LINCOLN -- Did legendary football coach Tom Osborne flinch in the face of a threatened political blitz over a controversial crude-oil pipeline?
The coach denied that Friday.
A group opposing the Keystone XL pipeline was planning to protest at future Nebraska football games because pipeline developer TransCanada Inc. was being allowed to run advertisements during the games.
BOLD Nebraska launched an online petition earlier this week to urge Osborne to drop the ads and planned to buy 1,000 foam “cornfingers” that anti-pipeline fans could hoist into the air when the TransCanada ads were displayed on Memorial Stadium's huge video screens.
The cornfingers which fit over a person's hand came with the slogans “No Oil in Our Soil” and “Stop the TransCanada Pipeline.”
Osborne, now the University of Nebraska-Lincoln athletic director, on Wednesday announced the cancellation of an ad contract with the pipeline developer, citing the increased political controversy over the project.
Osborne said through a spokesperson that he wasn't aware of the planned protests.
The Keystone XL pipeline has drawn controversy because it would cross Nebraska's fragile Sand Hills, a region Osborne used to represent as a U.S. congressman.
Jane Kleeb of BOLD Nebraska said she didn't know if the planned protest helped prompt the ad cancellation.
“All I know is we love the decision,” Kleeb said.
Out of respect for Osborne's decision, she said, her group has suspended “giving TransCanada the cornfinger” and stopped gathering names for its online petition.
A TransCanada official said the company was disappointed with the decision to drop the ads, saying they were not political but aimed at glorifying Nebraska's traditional “pipeline” of great offensive linemen.