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Osborne adjusts well from coach to fan at Memorial Stadium

Copyright © 1998 Nando Media
Copyright © 1998 Associated Press

LINCOLN, Neb. (Sep 5, 1998 - 17:37 EDT) -- Tom Osborne eased into his first game day in Lincoln since retiring.

"I took a walk with my dog, did a little correspondence and I watched TV a little bit," said Osborne, who missed Nebraska's opener against Louisiana Tech because of a speaking engagement. "I got to see a little bit of the Tennessee-Syracuse game before we left the house."

Osborne and his wife, Nancy, then went to Memorial Stadium, rode the elevator to the press box minutes before kickoff against Alabama-Birmingham and took a seat in their private booth.

Osborne announced last December he was retiring after 25 years as Nebraska's football coach and turning the team over to longtime assistant Frank Solich.

Osborne, 61, was concerned about his health and wanted to spend more time with his family. He had double heart bypass surgery in 1985 and was hospitalized with an irregular heartbeat in November.

If Osborne felt any emotion about not being on the sidelines Saturday, he didn't let on.

"I'm fine," he said.

His seven-seat booth was stocked with pizza, soft drinks, desserts and a color TV.

At halftime, Osborne received the loudest ovation from the crowd as one of 14 inductees into the Nebraska Football Hall of Fame.

Al Papik, Nebraska's senior associate athletic director, said Osborne tried to avoid reporters before and after the game, a 38-17 victory for the No. 4 Huskers.

"He wants the spotlight not to be on him, but on the team and coach Solich," Papik said.

Osborne took over the Nebraska program in 1973 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 among all Division I coaches for wins. He retired with an .836 winning percentage.

His teams had five undefeated seasons, 13 conference championships and won consecutive national championships in 1994 and 1995 and shared the 1997 season titles with Michigan.

"Just think about all he's done for this team and this program and for college football in general," fan Alan Snyder of Lincoln said. "I'm glad he can just kick back and watch it now."

By KEVIN O'HANLON, Associated Press Writer