Last evening, I was joking around with the other OTE writers. To this point in the week, we have been pretty good to the Penn State contingent. By generally talking around obvious issues and employing our very own Paterno Ave. to give good insight on the new coach, scheme, and general outlook in State College, we have given the Penn State masses a nice respite from an otherwise crazy week. While that is all fine and good, I find myself wishing we could do just a little... more. I did not volunteer to write a bunch of hate towards Penn State (coming tomorrow), and since Nebraska had the honor to do so last year, I was more or less content to sit this week out, minus some musings in the potluck.
Then I read this little gem in the Lincoln Journal-Star:
"I thought, 'Well, if Joe kicked up a fuss and said, 'We deserve to play Nebraska,' somebody would've relented," Osborne recalled Tuesday during his radio show on the Husker Sports Network. "But (Paterno) said we were bound to this (Bowl Coalition) contract, and that's the way it was."
I'm not sure if Osborne, before Tuesday, had ever discussed publicly his conversation with Paterno. Anybody else know?
Yeah, it's sort of amazing. Osborne tried to go the renegade route to create a de facto national championship game. That's interesting on a lot of levels.
"We would've given anything to play Penn State at a neutral site rather than (go to Miami to play Miami)," Osborne said Tuesday.
I had to reread this a few times before it really sank in. Eighteen years ago, we could of had ourselves the first, "real," national championship game. Instead, JoePa chickened out, Nebraska came back and beat Miami in their own backyard, and the voters crowned Nebraska champion. So who is at fault for Nebraska getting the nod? It is your beloved JoePa. Joe Paterno was a chicken. That's right. I said it. What are you going to do about it Mr. Penn State fan?
Now, before you get the pitchforks and torches out, let's remember that I am a Nebraska blogger and by contract, I am obligated to put a whole bunch of caveats in any negative pieces towards major football powers. Unless your name is Northwestern, I'm not exactly Mr. Meanie Face. In general, I have always really respected Paterno. He coached football the right way, he gave more to philanthropic endeavors than any coach that I can remember and he really just did his own thing while the game turned to full-speed Capitalism. All of the craziness that went down in State College notwithstanding, I think JoePa deserves quite a bit of respect from college football in general. He made it a better place for all of us and hopefully one day we will be able to say that.
With that said, I still cannot get over this little sound byte from Osborne. See, I remember 1994 vividly. I remember wishing Nebraska was playing Penn State as opposed to big bad Miami in Miami where Nebraska was not exactly batting 1.000. Even so, can you imagine the way football would have changed if Paterno steps back and says, "You know what, why the hell aren't we playing Nebraska for all the marbles?" Osborne, to this point, was just a good coach, but he did not have a crystal football in the trophy case and his biggest moment was actually watching his team lose two heartbreaking National Championships. Let's just say that he did not have the same platform that Paterno would have had. When he put that call out to Paterno, I'm sure T.O. was just hoping beyond hope that something good could come of the conversation. Unfortunately, it wasn't in the cards (you know, because Paterno was chicken, right).
Fast forward to today. We are embarking on a new(ish) era of college football. The days of two major conference undefeated teams missing the chance to play for the title are over. Whether the model is a Plus 1, Playoff, BCS Retread, or the Status Quo, we're probably going to never run into the same thing that happened in 1994 (or 1997 for that matter), but that was 18 years ago. We are still fighting the same fights we did then about how we should decide who plays who. One phone call could have changed the way this all went down. Two teams and one goal: deciding on the field who was best. Talk about a novel idea.
Paterno and Osborne are legends in college football. Their titles, records, philosophies and philanthropic endeavors have cemented that. How much more important are both men if that game gets played in 1994? Osborne may have made that call hoping to get out of another trip to Miami, especially because he was sick of playing Florida teams on their home turf, but I truly believe he also hoped he could play the best. Paterno, in what was most likely a wise move, decided he would no have part of it. That's why I am calling him chicken. The best want to play the best, right? Of course, maybe that's not being fair to Paterno. Maybe it was the Big Ten powers conspiring against the Nittany Lions to make them suffer for being so good so early on in their conference affiliation. Joe actually called them and they said no because they didn't want him to win the title outright. Yeah, I'm sure this is how it went down. The most controversial and convoluted answer is always the best, right? Um, sure.
Oh, and one last thing... Nebraska was not going to lose 1994.