Tom says good-bye?

Sir Edmund Hillary ascending Mt. Everest. Chuck Yeager breaking the sound barrier. Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walking on the moon. Pissing off Tom Osborne to the point where he actually holds a press conference. Ok, so the latter one will never reach the levels of the previous three, but you have to admit that you have to do something pretty significant to upset a man that was chided as much as lauded for his stoic nature. Tick off Tom Osborne? Oh Stevey, you've done it now.

Tom Osborne calls a press conference to state his displeasure with recent events at the University of Nebraska. Let me say that again in a shorter version. Tom calls attention to himself and wants to be heard.

For those of you that do not have a grasp of this man's history, that statement in and of itself is dramatic. Tom Osborne calling attention to himself? That doesn't happen.

Ever.

For his entire career at Nebraska, whether by words or actions, this is a man that has put everyone before himself. Players, coaches and fans have all enjoyed the overwhelming humility of a man that could be as lacking in that as possible and most would understand.

So, for one Tom Osborne to actually call for a press conference for ANY reason that puts focus on his opinion, you can put the same significance with that as you can any title "Oz" has ever won, because it's even more rare than that.

Athletic Director, Steve Pederson has been thorough since he's arrived at Nebraska. He's been thorough in trying to raise funds, thorough in evaluating the situation at Nebraska, but unfortunately for him, he was just as thorough at making a coaching hire look like a circus, alienating everyone and their dog and after it was all said and done, he pretty much ticked off the entire state of Nebraska along with many of the national audience watching.

He was perceived as someone thorough...............thoroughly ignorant.

Many of those criticisms have still existed, but after coach Osborne's speech yesterday, you can bet the wagon will start moving again, people coming out in droves to talk about how other than him lucking into the Callahan hire, Steve Pederson has pretty much screwed everything else up with alarming efficiency.

I'll consider that water under the bridge even though the criticisms will exist for some time.

What bothers me now more than anything is why Tom Osborne came out to speak to the masses in the first place. Was it to address his name being on the building that would soon be a new multi-million dollar facility meant to put Nebraska amongst the best in regards to facilities? Yes, but I think the overriding reason Osborne addressed the fans and media was to voice his displeasure about his family being torn asunder by someone that was supposed to help retain that kind of unity.

I am sure that Osborne and pretty much anyone else thought that bringing Steve Pederson back to be the athletic director at Nebraska would ensure that the tradition of Nebraska would remain. Surely a man that grew up in Nebraska, started working in the athletic department at Nebraska and man that consulted Osborne himself throughout his career leading up to his return to Nebraska, surely this man would know more than most about how important that family atmosphere meant.

What a shocker than when the man thought to be the shoe-in to keep the family under one roof turned into a home-wrecker.

First a little, then in one fell swoop, Steve Pederson took Osborne's family and tossed them out onto the street. Coaches he hand-picked. People had called friends for 20+ years and just about anyone and everyone associated with the program while Osborne was there, if Pederson didn't think they fit into his vision, sayonara, seeya, don't let the door hit you in the rear.

All the while, the last living icon to Nebraska success had to sit and watch in complete helplessness as the last remaining indications of anything he accomplished was swept under the carpet and as those went, so did Nebraska's idealistic beliefs.

Unfortunately, it had to eventually happen. It was only a matter of time before time itself finally caught up with the Huskers, a tradition that defiantly stuck to handshake agreements, an antiquated offense and won despite everyone telling them this was all a thing of the past.

Osborne built his family on trust, integrity and a philosophy of winning being a matter of not just ability, but continuity as well. Continuity between not just coaches, but players. A togetherness that was honestly family-like in it's nature.

These days, that's not idealistic, it's impossible.

Now, it's not win, but win now. It's not about people having faith in you to do that, it's about people telling you that you will do that or else. Continuity turns into free-agency at the amateur level and togetherness is replaced with "people that have been working with each other for a fairly long time".

There is no family anymore.

Since Bob Devaney past away, Tom Osborne has been and will for some time be the father of Nebraska football. He was there with Devaney as they won titles and won titles on his own and almost 4 decades have seen Tom Osborne as the father of thousands and thousands of kids.

Like any parent though, they are protective of those they consider their own. Their sons and daughters, no matter how old they become are always going to be under that unseen wing, Osborne forever at their side.

What Steve Pederson did was enter the house that Osborne helped to build and kicked every single one of his kids out. Told them they weren't good enough to bring Nebraska back to where he thought it needed to be.

Wouldn't you be upset? Wouldn't you at least want to voice your displeasure if you knew you couldn't save them in the end?

Tom Osborne did that, but he also showed what all parents ultimately have to do no matter how much it grieves them in the end.

Let go.

In a teary-eyed speech, the last gasp of Tom Osborne the coach was heard as his presence, his speech, it was almost eerily symbolic of the final changing of the guard. The one last stand of the Nebraska that was. His Husker sons and daughters all but gone, the old face of Nebraska fading with them.

Tom Osborne did call attention to himself yesterday, but in the same instant he called attention to everything Nebraska once was. As his voice fades, so does the old NU.

The modern era has finally reached Lincoln. As we say hello to a new coach, new facilities, new offense and a new era of the Big Red, to truly embrace it, we have to loosen our grip on what was.

Yesterday, Tom Osborne did just that. In what I can assume will be the last we hear from him, at least in this context, T.O in saying that he didn't know this Nebraska anymore was unknowingly saying good-bye the one he once did.

Perhaps now, everyone else can do that as well.

Steve Ryan can be reached at huskerconnection@neb.rr.com or 402-730-5619


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