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Former Nebraska football coach to run for Congress

By KEVIN O'HANLON Associated Press Writer
January 27, 2000

HASTINGS, Neb. (AP) -- Former Nebraska football coach Tom Osborne, who won three national championships before retiring in 1997, said Thursday that he will run for Congress in this football-crazy state.

``I don't think this is an ego trip,'' Osborne said. ``It would be a lot easier to go fishing.''

Osborne, a Republican, ended weeks of speculation with his announcement in his hometown at Hastings College, where he excelled as a three-sport star.

Osborne, 62, is held in reverence by a majority of the 1.6 million people in the state, where there are no other major college football programs or professional sports franchises.

Osborne's career was not without controversy, however, including his decision to allow Lawrence Phillips to return to the team during the Cornhuskers' 1995 national title season after the troubled running back assaulted his girlfriend.

Osborne said in a book released last fall that he may have made a mistake in his handling of Phillips, whose NFL career was marred with run-ins with the law.

Political experts don't expect Phillips to be a detriment, mainly because of Osborne's reputation as a straight-shooting, soft-spoken Christian.

``Tom Osborne is so highly regarded,'' said state Democratic Party Chairwoman Anne Boyle. ``Anybody who wants to go negative on Tom Osborne is probably not going to be well-received.''

Osborne took over the Nebraska program in 1973 at the age of 34 after serving as an assistant to coach Bob Devaney for 11 years. He compiled a 255-49-3 record in 25 years to rank sixth all time among all Division I coaches for wins.

His teams won 13 conference championships and national championships in 1994 and 1995 and a share of the 1997 season title.

Osborne joins several other notable ex-jocks who have gone into politics.

Former NBA star and U.S. Senator from New Jersey Bill Bradley is running for the Democratic nomination for president. Former college football great J.C. Watts of Oklahoma is in Congress and is chairman of the House Republican Conference.

Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Bunning represented Kentucky in the House for six terms and won a seat in the Senate in 1998.

updated at Thu Jan 27 11:54:11 2000 PT


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