>> Video Below: Tom Osborne announces retirement plans
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LINCOLN — Tom Osborne, who returned to the University of Nebraska five years ago to help mend an athletic department that was hurting, said Wednesday that his stay will end Jan. 1.
Osborne told University of Nebraska-Lincoln Chancellor Harvey Perlman of his intentions in August. Perlman said he already has interviewed candidates for the athletic director position and may interview more.
“I was honored that he asked me to do this job five years ago,” Osborne said. “At the time he asked me, I wasn't sure if it was a good idea or not. But hopefully it's worked out well. So I guess the next move is his.”
Osborne, 75, started with a joke about the aging process before telling a press conference packed with news media members and Husker athletic department personnel of his plan.
Osborne said possible concerns about his age were driven home back at the hiring press conference of NU basketball coach Tim Miles when Miles was asked what it would be like to work for a 75-year-old athletic director.
“At some point, whether you're able to function or not, the perception is that getting old can get in the way,” Osborne said. “So I don't want to be one of those guys where everybody is walking around wringing their hands and wondering what they're going to do with him.”
Starting Jan. 1, Osborne will become athletic director emeritus and said his plan is to stay around for about six months to “help in any way I can with the transition.” Health, he said, was not an issue in his decision.
“I'm probably healthier today than when I was a member of Congress,” said Osborne, the state's 3rd District representative from 2000 through '06.
Perlman called it a privilege to work with Osborne, whom he coaxed out of retirement when NU fired Steve Pederson in October 2007. Perlman said Osborne stabilized the athletic department, made some promising coaching hires and brought the Husker facilities to a new level.
“I know he'll be an important part of this athletic department as long as he wants to be,” Perlman said, “because he's a real treasure.”
Since 2007, Osborne has hired six head coaches: Bo Pelini (football), 2008; Chuck Chmelka (men's gymnastics), 2009; Darin Erstad (baseball), 2011; Dave Harris (cross country), 2012; Tim Miles (men's basketball), 2012; and Stacy Underwood (rifle), 2012.
Current Nebraska projects include the East Stadium expansion in football and the Pinnacle Bank Arena construction for basketball. Both will be completed in 2013.
NU also added the Hendricks Training Facility for basketball, the Haymarket Park indoor facility for baseball and softball, developed the Student Life Complex at West Stadium and will move its volleyball program from the NU Coliseum to the Devaney Center.
Perlman and Osborne together also negotiated Nebraska's move from the Big 12 to the Big Ten, a conference change that became official July 1, 2011.
As far as his legacy?
“That legacy question is a tricky one,” Osborne said. “I'd rather you guys wrote it than me. I don't have any particular thoughts on that.”
That legacy goes all the way back to 1967, when Bob Devaney added Osborne to the Husker football staff. Osborne then succeeded Devaney as head coach in 1973, starting a 25-year run in which Nebraska posted a 255-49-3 record and won national championships in 1994, '95 and '97.
Under Osborne, Nebraska won nine or more games and played in a bowl every season between 1973 and 1997. In his last five seasons, the Huskers had a 60-3 record that stands as the most wins in a five-year span by any team in college football history.
After retiring, Osborne was replaced by Frank Solich, who served as NU football coach until being fired by Pederson in 2003. Solich was replaced by Bill Callahan, whom Osborne fired after the 2007 season and replaced with Pelini.
Perlman said the Nebraska search to replace Osborne will not be conducted in the public eye. He did say that the university has hired Jed Hughes from Korn/Ferry International to assist in the process.
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“I think Nebraska is an important enough place in intercollegiate athletics that we should be able to attract the very best to this position,” Perlman said.
Osborne started in 2007 with an “interim” title before it was removed and Perlman signed him up to stay at least through June 2010. In mid-2009, the end date was removed from Osborne's athletic department agreement to squelch speculation about when Osborne might retire and who might replace him.
Osborne, however, said at that time he didn't expect to stay on the job into his 80s. He turned 75 in February.
His current salary is $277,969 per year.
Osborne said he hopes the department will be in good shape for his replacement.
“I hope it's a good situation for somebody to come into,” he said. “I like the trajectory.”
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