During the Big Eight’s weekly conference call on the Monday after Nebraska’s 28-12 victory at Iowa State, Oklahoma Coach Gary Gibbs was asked if he planned to resign, effective at season’s end. Gibbs had succeeded Barry Switzer as the Sooners’ head coach in 1989.
“No,” Gibbs said. His focus was Nebraska.
Oklahoma, like the top-ranked Huskers, had a week off to prepare for the game in Norman on the day after Thanksgiving.
A week later, however, on the Monday before the game, Gibbs announced his resignation at season’s end.
As mentioned previously, Iowa State’s Jim Walden had resigned, under pressure, and then been suspended for the Cyclones’ final game against Colorado for criticizing officials.
After that game, won by the Buffaloes to finish the regular season 10-1, Coach Bill McCartney announced he was resigning to focus on Promise Keepers, a men’s Christian ministry he founded in 1990—the season Colorado won the Associated Press national championship.
Football wasn’t the most important thing in his life, McCartney said.
The day after Gibbs’ announcement, Oklahoma State Coach Pat Jones announced his resignation. The Cowboys hadn’t won since losing to Nebraska to open conference play, going 0-6-1 down the stretch. The tie was with Iowa State, the only game the Cyclones didn’t lose.
In summary, half the Big Eight coaches had resigned in 1994.
In that context, as the Huskers prepared to play Oklahoma, Tom Osborne said he had no “immediate” plans to leave Nebraska, even if the Huskers were to win a national championship.
Which brings us back to the game against the 6-4 Sooners.
Osborne, as he had done in the past, said he wasn’t in coaching to win national championships. What he wanted from his teams was playing to their potential.
That’s what really excited him as a coach, he said.
Still, with a victory against Oklahoma, the program most Husker fans still considered their traditional rival, would give Nebraska the outright Big Eight title and an invitation to a fourth consecutive Orange Bowl, where the Huskers would almost certainly play for a national championship.
Though the Sooners were out of the conference-title race, a victory could spoil things for Nebraska; Colorado would tie with a Husker loss. And Oklahoma would probably get a better bowl bid.
The Sooners had defeated Nebraska only once under Gibbs, 45-10 at Norman in 1990. The Huskers had won 33-9 the last time they played at Owen Field.
There was other potential drama on the Nebraska sideline the day after Thanksgiving. The travel roster included Tommie Frazier, who had been expected to miss the remainder of the season because of a blood-clot issue. Frazier hadn’t played since the fourth game against Pacific.
Frazier had appealed to the NCAA for an additional season of eligibility but his appeal was denied, which he learned on the Tuesday before the Oklahoma game. The next day, doctors cleared him to play. Whether he would against the Sooners remained to be seen. But he would be suited up.
As it turned out, Frazier would wear a No. 17 jersey instead of the No. 15 he had worn since he’d been at Nebraska. Apparently, his No. 15 road jersey had been damaged during the second game of the season at Texas Tech, the Huskers’ last road game with a healthy Frazier.
He had completed only 5-of-15 passes for 88 yards but had rushed for 84 yards and two touchdowns in the 42-16 victory. Berringer came off the bench to carry once for 15 yards and go 0-2 passing with one interception. He had thrown only three interceptions since, with 10 touchdown passes.
Osborne, in his 22nd season in charge at Nebraska, was the dean of Big Eight coaches in 1994. Glen Mason was in the seventh of nine at Kansas. Bill Snyder was in the sixth of what would be 27 at Kansas State. And Missouri’s Larry Smith was in his first of seven, after replacing Bob Stull.
The others would be gone in 1995.
Next: Winning in Norman isn’t easy