He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1998.
After two years away from coaching, voters in the western Nebraska district elected him to the House of Representatives in 2000, 2002 and 2004. In perhaps the greatest upset in Nebraska political history, Osborne lost to popular incumbent Dave Heineman in the 2006 Republican gubernatorial primary.
Osborne finished his third term in Congress and returned to the university to teach classes in leadership and business ethics before answering Perlman’s call to steady the athletic department.
George Darlington, a longtime assistant coach under Osborne, said he knows Osborne was extremely disappointed to lose the gubernatorial race. But had Osborne won, Darlington pointed out, he wouldn’t have been the athletic director.
‘‘Who would be in place to have those facilities built?’’ Darlington said. ‘‘Steve Pederson, of course, had rubbed so many people wrong that I don’t think he could have gotten it to completion. Someone from the outside wouldn’t have had the clout.’’
Osborne plans to devote more time to the TeamMates program that he and his wife, Nancy, founded in 1991. What started as a small youth mentoring program has grown to 120 communities serving more than 4,000 students in grades 4-12. The program matches a student with an adult volunteer mentor to provide one hour of individual mentoring each week during the school year.
He also will get to enjoy more time with his grandchildren and do the things he and Nancy put off during his years as a coach, congressman and athletic director.
‘‘He'll be as busy as ever,’’ Rodgers said. ‘‘It’s not like he’s going to just go off and fish.’’