So who's a candidate? We'll likely never know. But here are names of established or rising A.D.s from major conferences who might get a look if interested:
» Joe Castiglione, 54, Oklahoma (Big 12): Castiglione is considered one of the nation's top five athletic directors. He has been at OU for 14 years — an eternity in A.D. years — and might be ready for one more career move. Castiglione always has expressed fondness for Osborne and Nebraska. A move to the Big Ten and away from Texas politics might be inviting.
» Jamie Pollard, 47, Iowa State (Big 12): Even with a budget that's the equivalent of a pocketknife in a bear fight, Pollard has hired good coaches and molded a strong program. Before Iowa State, he spent three years as deputy athletic director to Barry Alvarez at Wisconsin, so he knows the Big Ten.
» Jeff Long, 52, Arkansas (SEC): A former protégé of Castiglione at Oklahoma, he also has been an associate A.D. at Michigan. Long has drawn praise for smoothing some troubled waters at Arkansas, but might be up for a change after the misbehavior of football coach Bobby Petrino.
» Greg Byrne, 40, Arizona (Pac-12): If that name rings a bell, it should. He is the son of Nebraska's former A.D., and touted as a rising star not just in the Pac-12 but nationally. His family ties, though, make you wonder how he might be accepted in Lincoln.
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» Tom Jurich, 56, Louisville (Big East): Jurich has had a very productive 15 years with the Cardinals. But with the uncertainty involving the Big East going forward, he might entertain a job like Nebraska.
» Randy Spetman, 58, Florida State (ACC): Spetman is widely respected in the business, but dealing with the departure of football coaching legend Bobby Bowden has earned him some enemies in Tallahassee. Spetman was born and raised in Council Bluffs, and his wife is from Des Moines.
Internally, two names come to mind first:
» Paul Meyers, 47, associate A.D. for development: The former Husker baseball All-American is a favorite among coaches and highly popular with big donors. Yet his administrative experience in conference and TV matters is limited, and multiple sources say there has been friction lately with Osborne over ideas on modernizing the department.
» Trev Alberts, 42, A.D. at UNO: The former Husker football All-American spent time in the NFL and television before getting into athletic administration. He has been criticized for his role in UNO dropping football and wrestling, but those decisions aren't made at his level. He had to carry them out. Still, the perception may be difficult for Alberts to overcome.
• Read more: Tom Osborne announces retirement plans
• Photo Showcase: Tom Osborne through the years.
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• From the archives: Osborne announces retirement as head coach