Osborne leads Huskers out of tunnel before kickoff
LINCOLN, Neb. (AP)
Nebraska coaching great Tom Osborne joined Bo Pelini in leading the Cornhuskers from the locker room onto the field for Saturday's game against Minnesota and was honored on the field at halftime.
The day at Memorial Stadium was designated as a ''Salute to Tom Osborne.'' The 75-year-old Osborne is retiring as athletic director on Jan. 1.
A video focusing on Osborne's coaching career preceded the traditional Tunnel Walk. Osborne, wearing a red windbreaker and ballcap, walked side by side with Pelini from the locker room to the tunnel opening in the northwest end zone. Pelini pumped his fist to the crowd as he and Osborne jogged onto the field ahead of the team to a standing ovation.
Before the Tunnel Walk, fans on the east side of the stadium held up cards spelling out ''Thanks Tom'' in white letters against a red background, then flipped them over to display the message ''Go Big Red'' in red letters against a white background.
At halftime Osborne, his wife Nancy and their family stood at midfield while a video tribute played on the big screen.
Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, former Oklahoma coach Barry Switzer, Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez and Kansas State coach Bill Snyder hailed Osborne for his character and leadership.
Osborne told fans in a video message that he has been fortunate to coach so many outstanding athletes and work with excellent coaches and staff members. He also lauded the fans for their financial support and sportsmanship.
''This is a special place unequaled in college athletics and all of you made it so,'' Osborne said. ''Nancy and I appreciate all of you and will leave with many great memories of autumn afternoons in this stadium.''
Osborne was not made available for interviews.
Osborne won 255 games, 13 conference championships and three national titles in a 25-year Hall-of-Fame coaching career that ended in 1997.
He retired from coaching after winning the 1997 national championship, served three terms in the U.S. House of Representatives and returned to the university as athletic director in 2007.
Osborne, who was a star athlete at tiny Hastings College in south-central Nebraska, played receiver for the Washington Redskins in 1960-61 and then joined Bob Devaney's staff at Nebraska as a graduate assistant.
Saturday's game was the 500th in which Osborne served in an official capacity for the university.
Osborne will turn over the athletic director's job to Shawn Eichorst on Jan. 1. Osborne will continue as athletic director emeritus until July 31, 2013.