When Tom Osborne was football coach at Nebraska, he once said the only thing he disliked more than firing someone was hiring someone.
Many management-types can empathize with that sentiment. And with Osborne, it showed in the continuity on his staff, as he rarely hired or fired.
Yet when Osborne returned to Nebraska as athletic director in October 2007, that feeling didn't stop him from changing coaches in three major sports during his first 4Ĺ years on the job.
“Just realize at the appropriate time,'' he said in his first week, “decisions will be made.''
The quickest hook came in football.
Osborne, on his 38th day, fired Bill Callahan. That was two days less than it took ex-A.D. Steve Pederson to find Callahan in the first place.
The hiring about a week later of Bo Pelini, defensive coordinator at LSU and a one-year Husker assistant in 2003, generally drew positive reviews.
Questions arose, though, in two areas: Some wanted to know why a program of Nebraska's profile hired someone without head coaching experience; others wondered if Osborne hired Pelini in order to give Husker assistants who had been fired under Pederson a chance to return.
Nebraska has won at least nine games in each of Pelini's five seasons, but the program hasn't claimed a conference title or played in a BCS bowl.
In late spring of 2011, Osborne turned his eye to a baseball program that missed the postseason conference tournament three straight years.
He fired nine-year coach Mike Anderson, who led NU to its only College World Series victory, and hired former Husker All-American and major league All-Star Darin Erstad.
Erstad's lone coaching experience was spending the 2011 season as Anderson's volunteer hitting coach. That, and Osborne bypassing several active college coaches, led to some grumbling in the coaching grapevine.
About the hire, Osborne said at the time that Erstad “knows what good baseball looks like.”
“And the big advantage he has,” Osborne said, “is that he knows the situation here — he knows his players and they know him. There will be an adjustment period, but it won't be as long.”
Nebraska's record in Erstad's first season was 35-23 overall and 14-10 in the Big Ten. The Huskers went 1-2 in the conference tournament and didn't make the NCAA tourney.
In men's basketball, Osborne added two years to Doc Sadler's contract on March 15, 2011, stretching the deal to five years.
Almost a year to the day later, Osborne fired Sadler after a second last-place league finish in three years. Sadler, from his reworked contract, could collect about $3 million in liquidated damages.
Osborne then gave the longest contract in school history — seven years — to Tim Miles.
Miles has never won an NCAA tournament game or recruited a player who went on to the NBA. Nonetheless, one of the qualities that impressed Osborne about Miles was his history of turning around programs.
“If you can take four different programs that pretty much were flat on their backs and build them up as he has, it tells you something,” Osborne said at the time of Miles' hiring. “I'm very impressed by his vision.”
— Lee Barfknecht
Head football coach Bill Callahan is fired after a 27-22 four-year record. Callahan collects $3.125 million from Nebraska under the terms of his contract, signed in September to keep him at the school through January 2012.
Bo Pelini is introduced as the Huskers' football coach. NU's defensive coordinator for one year under Frank Solich, he had been dismissed by Callahan in January 2004. Pelini's initial compensation package is $1.1 million, with bonuses available.
Chuck Chmelka is named head coach of men's gymnastics. Chmelka joined the Huskers in 1986 as an assistant.
Francis Allen retires after 40 years leading the program, the longest tenured head coach in NU history.
Baseball coach Mike Anderson is fired after nine seasons as head coach. He had one year remaining on his contract, which paid him about $330,000 in 2011.
Ex-Husker and ex-major leaguer Darin Erstad is hired as head baseball coach. His base salary of $160,000 makes him one of the highest-paid Big Ten coaches.
David Harris of Emporia State is named distance and head cross country coach. He was a Nebraska assistant coach early in his career.
Jay Dirksen retires at the end of the 2011 season after 28 seasons as Nebraska's distance and cross country coach.
Men's basketball coach Doc Sadler is fired after six seasons. In 2011, Osborne had signed Sadler to a reformulated contract that boosted his pay, lengthened his contract by two years and boosted to $3.4 million the payoff for firing him.
Tim Miles of Colorado State is hired as men's basketball coach. He signs a seven-year contract starting at $1.4 million annually.
Stacy Underwood is hired as rifle coach, replacing Morgan Hicks. Underwood, who competed for Nebraska's rifle team from 2003 to 2007, has been an assistant coach at Kentucky.