The decision to fire Bill Callahan obviously comes as a little anticlimactic. It's a four-year journey which has saw Nebraska lose in ways barely comprehensible prior to the former Oakland Raider Head Coach coming to Lincoln .
Two losing seasons in four, a defense which ranked as one of the worst in the entire country and losses so lopsided that like Nebraska was accustomed to doing to other teams back in the day, the game was over for the Huskers by halftime.
Regardless of everything with happened prior to Osborne taking over as interim Athletic Director, though, he said that the coaches still had a real shot to save their job. "I didn't want to make a change," Osborne said. "Change is hard. Change is disruptive. I wanted as much continuity as possible."
Change was not welcome, but Osborne said in today's press conference that even before their very next game after Osborne had taken over the position, they understood right where they were at. "At that point they were 4-4. I said if you can win the next four games and go 8-4, there's no question – we're going to be fine," Osborne said. "On the other hand, if we win three out of four and play well, I think maybe we can make it work. If it's two out of four, it's going to be pretty tough, because now you are break even and we haven't had many break even seasons around here."
That actually would have been an achievement for Nebraska over the last four years, Callahan going 5-6 his first season with the program and 5-7 in his last. While there was noticeable improvement in between those seasons, Nebraska notching a win over Michigan in the Alamo Bowl in year two and losing a three-point nail biter to top 10 Auburn in year three.
And this season looked promising to everyone, especially the home-opener against Nevada , which saw Nebraska dominate the Wolfpack, 52-10. But it was just two games later when Nebraska lost in convincing fashion to then number one USC. That game has been cited repeatedly as one of the biggest reasons for this team's deflation which seem to last the rest of the year. "It definitely took the wind out of our sails," senior safety Bryan Wilson said, who was attending the press conference today.
Even Osborne himself said that from everything he gathered, that could have been a turning point for the team. "A couple of assistants had said today, after the USC game, it got really hard with the players," Osborne said. "The expectations were so high and the beating they took was fairly thorough. I think that some (players) didn't recover from that, emotionally, psychologically, I don't know.
"The interest in the state is so heavy, sometimes it's difficult to deal with. When you feel like you've really disappointed and let people down, it becomes difficult."
It goes without saying that the Husker faithful have found this season to their disliking. From the media to the message boards, the big red collective has been very vocal about their distress with the direction of the entire team, starting after USC, but really finding steam after the narrow 41-40 victory over Ball State, who totaled over 500 yards in offense against the Huskers.
The woes of the team were obvious, especially with a defense that ended the regular season ranked as the 111th worst team in total defense, out of 119 Division 1-A teams.
And over Callahan's four years, his record is only five games above .500, Nebraska going 27-22 under his watch. But Osborne wanted to clarify that wins and losses were an obvious consideration, but not THE consideration when evaluating just what he was going to do next.
"If you lose a fairly large number of games by a significant margin and you have reasonably good players, which I think we have, then that means there may be some systemic issues, some underlying issues," he said.
The question now comes from Callahan's firing; what will happen with the assistants? The contracts of the assistant coaches are directly tied to that of the Head Coach. So, when he was terminated, their contracts essentially were as well. They would still receiver the sums agreed upon in the contract, but technically, none of them have a job right now. That said, Osborne said that all of the assistants agreed that they would stay on and help recruit.
Of course, one would have to wonder how questions assistants weren't able to answer before the Head Coach was dismissed, are any more answerable now. Realistically, it could have made their job that much harder. But Osborne went on to say that he realized time was of the essence, and coming to a resolution on this as quickly as possible, was what he thought was ideal. "You'd like to do it as soon as you can, but there is no timetable. I can't predict when that person might say OK," Osborne said. "But recruiting is important. We'll move on as quickly as we can."
Recruiting is important, but it would appear that for now, the Huskers find themselves in the same boat now as they were before Bill Callahan was let go.
Osborne did say that he contacted a consulting firm today to get the ball rolling on finding a new head coach.