Tom Osborne Receives 2008 Tuss McLaughry Award
Former Nebraska head coach and U.S. Congressman Tom Osborne has been chosen as the 2008 recipient of the AFCA’s highest honor, the Tuss McLaughry Award. Osborne will receive the award at the AFCA’s Coach of the Year Dinner, January 9 at the 2008 AFCA Convention in Anaheim, California.
The Tuss McLaughry Award, established in 1964, is given to a distinguished American (or Americans) for the highest distinction in service to others. It is named in honor of DeOrmond “Tuss” McLaughry, the first full-time secretary-treasurer of the AFCA and one of the most dedicated and influential members in the history of the Association.
“It’s a great honor to receive the Tuss McLaughry Award because he stood for all the right things.” Osborne said. “Any time you are recognized by your fellow coaches, it’s a high honor, and it’s particularly humbling when you look at the list of distinguished Americans who have received this award over the last 40 years.”
The 35th winner of the award, Osborne joins a select group of past McLaughry Award recipients that includes six former U.S. presidents, seven generals, five astronauts and well-known celebrities such as comedian Bob Hope and actors Jimmy Stewart, John Wayne and Burt Reynolds.
Osborne served as University of Nebraska head coach from 1973 to 1997. In 2000, he announced he would run for Nebraska’s 3rd District seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. Osborne won with more than 80 percent of the vote in 2001 and would win two more elections, staying in office until 2007. He returned to the University of Nebraska on Oct. 17, 2007 as interim athletic director.
In 25 seasons as Nebraska’s head coach, Osborne compiled a record of 255-49-3 (.836) and retired with the fifth-best winning percentage all-time in Football Bowl Subdivision. The 255 wins rank 15th overall among coaches in NCAA history. In his last five years, Osborne guided the Huskers to back-to-back titles in 1994 and 1995, then capped his career by sharing the 1997 title with Michigan. Nebraska’s back-to-back national titles in 1994-95 made Osborne the first coach to accomplish that feat since Bear Bryant led Alabama to titles in 1978-79.
Under Osborne, Nebraska became just the second school all-time and the first since Oklahoma in 1955-56 to post back-to-back perfect national championship seasons. In fact, Osborne’s last five Nebraska teams put together the best five-year run in collegiate football history with an amazing 60-3 record, including five consecutive 11-win seasons.
His on-field excellence earned him numerous honors from the AFCA during his coaching career. He was a seven-time AFCA District/Regional Coach of the Year selection (1974-78-79-82-83-87-94) and was named the Association’s Division I-A National Coach of the Year after his first national championship in 1994. Osborne also served two terms on the AFCA’s Board of Trustees, from 1978 to 1983 and 1986 to 1988.
Osborne-coached Nebraska teams captured 13 Big 8/Big 12 crowns, including six of his last seven seasons on the sidelines. All 25 of his Husker teams won at least nine games and played in a bowl game, while 15 won 10 or more games. Those achievements earned Osborne an immediate ticket to the College Football Hall of Fame in 1999, waiving the customary three-year wait for induction into the hall. His legendary career also prompted the Nebraska’s Board of Regents to name the Memorial Stadium playing field in Osborne’s honor.
Of Nebraska’s 13 league titles under Osborne, nine were outright. The Huskers captured league titles in 1975, 1978, 1981, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1988, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995 and 1997. As either a head coach or assistant, Osborne was involved in 21 of Nebraska’s 43 conference titles, all five of its national championships and 34 of its 44 bowl appearances.
Thirty-four of the 36 Husker teams he was associated with ended their season in a bowl game. The 25 bowl appearances he made as a head coach rank Osborne fourth all-time behind Penn State’s Joe Paterno (33), Alabama’s Bear Bryant (29) and Florida State’s Bobby Bowden (28).
Osborne-coached players earned 55 first-team All-America certificates (47 players), won two Heismans, six Outland Trophies, one Butkus Award and one Johnny Unitas Award.
A Hastings, Neb., native, Osborne earned his B.A. in history from Hastings College, where he was the state’s athlete-of-the-year in 1959. He earned his M.A. in educational psychology from Nebraska in 1963; and his Ph.D. in educational psychology from Nebraska in 1965. After receiving his undergraduate degree from Hastings, Osborne played for three seasons in the National Football League — two with the Washington Redskins and one with the San Francisco 49ers — as a wide receiver.
He began his coaching career as a graduate assistant on Bob Devaney’s first Nebraska staff in 1962. He became a part-time coach in 1964 and was elevated to full-time receivers coach in 1967. He later served as offensive coordinator and was named assistant head coach by Devaney in 1972 before taking over as head coach in 1973. Osborne and his wife, Nancy, reside in Lincoln.