement from active participation in the Nebraska athletics department it got us to thinking about his legacy. There's so much to his life and his time at Nebraska that it's hard to know what is the greatest part of his legacy.
It was a question we explored in our improved look behind the scenes, a feature we're calling "Behind Closed Doors" - our attempt to give you a glimpse of some of the things we explore on a frequent basis. So, here's the question put forth about the legend Tom Osborne:
What is Tom Osborne's greatest legacy? Is it his National Championships in football? What he accomplished as Athletics Director? Or Helping to facilitate the move to the Big Ten? And why?
Andy: To me his biggest legacy is what he's done as Athletics Director. National Championships are awesome, they mean a lot to those around the program, but without a solid program today, future national championships aren't possible. Osborne in the past five years has brought this university stability in it's fan base, has overseen one of the best and biggest facilities projects overhauls in America - not just for football but for academics, research, and for nearly ever sport, and nearly ever single team is at least competitive in their sports if not near or at the top of the food chain in their respective sports and so much more.
To me, you can't leave much bigger of a legacy behind than that.
Nate: Tom Osborne’s contributions to Nebraska athletics are too numerous to list, and those are just the ones we know of. There is little doubt that Osborne facilitated an equal number of good deeds behinds the scenes as well.
To me, some of his greatest accomplishments were achieved when he returned to the university in 2007. I am not trying to minimize the accolades that he compiled as a football coach, he will always be remembered for that. But think of where Cornhuskers’ athletics would be today had he not returned.
Head football coach Bo Pelini has done a fine job of leading a storied program in the right direction. Men’s basketball coach Tim Miles has the team showing some promise. These hires coupled with the new facilities that have been built under his guidance will help continue to attract top-level athletes for years to come.
Would a different athletic director have been able to redirect the ship? Probably. But, it takes a man who loves his university the way Osborne does to accomplish that feat in such short order.
Kevin: You would think that winning three national championships (and believe me, that first one was painful for me as a kid) as a head coach would forever be your legacy, but that is just the beginning of the story for Tom Osborne. While some coaches step away form coaching and retire to maybe chime in on some radio interviews and television segments to discuss the game, Osborne felt his mission was not yet accomplished. He sought public office and did what he could to serve the public. He returned to help Nebraska out again as the athletic director and not only guided the ship to prolonged athletic success in football and other sports, but also saw the school usher in a new era by switching from the Big 12 to the Big Ten.
Is Nebraska the powerhouse football program they were under his direct leadership? No, but it appears clear to me that Osborne never had anything but the loftiest goals in front of him no matter what he was doing, be it in the football field, in public office or as a school administrator. Nebraska, the state and university, could certainly have done worse without Osborne.