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Whatever vision you might have regarding Tom Osborne's last act, curtain call or swan song, perish the thought right now. The Saturday Night Live performance on March 9, 2013, inside Omaha's CenturyLink Center, will not indulge anyone buying a ticket with your traditional "Thank You Tom" Tribute.
No sir and no ma'am. This Tribute to Tom Night of Legends Gala "is not going to be a retirement dinner. It's going to be one big celebration with two hours of fast-moving entertainment," said Paul Meyers, Nebraska's associate athletic director for the Huskers Athletic Fund.
It will be a celebration and a stage show of amusement and amazement rolled into one ... a real hootenanny for a legendary coach and athletic director who retired Jan. 1, 2013, and remains on the scene as Nebraska's Athletic Director Emeritus.
"This is about Coach Osborne," Meyers said. "He's a legend, and we're celebrating his legendary impact on Nebraskans over the last 50 years. We decided early on that we should do this in a way that's never been done before. So we're going to celebrate the accomplishments of a legendary man with some more legendary coaches, legendary players and legendary performers."
Miami Dance Company Opens the Curtains
That is not a typo. Performers will be a big part of this really big show that will open with the New Century Dancers, a company on the cutting edge of technically superior live entertainment planning and production.
Why wouldn't the opening kickoff to this Hall-of-Fame revelry feature talent from Miami, the home of some of Osborne's greatest football memories? I mean, Osborne's first national championship came in the Orange Bowl against a Hurricane team led by Ray Lewis and Warren Sapp, both legends themselves. And who can forget Osborne's third and last national title two years later in Miami against the nation's No. 2 Tennessee team, led by none other than the legendary Peyton Manning?
"I can only imagine what the New Century Dancers will do to showcase some of Coach Osborne's best games, memorable bowls and national championships," Meyers said, knowing full well that the fun certainly won't stop there for Nebraska's own version of Saturday Night Live honoring perhaps the state's greatest legend.
"Because Coach is such a legend himself, we've hired the best Legends in Concert," Meyers said, waiting for me to ask which one will dazzle a Nebraska crowd the most - Michael Jackson, Neil Diamond or Frank Sinatra?
College Football Icon: Osborne Did It His Way
I didn't bite because every one of those performers will knock your socks off. I've seen Michael Jackson in a Legends Concert, and you can't go wrong with anything his impersonator sings. I would also enjoy hearing someone impersonating Neil Diamond with America and I Am, I Said. I can also envision a Sinatra impersonator saluting Osborne with My Way and then Fly Me to the Moon, as long as there's a full one over Miami and Nebraska's leading on the scoreboard.
"We're definitely going to have some fun with all this," Meyers said, pointing out that the night's overall theme will be a Nebraska version of ESPN Sports Center, replete with College GameDay Host Chris Fowler serving as emcee. Fowler has been the primary studio host for college football since 1989, so he's seen Osborne's 60-3 reign of terror up close. Who knows? Maybe he'll point out how Nebraska might hold a slight comparative advantage over Alabama's recent dynasty.
Holly Rowe has been a sideline reporter for ESPN since 1998 - the year after Nebraska's unprecedented streak ended. On March 9, she'll be in the CenturyLink building, too, looking to go table-to-table for updates and analyses.
We've all seen ESPN ads where the most powerful sports network pokes fun at its own on-air personalities. Let the record show that there will be more than one Nebraska-related vignette on this special night to honor a special man, husband, father, grandfather, coach, Congressman, athletic director, mentor and leader.
Alvarez, Switzer, Snyder, Plus Husker Stars
Meyers and his event planning team have all sorts of ways to honor Osborne with a creative parting shot, not to mention appropriate crowning glory.
Did we mention three legendary coaches who will be in Omaha that night? They are Barry Alvarez, Barry Switzer and Bill Snyder. Scott Frost, the last quarterback to play for Osborne, will be there. So will Irving Fryar, who shocked his head coach when he earned his own doctorate degree last spring.
Nebraska has received commitments from Heisman Trophy winners Johnny "The Jet" Rodgers and Eric Crouch and please stay tuned for other Husker major award winners who might commit using those three magical Michael Jackson words - I'll Be There!
Legend is definitely a theme here, but we all know Tom Osborne. He might interpret legend as old and say if you're not dead, how can you be a legend? T.O. probably belongs in the camp of an American journalist/satirist who once labeled a legend as "a lie that has attained the dignity of age".
Two of T.O.'s Favorite Causes Will Benefit
We all know better, especially when you consider how energized Osborne still is at 75. I mean, he could be the poster boy for the adage that age is a case of mind over matter; if you don't mind, it doesn't matter. Right?
"Coach Osborne is a true legend, and that's why we want to honor him with something we've never seen here," Meyers said. "CenturyLink has told us we can accommodate 4,000 people that night, and we'd love to fill the place up. This is going to be an evening to remember and an important piece of Nebraska history, so it was only natural and logical to ask Coach where the proceeds should go."
In Meyers' opinion, Osborne selected two "legendary" causes near and dear to his heart: 1) The TeamMates Mentoring Program that Tom and wife Nancy co-founded 21 years ago; and 2) The Nebraska Athletic Research Center for Study of Brain and Sport Performance. The center will be located inside an expanded East Stadium this fall and will be the first research facility in the history of intercollegiate athletics.
Reservations must be received by Feb. 25 and can be made with a check or credit card (Visa, Mastercard or Discover). For more information, or to make a reservation, click here. For questions, please call 402-472-2367 or 800-8-BIGRED, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Meyers was not surprised by Osborne's designated causes. "Leave it to a legend to help more kids get one-on-one mentoring and tackle something like concussions at the same time," he said. "We know the price of these tickets is higher than events we usually sponsor, but we also know this Tribute to Tom will be in an historic league of its own with the proceeds benefiting causes that prove what we all know - 'There is no place like Nebraska!'"
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