December 2, 2004


Bush names Gov. Johanns as new secretary of agriculture (THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, 12/02/04)

President Bush on Thursday chose Nebraska Gov. Mike Johanns as secretary of agriculture to oversee the nation's farm and food programs, an administration official said. [...]

Johanns had been considered a possible challenger to Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson in 2006.

So, Ben, here's the deal: we put Johanns in the cabinet, Osborne runs for governor, and you switch parties....

Posted by Orrin Judd at December 2, 2004 10:50 AM

Let's hope your take is correct. And if Nelson is ok with switching parties why didn't he take the Sec Ag job which would have ticked off his supporters less than a switch will?

If '06 rolls around and Nelson runs as a Dem and Johanns and Osborne aren't available to challenge him this will be a dumb move.

Posted by: AWW at December 2, 2004 11:54 AM

It may be a wise move to appoint Osborne as Lt Gov. and prep him to run against Nelson in 06.

Posted by: Pilgrim at December 2, 2004 12:46 PM

Congrats, OJ -- I live in Nebraska and this is the first I've heard of this. Of course, your website is typically one of the first I visit every day.

Time for Tom Osborne -- peace be upon him -- to strongly consider that Senate run should Nelson obstinately stick around in the Jackass party. Famed football coach and all-around Nebraska icon versus Nelson? That's just not a fair fight. Good.

Posted by: Matt Murphy at December 2, 2004 12:48 PM

Re Matt - After my post above I saw elsewhere that the LT Gov (Heilman?) will probably take over until the next governor election which seems to indicate Osborne may go for Senator not governor. If this is the scenario and Nelson does switch what does Osborne do?

Posted by: AWW at December 2, 2004 1:03 PM

Supposedly Osborne prefers governor.

Posted by: oj at December 2, 2004 1:12 PM


Osborne is a true gentleman and gets along well with Nelson, so I doubt he would challenge Nelson in a primary if he switched parties. However, Nelson has a stubborn streak -- so does Osborne -- and his earlier rebuff for the Ag job indicates he may not go GOP no matter what.

Still, if Osborne decided to run, Nelson is smart enough to see the writing on the wall: he's a guaranteed loser in a run against Osborne. So if he does switch, I think Osborne would run for governor. Osborne has shown interest in the Senate but I sense he will only pursue it if Nelson stays a Democrat.

Osborne seems slightly more interested in the governorship and is reputed to be upset with how "some things never get done" in the House (I suppose being a football coach and getting to make your own calls for 25 years must make a person naturally impatient). As Michael Barone has pointed out, if Osborne is truly frustrated with the slow pace of things in the House, he'll really hate the Senate.

Posted by: Matt Murphy at December 2, 2004 1:18 PM


Actually, my thinking above is a bit flawed -- I'm still thinking in terms of old circumstances. Osborne's run for the governorship will probably depend on whether Nebraska's new governor Dave Heineman decides to run in '06; in the article, he says he's undecided.

Should that happen, and Nelson switches parties, I suppose Osborne would put off further political office for now and simply run for reelection to the House in '06; I don't think he'd run against a GOP incumbent, and he'd have nowhere else to go politically.

Posted by: Matt Murphy at December 2, 2004 2:09 PM

If he hadn't done so much jackassing on his way out, could Congressman Bereuter have nabbed this post and left Johanns to run for Senate?

Posted by: AC at December 2, 2004 2:49 PM

Bereuter and Hagel in the Senate would make me support using Nebraska for nuclear weapons testing.

Given that under Osborne the Cornhuskers regularly engaged in recruiting violations, brought in felons like the Peter brothers to play for them, allowed them to run roughshod on campus, raping women, assaulting students of both sexes, that they were one of the most crooked programs in college sports, and that is saying something, why is Osborne so popular?

Posted by: Bart at December 2, 2004 4:22 PM

Gee Bart, don't mince your words. Tell us how you really feel about the UNL football program in the 1980's and 1990's.

Posted by: pchuck at December 2, 2004 4:57 PM

One of my friends in Arizona, of all places, gave me a series of quick jokes about the Nebraska football team. My favorite is 'The players think the 'N' on the helmet stands for knowledge.'

In the cesspool that is for-profit college sports, Nebraska under Osborne was particularly repellent.

Posted by: Bart at December 2, 2004 5:02 PM

I did a Google search on Tom Osborne and found mostly positive stories (especially the winning). I added, "scandals at Nebraska" on the search and did not find a hell of a lot more. The most scathing assessment was a politcal site, and it did not focus on too many specifics. Barts post sounds like an indictment sheet. Has the NCAA or the University investigated any of these allegations? Someone in Nebraska ought to have something to add...

Posted by: Moe from NC at December 2, 2004 5:05 PM

Bart- Bob Devaney taught him how a football program should be run. Just more red-state hypocrisy.

Posted by: ed at December 2, 2004 5:27 PM

Nebraska's football program is clean....for major college football anyway.

Lawrence Phillips a running back beat up his girlfriend a few years back. (but what the heck, she probably deserved it)

There have been accusations of steroid use, but nothing proven and besides that is happening all over without encouragement from coaches.

Posted by: h-man at December 2, 2004 6:51 PM


The NCAA occasionally investigated Nebraska during Osborne's tenure but never turned up anything, other than a 1985 incident where some players sold their complimentary tickets.

Regarding the old "N is for 'knowledge'" joke, the Nebraska football team holds an ongoing NCAA record for most Academic All-Americans; Notre Dame is a distant second.

As for the Peter brothers, Christian reformed himself after Osborne threatened to kick him off the team. The rape allegation against him was years old and never had any serious evidence behind it; Peter did plead no contest to shoving a woman in a bar after she supposedly called him a rapist, but nobody else saw the incident in question and Peter was desperate to stay out of prison since the NFL draft was upcoming, hence the no contest plea. Jason never got in any serious trouble of which I am aware.

Interestingly enough, a CBS reporter put together a "48 Hours" segment on Nebraska football in 1995. The report was so loaded with inaccuracies and distortions that the Omaha World-Herald ran a long editorial pointing out each one explicitly; NU officials insisted they had corrected some of the reporter's misstatements but that he reported them anyway. To take just one example, the reporter said that a Nebraska player was in trouble for allegedly shooting a convenience store clerk, thus implying a holdup. The victim was not a clerk at all, and while he had been shot and pinpointed an NU player as the culprit, he and another "witness" had over 100 criminal convictions between them, including lying to police. Needless to say, the reporter did not mention these facts (the case was eventually dropped when the two men failed to show up in court).

The name of the reporter? Bernard Goldberg.

Posted by: Matt Murphy at December 2, 2004 6:52 PM


During the Philips and Peter cases, Osborne and the Nebraska athletic department stonewalled any attempt at investigation and Osborne insisted that it be dealt with in-house. Philips victim lost her scholarship at UNL. Nebraska also went out of its way to recruit all manner of inner-city gangbangers and lowlives because they had football ability. This does not make them unique in revenue-producing college sports, but it does not make them admirable either. There have been plenty of Roziers, Fryars and Washingtons on the club. As for the Peters, they lived about 5 miles from where I went to high school and they were known throughout the area as being vicious animals off the field while in high school, with very long juvvie records, including assault on police officers and carjacking.

The decision of Osborne and the Nebraska athletic establishment endangered the legitimate student population at Nebraska, particularly the co-eds and was wrong. That he was less of a slimeball than Switzer or Jimmy Johnson is no defense.

As for the Academic All-America thing, don't insult my intelligence. They stick these guys in football-player majors like Recreation Studies or General Studies and then they get good grades. Year in year out, Nebraska had a bunch of Prop 48 dropouts, one of the highest rates in the country. Rozier and Philips probably can't read.

There are of course exceptions like Dave Rimington and Rob Zatecha.

Posted by: at December 3, 2004 8:46 AM


The only thing Osborne regularly "stonewalled" on was the press; he didn't want information leaked out because, as in Goldberg's case, it was repeatedly mischaracterized. He didn't always volunteer information, but I find this somewhat understandable because the NCAA regularly lies to people to get information; in the 1985 case I mentioned, NCAA investigators assured Osborne openness would bring no penalties, right before they had about 35 players suspended.

Kate McEwen DID lose her scholarship; that's deplorable but not the football program's fault. Rozier came from an admittedly tough neighborhood -- gunfire broke out during his last high school football game -- but that hardly makes him a lowlife. Any former Nebraska player will tell you that Osborne repeatedly took players from difficult backgrounds and turned their lives around; Fryar and Turner Gill are two good examples (he misjudged Phillips, however). As I mentioned earlier, Riley Washington was almost surely not guilty of anything. Osborne gave people second chances but his compassion was not unlimited; he threw the team's starting I-back off the squad in 1991 when NU had considerably less depth at that position than they would have four years later during the Phillips affair.

Not being from New Jersey, I can't judge the high school careers of the Peter brothers; being from Nebraska, I can tell you Christian reformed after Osborne gave him an ultimatum, and there was never any need for an ultimatum regarding Jason. They've stayed out of trouble since.

You're quite incorrect on the Prop 48 situation; NU never took very many of them to begin with, and many of those Osborne took were kids with learning disabilities like Jared Tomich, who had great problems with standardized testing but excelled in oral exams. As for the charge that they took easy majors (which some doubtlessly did), flip through the player profiles sections of old Nebraska football yearbooks and you'll discover pretty quickly that the substantial majority of the players took serious courses and were involved in community service projects.

I have a friend who played on the team for four years and got to meet a number of players during the Solich era, which more or less continued Osborne's policies. The vast majority of these guys were class acts and certainly didn't deserve the sort of calumny that was regularly heaped on them by people relying on innuendo for their knowledge of the program.

Posted by: Matt Murphy at December 3, 2004 9:16 PM