Tom Osborne felt like he never had a better grasp on what was happening around college football than when he had a vote in the Legends Poll for one season in between his stint as a U.S. Congressman and his return to Nebraska as athletic director.
So while participating in a recent forum in New York City, Osborne wasn’t afraid to mention that he thought the Legends Poll might be the “best method” to help with a selection process when football goes to a four-team playoff in 2014.
Osborne was on with Don James, John Robinson, Terry Donahue, Gene Stallings and the like. Even Bill Snyder before he returned to Kansas State.
“These were all football people,” Osborne said.
They had Saturdays free to watch football, unlike as voters during their coaching careers when Osborne said he would regularly scramble to find out scores and then phone in his ballot – “with minimum thought” – sometimes as late as 2 a.m. on Sunday.
The Legends voters were sent out several game films every week. Each Monday there was a two-hour conference call to discuss teams before they would vote.
“I think something like that would be appropriate,” Osborne said. “Certainly maybe have an athletic director or two on there, a conference commissioner, but my thought is the bulk of it should be people who have extensive backgrounds in football and have some time to study it and are far enough removed from teams.”
Our story in Wednesday’s paper covered Osborne and some of his retirement plans after he steps down as Nebraska athletic director emeritus on June 30. The former Husker football coach and athletic director is speaking Thursday night at the B’nai B’rith sports banquet at the CenturyLinkCenter.
Some other Osborne items in his waning weeks with an office in the Osborne Complex:
>> He remains concerned about the increased demands on student-athletes that might come with the four-team playoff, and especially if there’s ever a push to make it eight or 16. Teams that have to play a conference championship game and two playoff games will have a 15-game season (just one less than the NFL regular season).
“Football’s a game that’s full contact, very violent,” Osborne said. “It’s not like basketball where you can play two or three times a week. You can’t physically sustain that. You’d hate to see that go into an NFL season.”
With some exceptions, the majority of Osborne’s teams played 11-game schedules and then a bowl game.
“That seemed like quite a bit, even then,” he said.
>> With the playoff looming, Osborne stands firm on believing that college football players should receive at least a small slice of what’s becoming a bigger financial pie.
“I’m still concerned about the fact that we keep seeing more and more revenue and more and more money spent on coaching salaries and administrative salaries, and not nearly as much done for student-athletes,” he said. “We do a lot of good things for them, but to not be able to give them a cost-of-attendance stipend of $2,000 doesn’t make a lot of sense when you take a look at all the other things happening.”
>> With three national titles in a four-year span in the 1990s, Osborne can relate to what Alabama is doing now and what Southern Cal did earlier in the 2000s. When you string together some good years, though, he said it can be a little bit of a “double-edged sword.”
“Recruits and players know a lot about you and are appreciative of the fact that you have won and won a national championship, and they’ve got a chance to do the same when they get there,” he said. “On the other hand, other schools are saying, ‘That school’s loaded and you won’t have a chance to play there.’ So it’s not quite as rosy as you think.”
Osborne said what separates the top teams in any one season sometimes comes down to chemistry and “unity of purpose” to get through a long season.
“And you probably have got to be a little bit lucky, because everybody is going to have one or two or three close calls,” he said. “In 1995 we really didn’t have a close call, and that was probably about the only team I can recall being involved with like that.”