Which was the best Nebraska football team to not win a national championship?
World-Herald staff writer Sam McKewon first posed the question on Twitter with four options — 1982, 1983, 1993 or 1999. Then Tuesday afternoon Tom Osborne was asked about it during an in-studio appearance on "The Bottom Line."
"Probably '82 and '93 were the most complete teams that did not win a national championship," Osborne said.
The former Husker coach spent a lot of time reflecting on that 1993 team, which went undefeated in the regular season before falling to Florida State, 18-16, in the Orange Bowl. Osborne said there were at least 10 blown calls in that game that went against the Huskers, though he stopped short of blaming the loss on officials.
He said that team was the best Bobby Bowden had at Florida State.
"We gave a great effort," Osborne said. "I always felt bad for those players, because I felt they played good enough to win in most circumstances."
Osborne covered a lot of topics during Tuesday's interview. He offered his thoughts on legalized sports gambling, the use of instant replay, his biggest recruiting misses, how Scott Frost earned the respect of his teammates and a lot more. Watch video of the interview at the top of the page, or check out a transcript of select excerpts below.
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On "CEO coaching styles":
"There are different styles of coaching. There are some coaches who are primarily CEO types that have an offensive coordinator, that have a defensive coordinator, that have a kicking game coordinator, and they do the interviews, and they do some of the recruiting and they do the P.R. stuff. But if you ask them, they really can't draw a play. You'd be amazed at how many coaches who are household words that really aren't technically involved.
"I was always more interested in being involved in the game, so I called the plays, I coordinated the offense and tried to do the other stuff too. There's different styles, but I didn't want to be at a disadvantage on Saturday afternoon when I didn't know what do do."
On players being more focused on the NFL:
"There was not the amount of money in professional sports (in Osborne's early coaching days). Today in recruiting you have an awful lot of young guys and their families who will start talking to you about the next level before they've ever played a down of college football. In those days that wasn't much of a discussion."
On Bob Devaney's first teams:
"When Bob Devaney came here he was amazed at the talent level. He'd been at Wyoming and been successful, but I think they felt they'd died and gone to heaven when they looked at that roster. They had no idea that there was as many good players as there were."
On the late Dave Humm and other recently deceased former Huskers:
"That was probably the most positive guy that I've ever dealt with given his circumstances. At the end he was in a wheel chair, and had some really difficult things, but he was always upbeat when you talked to him. A great guy. Somebody we certainly miss. ... We lost those guys, Dennis Clarridge, and we also lost Travis Hill recently. He was a great defensive end for us. It's been a tough two-month stretch."
On sports gambling:
"The overall quality of life (in Nebraska) is really about as good as any place in the country right now. There's speculation it would bring in maybe $100 million in sports gambling, and a 7 percent tax on that would be $7 million. But in the greater scheme of things, $7 million isn't a huge amount, and what's going to happen is you will see an increase in dysfunction, more problem gambling, and as the governor said, the social cost will outweigh the financial benefits.
"It gets to the point where people aren't there to watch a great football game. They're there to win a bet. My experience over the years I was a coach, most of the really negative, nasty stuff that I ran into usually was involved with a fan who'd lost a bet. And I had fans who'd come up and say 'You lost me $1,000' and it was because I put the second team in. ... It will definitely make life harder for the players and coaches."
On the two-point conversion against Miami in the 1984 Orange Bowl:
"It was just one of those things that didn't work out for us. I never heard a player say, 'Well I think you should've kicked the point.' There might've been some in the locker room that said differently, but I didn't think we ought to try and back into it. ... At that time there was no overtime, and you either had to win it or kick the point and settle for the tie."
On his most painful recruiting misses:
"There's a lot of them. Emmitt Smith was one. Emmitt indicated on the day of his signing day (he'd) put a Nebraska hat on, that whole charade they do, but he didn't come. We had a lot of guys that we missed on. Larry Station going to Iowa hurt. He was a great linebacker. You always particularly hated to lose guys from your state. I hated to see Scott Frost go to Stanford. That was a big blow. We recruited Scott really hard, but he eventually did come back and that was a great thing. He's come back twice now."
On Frost earning respect on the scout team:
"He went through a lot. He was a tough guy, and he really won the hearts and respect of the players because of the way he handled that. He was a guy that was a high-profile recruit, but he took his lumps and he held up really well."
On scheduling Colorado and other Big Eight rivals:
"I would like to see Big Eight teams on there, and so that's a good thing. We have Oklahoma scheduled home-and-home ... and that'll be sentimental, a good chance to reminisce and be a good football team. I hope maybe someday we get Kansas State back on there, Kansas, Missouri. But the problem is now in the Big Ten you're playing nine conference games, so you don't have a whole lot of breathing room in the other games."
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Chris Kelsay, DE, 1999-02
"He knows how special this place is. Previous coaches were not aware of how special and important Nebraska football is to the state. Having grown up here and played here and seeing what he's done down in Florida in just a couple years, it's pretty exciting the opportunity that awaits him here. Anybody that grew up in Nebraska and played in Nebraska, it means a little bit more to those guys."
Dan Alexander, IB, 1997-2000
"I think it's awesome. He's probably the smartest quarterback I've ever worked with. He definitely knows how to run a team. From a leadership standpoint, from somebody who got in a huddle and made a team around him better, I think he's the best quarterback I worked with. I just know what kind of guy he is, what he can do with a team, what he could bring in as a coach."
Danny Noonan, MG, 1984-86
"I don't see how you couldn't hire Scott to come back. After all the things that have happened the last 20 years ... I don't see how you can't hire Scott. And Nebraska is going to give Scott more rope than anybody else, OK? Obviously we're going to pay him, what he wants for however long he wants. He's a hot commodity now, a huge commodity now, and I think he'll be an outstanding hire."
Doug Glaser, OT, 1987-89
"Hiring Scott Frost is actually what this program needs. We have lost our identity, toughness, and more importantly our culture. Scott will understand what this place is all about and how hard you have to work to be successful on Saturdays. We were all so fortunate to play for Coach Osborne and his staff. Scott will be a reflection of that and bring his leadership and direction to the program. This is much-needed. Good luck Scott Frost and welcome home!!"
Erik Wiegert, OT, 1989-91
"Scott is six years younger than me so I don't know him personally, but he obviously has a great understanding of the Cornhusker traditions and culture that were so successful for so many years. He seems to have a rare natural ability to motivate and teach young men. I think he'll be very successful. The ex-players I know were all thrilled that he might be coming to Nebraska."
Guy Ingles, SE, 1968-70
"If he can approach his mentor's level of performance, we'll be great (laughs). It's hard for me to speak for the guys in the '90s who knew him, but I hope they're real excited. I was pretty much a Riley guy until probably the Minnesota game, and then I gave up, but I don't think they realize how bad of shape Bo left us in, both psychologically and otherwise. I'm also of the opinion it will take five, six, seven years if you really want to turn it around. But I'm like everyone else, I hope he's the right guy."
Jay Moore, DE, 2004-06
"Obviously it's important to get a former player in here that understands the program, understands what the culture needs to be and understands how special a place Lincoln is and Nebraska is. It's huge. I'm excited again about this football program with him coming in here. I think the energy and the boost of swagger or confidence that he brings is what this program needs. The program is kind of dry right now, not a lot of enthusiasm. It's dead right now and it needs a boost of energy, and I think that's what Scott will bring."
Mickey Joseph, QB, 1988-91
"I think that you're getting somebody who understands the culture, and you got to understand the culture there because it's different than around the nation. It's a great fan base that's really going to support you. The football hasn't been what it's needed to be the last few years, but the fans are still there, and Scott's gonna understand that culture. I can't speak for him, but I'm sure he's got a plan to get it done up there."
Neil Smith, DE, 1985-87
"I love seeing Scott Frost be our next head coach for the University of Nebraska. We can get back to our winning ways and tradition. It will be a great opportunity for him and his family."
Oudious Lee, MG, 1977-79
"If Scott understands that Nebraska is arguably the toughest recruiting sell in college football, if he understands that he's not going to get many four- to five-star athletes — it gets cold here and those fancy-schmancy warm-weather kids struggle when they have to play in temperatures below 40 degrees — and if he understands that he needs to develop two- and three-star athletes into four- and five-star players, things will go well for him."
Rob Stuckey, DT, 1982-84
"Scott Frost represents the University of Nebraska's best hope toward returning its football program to its former greatness. For 40 years, Nebraska was the most consistently successful college football program in the country, and it didn't attain that status by accident. It did several things distinctively: It cultivated a deep walk-on program, it embraced a physical style of play, it maintained high ethical standards and it prized a culture of hard work ... everyday. While there may be others who qualify as top-notch college coaches, Scott Frost has shown that he not only qualifies as a coach, he has shown that he actually embodies the unique qualities that are requisite to success at Nebraska."
Willie Harper, DE, 1970-72
"From coaches that I know who have coached with him, they — and I myself — have nothing but great things to say about him. He's one of the smartest coaches that they've been around. I spoke with him some years ago and I was totally sold and confident with him. He knows both sides of the ball inside and out. He relates to the players, and they all love him as a person. He is a great teacher in the classroom and can demonstrate what he is coaching on the field. This is time for Nebraska to start raising up its own, who know, understand and can breathe Husker culture."
Nate Turner, WB, 1988-91
"Scott coming home is awesome. Finally someone that has Nebraska DNA, that obviously knows what we as alumni and Nebraskans need to succeed — work ethic and the right mix of young men. We have to have patience, though, because he has to change the culture back to what we all know and love."
Jerry Murtaugh, LB, 1968-70
"What I think it might mean, not that he can do it, but he's proven himself, he has the record, he knows Nebraska, he's been through all this. So when he does come back, you surround him with great people — meaning a coaching staff — you pay him, you give him a minimum of five years without firing him, and let him do his job. And then we'll go from there."
Jamel Williams, LB, 1994-96
"It's going to help bring back the roots of Nebraska. Even though you can be a great coach, people come in here and don't know the magnitude of how different it is — the hype, what it's all about, how crazy it is — until they leave. When you come in you just think you can handle it or think you may know, but you don't until you're out the door and on the outside looking in. I think somebody coming in here, who knows what's going on, is huge for the program and the state."
Jeff Quinn, QB, 1978-80
"Welcome home, Scott. Congratulations on a great season. All us ex-Huskers are extremely excited. Husker tradition needs a Husker to lead us back to the glory days. Walk-ons, Blackshirts and the greatest fan base in America will help you and your staff get us back to national prominence once again."
Mike Rozier, IB, 1981-83
"Scott's an ex-ballplayer so people know who he is and maybe he can do something recent coaches haven't been able to do. We're Nebraska, we're used to winning, and right now we're not winning."
Johnny Rodgers, WB, 1970-72
"Scott Frost left Nebraska as a star and he has come back to be a legend. He has the backing now of all Husker Nation. With a new AD with an upbeat attitude, Scott with his score-big-or-go-home attitude, teamed up with die-hard Husker fans, we are positioned to take over the Big Ten and the national championship in as soon as three to four years. We can get this done now, but it's gonna take everything and everyone we've got."
Adam Carriker, DE, 2003-06
"Husker Nation, we got our guy. He’s a successful coach, who is also a Nebraska guy that understands what Nebraska is all about. He has what it takes to get the Huskers back on top. It will take time to build this back up the right way and we need to support Scott and his staff along the way. We all have the same goal: To win football games, championships and represent Nebraska as not only a great football program, but as the the great state that it truly is."
Dave Rimington, C, 1979-82
“Very happy about Scott coming home. The future is bright and I’m confident that given time he can take us to places our program hasn’t seen in a long time.”