NEO A&M Honors Tom Osborne as First Legend

Editor at Large

SUCCESSFUL COACH: Tom Osborne in the University of Nebraska’s Memorial Stadium during his tenure as one of the great college football coaches of all-time.

Courtesy University of Nebraska

Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College boasts an illustrious legacy of athletics supremacy.

There are the six national championships in football. There are national championships in basketball and wrestling.

There are the national junior college hall of famers. Coaches. Athletes.

Alumni have dotted professional rosters in baseball, football, basketball.

The two-year institution in Miami, which traces its roots to 1919, recently added another chapter to its book of influence.

In September, the department of athletics hosted an on campus a fund-raiser under the banner of the “first annual Legends Series.”

No less a legend than Tom Osborne was the featured guest and speaker.

Alone, Osborne might have sufficed for the “legends” part of the soiree at any other venue or fund-raiser.

But is not just any institution.

There is a community-wide pride that envelops the campus and the nationally recognized athletics program.

is the only two-year school of the 11 within the borders of Oklahoma still playing football.

While all other state junior college football programs have been eliminated, has stayed the course established by S.A. “Red” Robertson, the iconic coach who guided the Norsemen from 1945 through 1966.

For the seven decades since the end of World War II, has consistently been hailed as the standard by which all junior college football programs are measured.
Osborne’s appearance in September validates NEO’s rank.

He was, after all, one of the greatest football coaches in history, guiding Nebraska to three national championships before serving three terms in the U.S. Congress.

Yet for one night in September, in Miami, Oklahoma, it was difficult to distinguish between the Osborne celebrity and the legend that is Northeastern A&M football.
The theme of the night, “Legends Series,” was indeed focused on the soft-spoken, God-fearing presence of Osborne.

But Norsemen from seasons gone by were greeted with waves of appreciation and adoration resembling national championship celebrations.

Former Tulsan Chuck Bowman, who coached the Norsemen footballers to two national championships (1967 and 1969) in his five seasons, was serenaded by the nearly 200 guests in a surprise observance of his upcoming 80th birthday.

Bowman, who coached at Tulsa Central and Tulsa McLain before moving on to , recognized more than a dozen of his players from the undefeated 1969 team.
Guests in the audience included such notables as University of Oklahoma legend Clendon Thomas, former University of Tulsa football coach David Rader, former University of Kansas and Oral Roberts University basketball coach Ted Owens, and former University of Oklahoma and University of Nebraska football assistant Jerry Pettibone.

Scores of Hall of Fame members were scattered throughout the Calcagno Family Ballroom of NEO’s Bruce G. Carter Student Union, including Tulsa residents and former Norsemen Gene Hart and J.V. Haney.

Dale Patterson, director of athletics and one-time head football coach of the Norsemen, pulled the event together and served as the evening’s personable co-host, along with school president Jeff Hale.

Current football coach Ryan Held conducted a question-answer session with Osborne, his former coach. Held played at Nebraska (1993-96) and later served as a graduate assistant (1997) under Osborne.

“I was always impressed with his knowledge of the game,” Osborne said during the evening.

The 78-year-old Osborne, who fashioned a 25-year record of 255-49-3 at Nebraska, was first elected to the House of Representatives in 2001. Upon leaving Congress, he returned to Nebraska as director of athletics before retiring in 2013.

He touched on a number of topics during his warm and casual presentation. It was like having a conversation over coffee with the family patriarch on an autumn morning.

He talked about his coaching rivalry with the University of Oklahoma and Barry Switzer. “One of the healthiest rivalries in all of football,” Osborne called it.
Harkening back to those days of Switzer’s wishbone offense, Osborne broke into a small grin when he said: “I had more bad moments in Oklahoma than good ones.”

He showed his spiritual side, noting a relationship with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes that began when he was an athlete at Hastings (Neb.) College in the 1950s.
Speaking in a voice that was a little raspy, Osborne was cordial and downright gracious. He signed scores of autographs, on just about everything from helmets to napkins. Poised and genteel, he readily posed for photographs with anyone clutching a cellphone.

As he sat facing Held for the Q&A, Osborne was relaxed and spontaneous.
It was obvious that Osborne was enjoying the championship atmosphere provided by , not to mention having the opportunity to reunite with a former player.

Held asked Osborne what was behind his decision to leave a Hall of Fame career in athletics to enter the halls of Congress.

“Well, I think I lost my mind,” Osborne said, a twinkle in his eyes triggering a smile that illuminated a room.

A College Football Hall of Fame coach with a down-to-earth hall of fame personality was just the right combination to help Northeastern A&M celebrate in one night a rich and irrevocable 70-year history of athletics.

Updated 10-26-2015

Back to Top


email (we never post emails)
  Textile Help

Back to Top

Contact GTR News