Osborne announces changes in coaching staff, gives assistants option to stay during transition
Lincoln – University of Nebraska Interim Athletic Director Tom Osborne announced changes in the football coaching staff today (Saturday, Nov. 24, 2007).
The contract for NU Head Football Coach Bill Callahan has been terminated and all nine Husker assistant coaches’ contracts also were terminated.
Osborne said that he would begin a national search for a new head coach immediately.
“I have evaluated the program diligently over the past several weeks, and I feel compelled to take action at this time,” said Osborne, who met with Callahan and his assistants Saturday morning at the Nebraska football complex.
“Our five-game losing streak certainly was a factor, but even more important was the number of games where we were not competitive,” Osborne said. “At Nebraska, we always expect to compete at a very high level, and those expectations have not changed.
“While we conduct the search for a new head coach, I have asked all assistant coaches who would like to help in the transition to stay on staff and help with recruiting,” Osborne said. “I appreciate the knowledge and dedication of the coaching staff. These times have been stressful on everyone, and I thank all of our coaches for their professionalism and their commitment to our program.”
Nebraska’s assistant coaches include: Bill Busch, safeties and special teams coordinator; Kevin Cosgrove, defensive coordinator and linebackers; Phil Elmassian, cornerbacks; Ted Gilmore, receivers and recruiting coordinator; Randy Jordan, running backs; Joe Rudolph, tight ends; Dennis Wagner, offensive line; Shawn Watson, offensive coordinator and quarterbacks; and Buddy Wyatt, defensive line.
“Coaches who would like to be considered for employment on the next staff will stay on and recruit,” Osborne said. “Regardless of their decision, we will honor all terms of their current contracts. We will also honor all terms of Coach Callahan’s contract.”
The contracts for Nebraska’s assistant coaches are tied directly to the head coach and automatically ended when Callahan’s contract ended.
Osborne called Callahan a seasoned coach and a hard worker. “I wish him well in the future,” he said. “He gave this program his best effort, but I believe we need to go in a different direction. I know this is not an easy place to be a head football coach.”
Osborne said he didn’t know how long the search for Callahan’s successor will take, but he will move as quickly as possible. “Our goal is to find the best possible coach and the best possible fit for Nebraska,” he said.
Callahan posted a 27-22 record in four seasons at Nebraska.
Tom Osborne Press Conference Quotes
“Thank you for coming. I know it’s kind of short notice for you. It’s a little earlier than I’ve seen many of you before. First of all, I just wanted to say a couple of things. As a former coach, this is a role that I really don’t like. I really never envisioned ever being in a situation where I would have to make a decision on someone’s employment opportunity, but that’ the nature of the business. When I first took the job as interim athletic director, I talked to the coaches and told them that I was very open to making this thing work. I said I would do anything I could for them to help them be successful. There were issues that they were dealing with and so I think they understood that I didn’t want to make a change because change is hard and change is disruptive. I wanted as much continuity as possible.
When I took this position, I had the feeling that the coaches wanted to have some bench marks so they could have some idea as to what they had to do. At that point we were 4-4 and I told them if you win the next four games, then you go 8-4 and there is no question that things are going to be fine. On the other hand, if you win three out of four and play well, I think we can maybe make it work. I can’t promise you, but I think we can make it work. If it’s two out of four, then you break even and we haven’t had many break even seasons around here. So if you have a losing season, I don’t think this will work. So the parameters were fairly clearly spelled out.
It isn’t just a matter of wins and losses; it’s how you do it. If you lose by a field goal and play well, that’s a little bit different than getting blown out three or four times. I tried to make sure that they completely understood. It isn’t all about winning and losing. Believe me, I understand that. If you lose a fairly large number of games by a significant margin and you have fairly good players, which I think we do, then I think there are some systemic issues. I think the players were treated well. But there was something wrong evidently.
I met with this morning with the coaches. I met with Coach Callahan first and told him that his contract was not being renewed. I then spent time interviewing and talking with each one of his assistants. I spent about 10 minutes with each. Each assistant is currently guaranteed a salary until a year from January. If they remain employed here, they are on the same contract. If they take a job somewhere else, then we would no longer pay them if they are making the same or more somewhere else. If they are being paid less elsewhere, then we would make up the difference. I’ve asked them all to help with recruiting, and they’ve agreed to do that. They’ve all acted very professionally, and I appreciate that. I think they pretty much knew where they were as of yesterday. So anyway that’s what happened.
Let me just say one other thing. I tried not to put any stipulations on anybody that I would not expect of myself. I never felt while I was coaching here, until maybe the last three or four years, that I could survive a losing season as the head coach. I’ll tell you where that came from. The first four years, we were 9-2-1 and beat Texas in the Cotton Bowl. The next year were 9-3 and beat Florida in the Sugar Bowl. The fourth year we went 9-3-1. And afterward one of the regents took me aside and told me ‘I’m glad that you won tonight because if you hadn’t, you’ve have been fired.’ I gathered from here that there had been some serious conversation about my future at that point. That was four years with about a 77 or 78 percent winning percentage and yet that was the nature of the deal here. Believe me, I would not expect anything from any coach here that I hadn’t expected of myself as a coach. Again, I really appreciate the effort these guys went to. They worked very hard. They did a fantastic job recruiting. I think there are very good athletes in the program. They may not be overwhelming, but they are good. I was really hoping that they would have a different outcome than they did, but again, what happened happened and its history.
Let me just head something off. I told the coaches that I would not talk to any other coaches until the season was over and until I had made a decision. So I have not talked to any other coaches anywhere at this point. I know that some of you have contacted other coaches to find out if they have an interest in Nebraska. I honestly don’t know who those people are or what their answers have been. I told anybody involved in this thing that I didn’t want to know. I wasn’t going to be involved until I had talked to Coach Callahan. In the next few days, I’ll probably talk to four or five people. I’d like to move it along as fast as I can because recruiting is really critical at this time, but I can’t guarantee anything. It’s going to take two parties to do this thing. And then of course that coach whoever it may be will interview people here. He will probably have some ideas of his own as to what he wants and we’ll get settled as quickly as we can.
On whether as win against Colorado would have changed Osborne’s decision
“Well, what I told them was that I thought six wins would be really uphill and, as I sat there and watched it I thought they were playing pretty well. I think probably it wouldn’t have, but I had not made up my mind for sure. The Kansas game was a big turning point because that was a big loss. If you look at it, I think there were five games at least that were lost by three touchdowns or more. So it’s not just how many you win or how many you lose, but how you do it. So the Kansas game was certainly a big one. I think the coaches knew it. I knew it. I was really pleased with the effort against Texas. The K-State game obviously was very good on both sides of the ball. But the turnovers were a big factor, obviously against Kansas and against yesterday.
On being historically critical of coaches being fired after three or four seasons
“It’s been four years, and we’ve had some pretty good players on the team here. I think if we would have won eight or nine games that would have been reasonable. Eight games is less than we averaged by quite a bit over forty-some years. You have to remember that we never had a losing season over forty seasons and now in the last four seasons we’ve had two. So the issues becomes, as what point are you still viable. At what point can you still go out and recruit. At what point do people think you’re only going to be there one year or two years. At what point do you still have credibility with the public? At what point can you still have a powerful impact on your own players? There comes a point when it becomes dicey. I didn’t want to see Bill in that position. I didn’t want to see the University of Nebraska in that position. So at this point, I don’t think he had met the goals that he should have. I think it just got the point where a decision had to be made. I like Bill Callahan. I think he is a professional. I think he knows football. I think he worked unbelievably hard, but at times there was something missing. It’s hard to put your finger on exactly what it was.
On whether Callahan would have remained had he changed his staff
“Bill and I talked about that when I first got hired. He asked if I was looking to changing assistants. I said ‘Bill, I would never do that.’ I would never ask him to get rid of anybody. The head coach is the head coach. The head coach is not just responsible for the offense. The head coach is responsible for the defense and the kicking game too and that’s why you’re the head coach. You are responsible for hiring those people, so I was not going to tell Bill who he had to keep and who he had to let go. So Bill Callahan was where the buck stops. Essentially that’s what it was. I was not going to say ‘Well, you’ve got to get rid of this guy and this guy and then maybe you can stay on.’ I told him that I never really believed in that.”
On the qualities he is looking for in the next coach at Nebraska
“Obviously, you want somebody with integrity. And that doesn’t mean that these coaches don’t have integrity. I’m not saying that at all. But you want somebody whose word is good. It’s very important in recruiting that the players trust you. That what you tell them is going to happen. You want somebody that knows football and has a good work ethic. You want somebody that can motivate. Some people know football, but they really don’t get people to play hard for them. Again, I’m not saying that’s the case here. But you’ve got to get players to play hard. It’s still a Spartan game. I talked to (Bill) McCartney a couple weeks ago and hadn’t talked to him for two or three years. He has followed us pretty closely, and he said that we’ve lost our identity. What he was saying was that we used to be a team that people hated to play because they felt it for two or three weeks. I’m not saying that we need to go back to running the wishbone or running the option. I’m not getting into X’s and O’s. I’m talking about how we play. You have to play with intensity, and I think these coaches tried very hard to have that happen. I think they knew that. But at think at times, we didn’t have the intensity that you like to see in a football team.”
On if there is a type of offense he would like to see the next coach install
“Not really. I think they were moving in that direction. They have a little bit more mobility in Joe Ganz. I think it’s really hard in college football if you don’t have some mobility in your quarterback, to be successful. You need to have the ability to run the football once in a while and scramble for a first down. The rest of it, I don’t know. The new coach will have to decide.”
On whether the relationship between Osborne and Callahan affected his decision
“I just didn’t get to know him very well. I felt bad about that. I was in Washington. He was working very hard here. The thing about Bill Callahan, it seemed to me, was that he was a guy that his whole life revolved around football and being in that office and looking at film. He was not out and about. He wasn’t looking for me, but neither one of us had any animosity toward one another. Our paths just didn’t cross that often because of where we were at the time. I can just say that I didn’t know him really well. I feel bad about it. I’ve tried to get to know him better in the last two weeks.”
On how this morning’s meeting with Callahan went
“I met with him this morning and went over my thought process. He asked if his contract was being terminated and I said that yes it was. And he was very cordial and I was cordial and that was it. It was probably five minutes. I had blocked off a half hour to talk as long as he wanted to, but I think he probably felt that there wasn’t much to talk about and I also felt the same to some degree.”
On whether or not Osborne has had to fire anyone before
“In 25 years of coaching I had to fire two assistants. I’m not a big firing guy.”
On whom he consulted in making this decision
“I didn’t do a lot of that. I talked to Turner Gill maybe once a week. I have for the last two years. I talk to Frank Solich quite a bit, but at no point did I discuss this job with them. We just talked about their teams and how they’re doing and how they’re feeling. That’s just what we do. Other than that, I didn’t really talk to many people. I talked to Marvin Sanders. He’s out of coaching. I talked to Barney Cotton. Talked to Craig Bohl one time, but that was the extent of my conversations. I didn’t call other coaches and say ‘What should I do?’ “
On whether a group of coaches has been determined for interviews
“No. I told everybody we would wait until this thing is over. I had talked to a guy who was going to call up a few people and see if they might be interested in Nebraska if something happened. I don’t even know what his response has been. I told him that I don’t want to hear anybody’s name until after I had talked to Coach Callahan and made a decision. So I called him in the last half hour to tell him that if anybody wants to talk to me, I would be ready to do so.”
On the important of the next coach understanding Nebraska football
“I think it’s pretty important that they have a good grasp of it. I think most people in football have a kind of peripheral sense of what it is like. One of the assistants said today and he didn’t have any idea what he was getting into in terms of the intensity. One thing I might mention is that I think the players feel it too. A couple of the assistants today said that after that USC game, the level of confidence went down because the expectations were so high and the beating that they took afterward was fairly thorough. I think that to some degree some of them never recovered from that emotionally and psychology. I’m not trying to blame (the media), but the interest of the state is so heavy that sometimes it’s difficult because you feel like you’ve really let people down.”
On whether the new coach must have Nebraska ties
“Well there are only so many out there that do. It would be nice if it happened, but that’s not going to be exclusive. I’m not going to make that a prerequisite. So I’ll just try to find the best candidate. And it takes two people to agree. I may talk to some people that have Nebraska ties that want no part of it.”
On whether Osborne will have influence over choosing the next staff
“The next head coach will make those decisions. If I know five or six guys that I think know something about Nebraska and are good coaches, I will mention their names. But he will make the final decision. I would not tell him that his job here depends on hiring certain people.”
On the timeline for the coaching search
“I would like to do it as soon as I can, but there is no time table because I can’t predict when that person might accept. So we’ll just do the best we can. But recruiting is important.”
On whether Osborne feels it will be difficult to convince a coach to come to Nebraska
“It could be. I think most people in the coaching profession understand that the criticism is tough. But I thought it was in the best interest of the program. Maybe it wasn’t, but I thought it was. You don’t have a crystal ball. You just do the best you can with the information you have and there is no personal animosity toward anyone. There is respect.”
On whether Osborne expects Coach Cosgrove to remain
“I talked to Kevin this morning, and he said that he just wanted to spend some time with his family. As far as I’m concerned, any one of those guys that the next coach wants to hire are available. Now whether Kevin would want to stay or not, I couldn’t tell you. Some of them said they wanted to stay. I think Kevin caught the brunt of it from the fans and it wasn’t just one of two guys’ faults. I felt really bad for his family and what they went through. I felt bad for all of them. I think he is ready to move on, and I really appreciate the way he has handled this. He’s been very professional and he’s really well-liked by his players. I think he did the best he could. I think there was a certain amount of confidence on the defense that was shattered at some point and they couldn’t seem to get it back. When things started to go bad in a game, it seemed like it started to snowball.”
On his message to the fans
“I hope that the next coach will be given some time. We’re going to really work hard in this state to find every player that we think is right and I think these guys did a pretty good job of recruiting on the national level. If we have lost some high school coaches along the way, we’ll try to get them back because where you start is in Nebraska and then you try to get the best players you can elsewhere.