As the Nebraska Cornhuskers and Penn State Nittany Lions prepare to do battle on the gridiron this weekend an opportunity to discuss some of the similarities between the two programs presents itself. These are two much storied programs with long histories, but only one can come out victorious on Saturday. Which one has the greater history in college football?
Both programs have such a long and storied history that there are certain issues that may not be addressed so it is more pertinent to discuss more recent history. That said the horse in the room is obviously the comparison of the two great coaches in recent history at the respective programs.
Tom Osborne has of course been away from the game longer than Joe Paterno after Osborne left on a high note following a national title in 1997. It would be so easy to give an advantage to Osborne and the Nebraska Cornhuskers in the coaching department. Osborne won more national championships, won more conference titles, and after the 111 victories that were removed from Paterno’s record Osborne won more games. Osborne is not the only head coach at Nebraska that is still remembered; Bob Devaney is still a name that is remembered and held in high regard in the state of Nebraska. Also the ominous scandal that hangs over the Penn State program and coach Paterno would seem to give the Huskers an edge.
By simply giving an edge to the Huskers in coaching history because of the aforementioned would not be a disservice. Nittany Lion fans could argue a great point that perhaps Osborne hung it up too early. Honest Husker fans could not argue with that statement. They see an Osborne rival once again coaching at Kansas State in head coach Bill Snyder still taking the field each week. Husker fans also would welcome their coach back with the most open of arms. They wanted him back when Frank Solich left as well as Bill Callahan. Also Osborne has proven that he is in more than adequate health to do the job. He, along with his wife, has ran his very successful Mentors program with the same attention to detail that he had during his coaching career. Osborne also served as a representative from the state of Nebraska in Washington D.C. and ran for Governor before taking the position of Athletic Director at the University of Nebraska.
Coach Joe Paterno coached some amazing individuals and put more players into the NFL. His defenses at Penn State were so iconic the school earned the nickname of Linebacker U. Because of his longevity as a head coach he was once the record holder for all time wins in college football, but unfortunately wins had to be relinquished as a result of the actions by a fellow coach at Penn State.
The uneventful, unexciting result of the comparison is that Osborne has a slight edge, but it is only by the slightest of margins. The question that remains in the back of Husker minds is what could have happened if their coach had not hung it up in 1997? If Coach Osborne had continued to jog on to the field with his team where would his legacy have been today? Possibly the greatest coach in all of college football history.