Tradition is not taken lightly in the Husker Nation as the Red Sea of Husker fans form every Saturday, of every football season, in every football stadium, in America where the Nebraska Cornhusker’s play. It had become an unexplainable phenomenon and a religion for all that were a part of the Husker nation. Win or loose you would find the Red Sea flowing with all its honor, loyalty and tradition. This tradition remained a driving force, in Husker football, since1962, when Bob Devaney came onto the scene at a time when the Cornhusker’s were desperately in need of a miracle . . .and they got one. Devaney did what no man before him could do. He created a finely honed machine that rolled through the years with a ferocious force. And from the ground up, he built a house where once powerful men like Johnny “The Jet” Rodgers, Jerry Tagge, Jeff Kinney, Jerry Murtaugh, and Joe Orduna had lived. Devaney decorated this house with eight Big Eight Championships and two back-to-back National Championships. This was the house and the nation that Bob Devaney built, a house that is now falling to ruins and nation that is slowly dividing.
Today we can only hear stories from generations before us who laid witness to this once fierce and finely honed machine. These stories are handed down to our children like heirlooms and are the history of our once powerful nation. There use to be a time where Saturdays had become the new Sunday in Nebraska. Streets all over the Husker nation became deserted as everyone piled into their homes, bars, or anywhere that had a T V, to watch The Huskers play. It had become “Husker Time!” and if you happened to be one of the lucky ones who scored a ticket to get into The House, you truly were blessed and were in for a spiritual and emotional experience! For there is an unexplainable oneness that fills the stadium, as strangers become brothers and sisters as they hug one another and give high fives. When all is said and done, you leave The House with a feeling of pure spiritual exhilaration and a newfound realization that no other event you have ever experienced in your life even comes close in comparison.
Bob Devaney gave Nebraska this sense of oneness by unifying the state, which had no NFL team and only one major college, with a game of physical college football. In 1972 Devaney handed the keys to his assistant coach, Tom Osborne, who moved in guys like Mike Rozier, Jarvis Redwine, Irvine Fryar and Turner Gil and as the years moved on more guys moved in like Tommie Frazier, Ahman Green, Grant Wistrom, and Eric Crouch. Osborne carried the Big Red tradition forward leaving in his quake thirteen Big Eight and Big Twelve Championships, two more back to back National Championships in 1994 and 1995, to finally 1997 when the Huskers made their final National Championship and when this finely honed machine started to sputter. This was when Tom Osborne retired; this also was the end of a winning era for the Nebraska Cornhuskers.
As in the tradition of Husker football Tom Osborne handed the keys to his assistant coach Frank Solich in 1998. Under the leadership of Solich things began to run down hill and Nebraska’s perfect record started to see losses with one of the biggest upsets in 2002 showing seven losses for the season. Coach Solich’s reign over Nebraska was short lived when Steve Pederson, the athletic director for the University of Nebraska, fired Solich in 2002. In 2004, Pederson steered away from tradition to hire, Bill Callahan, who was recently fired as head coach for the Oakland Raiders. Change came fiercely under the reign of Bill Callahan. Callahan had brought with him the “West Coast Offense,” and doing away with the rushing format, which Nebraska was known for and ranked as one of the highest in the nation on rushing yardage. He also tried to retire our biggest tradition of all “The Black Shirts,” who for many years were the number one defense in college football and were feared by many. This left a bad taste in Nebraskans mouths. Pictures of past valued players came down from the walls. Traditional Monday night practices and walk on players soon became a memory as Callahan loaded our sidelines with JUCO drafts. No longer were the days of option plays and smash mouth football. No longer were former players welcomed in the house they gave their blood for every Saturday. Loyalty, spirit, and tradition were lost and the house Devaney built became like “Fort Knox.”
The first season under Bill Callahan was a disappointment with it ending 5-6 giving the Huskers their first loosing season in 43 years. In 2005 things started to look up with a finish of 8-4 and a win against the Michigan Wolverines in The Alamo Bowl. In 2006 the Huskers finished the season 9-5 winning the Big 12 north division, which gave them a chance at the Big 12 Championship only to loose to the Oklahoma Sooners 21-7.
Unimaginable things started to happen in 2007 with the parting of the Red Sea and the unexplainable and overwhelming support of Oklahoma Sooner fans, a once fierce rival of Nebraska, who left messages of encouragement and hopes of Nebraska’s return to greatness, on sports message boards all over the Internet. Kudos to the Oklahoma fans who remembered Nebraska as a once fierce opponent and gave their support to a dying nation, you are a dear old friend and rival, hats off to you. All of this after Nebraska gives up 86-20 in combined scores from games played with the Missouri Tigers and The Cowboys of Oklahoma State in consecutive weeks. The Oklahoma State game was a nightmare, fans could no longer endure the pain of watching, their once powerful team be pummeled on the field with the first half ending 38-0 and half the fans giving up their position in the Husker Nation as they walk out of the once unified house that Devaney built. The biggest embarrassment was the return of the 1997 National Championship team and Tom Osborne, for Homecoming, who watch from the sidelines and shouted encouragements to a lifeless team now known as the Nebraska Cornhuskers. Once again the Nebraska Cornhuskers are desperately in need of a miracle. Once again Tom Osborne returns at age 70 as interim athletic director, after the firing of Steve Pederson two days after the Oklahoma State game, to put back together the house and the nation that Bob Devaney built.
But the message is clear as the Husker nation rallies in anger, the era of darkness must come to and end, Bill Callahan and his “West Coast Offense,” must go. We are a Nation of loyalty, integrity, and tradition. We are a Midwest college football team that for four decades has been a fierce contender in the NCAA. No longer will the Husker Nation sit back and watch Bill Callahan tear down the house that Devaney and Osborne had given their blood, sweat and tears to keep so honored and inviting. No longer will the Husker Nation allow Bill Callahan to steal away our spirit and tradition. For this is Nebraska and this is Nebraska Football and the Husker Nation does not take tradition lightly.