Athlete–For many years, members of the Extra-Point Club in Lincoln would hear these magic words from the master of ceremonies: “And now, ladies and gentlemen, it is my pleasure to introduce the winningest coach in the nation!“ Of course, the MC meant the legendary Tom Osborne, whose high school athletic exploits for Hastings High School (1955 graduate) highlight his Hall of Fame honor. Tom was a member of the very tall boys basketball team from Hastings which captured the Class A state title in 1954. He was an all-state back his senior year in high school as well as being all-state in basketball. What many may not know is the unusual combination of speed and strength he had, shown by his finishing 2nd in the Class A 440 yard dash and won the discus field event that spring. He was a bowl-winning quarterback for Hastings College and after playing professional football, became a football coach of the University of Nebraska, and the head coach in 1973.
While working on advanced degrees at Nebraska, he joined the football staff as a student volunteer. This soon broadened to full-time assistant under Bob Devaney and ultimately succeeding him as head coach.
Nebraska head coach from 1973-97; career record of 255-49-3; his win pct. of .836 is fifth all-time; won national championships in 1994 and ’95 and shared national title with Michigan in ’97. ;
–Won back-to-back national championships in 1994 and ’95 as head coach; was an assistant on Nebraska’s other two national champions (’70, ’71).
–His teams were ranked No. 1 for all or part of the past five seasons and were ranked by The Associated Press every week since 1981 — a record 257 consecutive weeks.
–Nebraska’s 47 victories during the four seasons before 1997 are the most ever by any school in such a time span.
–Won nine or more games in each of his 25 years and 11 or more for the last five years.
–A seven-time Big Eight Coach of the Year selection (1975, ’76, ’80, ’88, ’92, ’93, ’94).
–Winningest active coach in NCAA (.828) upon retirement.
–Won 13 conference titles; only Oklahoma legend Bud Wilkinson won more (14).
–Winningest coach in Big Eight history (231); coached more games (293) than anybody in school history. He and Bob Devaney are the only coaches to win more than 100 games each at Nebraska.
–Left with a 42-game home winning streak.
–Teams played in a bowl game in each of his 25 seasons; third all-time behind former Alabama coach Paul “Bear” Bryant and Penn State coach Joe Paterno at the time of his retirement.
In 2000, he was elected to the United State House of Representatives.