McBride contemplating retiring
TEMPE, Ariz. -- "Not very much longer."
Those could be the words that rattle the Nebraska football program harder than anything else as the new millennium begins.
Nebraska defensive coordinator Charlie McBride and wife Debbie are visiting sons David and Mike, who live in the Phoenix area. McBride's other son, Jeff, who lives in Lincoln, may also join the holiday gathering in Arizona.
The McBrides are spending time with their new grandchild, Mike's two-week-old son Chase Michael. Charlie McBride also got a look at the lot he and Debbie purchased in nearby Fountain Hills.
Asked how much longer he planned to coach, McBride said, "Not much longer."
Sunday's Fiesta Bowl against Tennessee could be his last game after 37 years of coaching, including 23 at Nebraska, 18 as the Huskers' defensive coordinator.
The end of his career could come in a year. It could be two more years. He's not announcing anything.
McBride joked that if he coached next year, it would be from a chair. He has terrible knees, a bad back and a sore neck. Coaching on the sideline, sitting for hours in meetings, sitting for hours watching films and flying around the country chasing recruits all have added to the toll of his college football career at Colorado.
If McBride does leave the Huskers, it will be the biggest challenge second-year head coach Frank Solich has faced yet. McBride runs the defense. He shares a lot of the design with defensive backs coach George Darlington, linebacker coach Craig Bohl and rush ends coach Nelson Barnes.
But McBride is the spokesman, the heart and soul, the coach the players lift weights, practice hard and play through pain for. Stories of less-talented players blossoming at defensive tackle -- the position McBride coaches -- are famous.
The evolution from a pretty good defense to the defense of the 1990s -- an updated version of Miami's 1980s defense -- to the best defense of the last eight years was ignited by McBride.
Want to know how Nebraska got away with just five losses the last two years, despite a series of quarterback changes, I-back shifts and a school-record number of fumbles? The answer is the Husker defense. And the Nebraska defense is Charlie McBride.
Hired away from Wisconsin by Tom Osborne, McBride took the defense a step beyond the ones that Lance Van Zandt and Monte Kiffin built. Nebraska's 4-3 defense is famous and a model for many other college defenses. That is proven by the large number of defensive coordinators who visit Lincoln every year, and the number invitations McBride, Darlington and Bohl receive each year for clinics.
One of the reasons Osborne made sure Solich was his successor two years ago was the distinct possibility that the assistant coaching staff would stay intact. It was rumored that McBride was thinking about a change at the time, and Osborne said he was leaving, so Charlie had to stick around.
The reason the change from Osborne to Solich was even smoother than when Osborne took over from Bob Devaney in the winter of 1972 was due to a number of factors, the least of them McBride's loyalty to the program.
"Coach McBride is the reason we are who we are," said NU All-American Mike Brown.
Eric Johnson explained, "We have dedicated our season to Coach McBride. The same way those guys with the three national titles did."
If McBride does leave, he'd be going out on top.
"Football has been my life, and I've probably enjoyed this year more than any other year I've had. I've had to coach this group less. I haven't gotten mad or loud that often because this group knows what to do and knows how to do it."
So make sure you take a good, long look at the defensive coordinator in the gray sweat shirt, trying to stand on wobbly knees on the sideline Sunday night. You can bet everybody wearing a Husker jersey will be watching closely, too.