Looking for key insider information about how the Big Ten championship game between Nebraska and Wisconsin will turn out?
Take whatever insights Nebraska Athletic Director Tom Osborne has with qualifications, the former coach said at Friday's Big Red Breakfast.
“Whatever comments I have to say regarding (Saturday) are relatively uninformed,” Osborne said. “I go to practice almost every day. I still watch game films. So I have access to a lot of information.
“But I can still tell you unequivocally that I can't tell you which guy should start at center or which plays they should run … all those things that you guys know instinctively.”
When the laughter from the crowded room at the Ramada Plaza Hotel and Convention Center died down, Osborne explained additional details that make offering predictions difficult.
“Unless you're in that meeting room 12, 13 hours a day, unless you're meeting with players and know what the mental frame of this guy is compared to that guy, unless you're analyzing every play and every practice, you really don't have the knowledge base to be very definitive in what you're saying,” Osborne said.
Osborne is wrapping up his tenure as athletic director, and on Friday he briefly addressed both the positives and negatives of college athletics. Academics, health care, nutrition and amenities are among the good, and the impact of money and television and the complexities of the rules among the bad.
“There's so much focus on money today,” Osborne said. “Salaries have escalated, a lot has been done with facilities — and most of that is OK. But it seems like when I go to Big Ten or NCAA meetings any more, it's more like being on the board of directors at a bank than being involved with intercollegiate athletics.”
Osborne said he remains pleased with the job performance of Bo Pelini, 48-18 (a .727 winning percentage) since taking over as head coach in 2008.
“If you look at the Hall of Fame coaching careers, you'll see the great majority of Hall of Fame coaches had winning percentages in the 60s — 65, 63. There's a few over 70, but not very many.”
Osborne said he finds the conference realignment that is still unfolding disconcerting. Rutgers and Maryland have recently been added to the Big Ten, putting the league at 14.
“(Commissioner) Jim Delany will be doing a new television contract for 2017 — negotiated in 2016,” Osborne said. “And I think Jim is looking at television sets. Rutgers represents the New York market, which is several million. Maryland represents the Washington, D.C. area and Virginia, which represents several million. … I think he was concerned about the ACC locking up the Eastern seaboard.”
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What could happen next for the Big Ten?
“Jim hasn't spoken to me about this and we haven't had any conversations about it, but you would think it would be fairly logical that rather than staying at 14 (schools) that eventually it might go to 16,” Osborne said. “Who those would be, I don't know. But it could happen.”
Other items discussed:
>> What kind of divisional alignment can be expected in the Big Ten? “I would hope they would start over and do a geographical distribution,” Osborne said. “Because if you think about travel — particularly the Olympic sports — if we have to send teams back to the East coast repeatedly, it's going to be very expensive. Maybe that will happen, but I don't know for sure.”
>> Osborne was thanked by one attendee for all he's done. “I've done the best I could,” Osborne said. “I don't know that I've done as well as some people say that I have. But we tried to restore the culture, and I think the players feel welcome and the people feel welcome around there again.”
Ľ On taking the field with the team before the final home game: “(Defensive end) Eric Martin inspired me to run a little bit faster when I ran out onto the field last week. I knew he was behind me somewhere and his mind-set would be to run right up my back.”
>> People often ask Osborne if he misses coaching.
“I do,” Osborne said. “I miss the players. But not always.”
>> Osborne recalled the early days of the Big Red Breakfast, held at Johnny's Cafť: “It used to be we went through the whole (game) film, and at the end there was about eight guys left.”
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