40 for 40: Nebraska Football’s Defining Moments – The 1990s Locker Pass Content

By at July 17, 2012 | 8:45 AM | Print

40 for 40: Nebraska Football’s Defining Moments – The 1990s

Dec. 10, 1997 – Tom Osborne retires

He did it, he said, for his family.

After the most spectacular five-year run of his career – a 60-3 record that few coaches could ever dream of matching – Tom Osborne announced his retirement as head coach at Nebraska. He’d coach just once more, in the Orange Bowl vs. Tennessee. Otherwise, he was done. In that same breath, he named Frank Solich his successor.

Players stood nearby. Tears flowed. Solich spoke for a moment. People had sensed for weeks that the moment was coming. But, as it happened, nobody quite knew how to react emotionally. It seemed too early for a man at the top of his powers.

“When is the right time?” Osborne said. “I feel that this is the right time for this to happen.”

Some speculated that Osborne was simply drained from the emotional highs and lows of the 1994, 1995 and 1996 seasons. They’d seen a physical change in him, especially as the media sunk its teeth into his program after the Lawrence Phillips scandal hit the news. He had been hospitalized for an irregular heartbeat, for one thing.

Others figured Osborne wanted a chance to name his own successor, and with every year, the opportunity to do grew a little shorter. Nebraska was on top in this moment. He’d never have as much cachet as he would right then.

“I think it’s wise to back off before you leave feet first or somebody tells you it’s time to go,” he said.

A lasting image from that day: Defensive coordinator Charlie McBride, watching almost from the hallway, unable to take it. Reporters approached him for comment. He took one look, shook his head, and turned for the elevator. “I can’t,” he said. “I just can’t.”

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