It’s not easy picking the defining moment from a 25-year career as a football coach when those 25 years included three national titles (and two more as an assistant), 255 wins and every award that matters. But if you’re looking for a shorthand explanation of who Tom Osborne was, most people will pick the decision to go for two and the win against Miami in the 1984 Orange Bowl as the moment that describes it all.
Osborne’s friend and occasional tormentor for many of those years was Barry Switzer, the brash and bold Oklahoma coach who frequently faced off against Osborne and the Huskers for Big Eight titles and more. Switzer is receiving the Tom Osborne Legacy Award Wednesday night during the Outland Trophy dinner in Omaha.
On Tuesday, Switzer told Chris Schmidt of Hail Varsity Radio that if he were in Osborne’s shoes, the 1984 Orange Bowl probably would’ve had a different ending.
“Tom should’ve had another national championship. I was sitting there that night and I said ‘dammit, kick the extra point, Tom.’ You win the national championship if you do,” Switzer said. “You went into the game No. 1, win or tie you’re going to be national champions. I hated to see him go for two. I understand it, but he would’ve had four of ’em if he’d done that.”
Osborne, of course, did go for two. Quarterback Turner Gill’s pass to I-back Jeff Smith was tipped away at the goal line, Miami covered the ensuing onside kick, ran out the clock and the Hurricanes were national champions for the first time.
Switzer said he would’ve kicked the extra point.
“Hell, it makes sense. A win or a tie gets you a national championship. I’ve gone into games against Nebraska where all I’ve gotta do is tie and I’m the Big Eight champion. And our goal is to win the championship. You accomplish your goal.”
It has been 20 years since either Osborne or Switzer coached a game of football, but this is the rivalry that keeps on giving.
Brandon is the Managing Editor for Hail Varsity and has covered Nebraska athletics for the magazine and web since 2012, Hail Varsity’s first season on the scene. His sports writing has also been featured by Fox Sports, The Guardian and CBS Sports.