Dec. 8, 1978.

The Colorado-Nebraska rivalry nearly changed in dramatic fashion on this date as Tom Osborne seriously considered leaving Lincoln, Neb., and taking his talents to Boulder.

Former CU coaching legend turned athletic director Eddie Crowder interviewed the head Cornhusker for 10 hours and thought he had his man.

But after returning home and sleeping on the decision, Osborne -- born and raised in Hastings, Neb. -- opted to stay put and led the Huskers to three national titles, 13 conference titles, 25 bowls and 255 wins before retiring after a perfect season in 1997.

"Disappointed," was Crowder`s reaction to the Daily Camera. "But Tom is very reserved, very difficult to read."

While serving Nebraska`s Third District as its congressman in the U.S. House of Representatives, Osborne reflected on his flirtation with CU during a phone interview with the Camera from his office in Washington D.C.

"When I agreed to go out to Colorado I thought we would probably take the job," said Osborne, whose wife Nancy accompanied him to Boulder. "The setting was beautiful, and I was impressed. Everything was nice. ...

"The thing I couldn`t get past was telling the players. I just couldn`t get over that hurdle. And I was a native Nebraskan."

On Friday at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, CU and Nebraska will meet for the final time as conference rivals. The Buffs are leaving the Big 12 for the Pac-12 while the Huskers are headed to the Big Ten.


There are no official plans to continue the series, which began in 1898 and has been contested every year since 1948, although fans can now dream about a CU-Nebraska Rose Bowl.

"That would really be something, wouldn`t it?" Charlie McBride said during a recent interview with the Camera. "Of course, if you win these conferences now days you go to the BCS (title game), so you wouldn`t want to be the second-place team (and chosen for the Rose Bowl)."

McBride, who served as Nebraska`s defensive coordinator for 23 seasons (1977-99), never stopped paying his C-Club dues. Even when half the crowd at Folsom Field booed him during a reunion of CU`s 1962 Orange Bowl team.

McBride was a graduate assistant under Crowder, who coached CU to 21-16 win over Nebraska in 1967. The Huskers won the next 18 meetings until Bill McCartney`s breakthrough victory in 1986, a 20-10 Buffs` win at Folsom Field.

"We really tried to take the focus that the team that was our rival was the team that we played that week," Osborne said when asked about McCartney`s public announcement that Nebraska was the Buffs` rival and was to be circled in red on the schedule. "It bothered folks we didn`t take Colorado as our rival."

McCartney also coached CU to wins over Nebraska in 1989 (27-21) and `90 (27-12) en route to a pair of Big Eight championships and a share of a national title.

"After those games I would go over and congratulate the other guys," McBride said. "I probably wouldn`t have done that if Colorado wasn`t my school."

The Huskers -- who have a commanding 48-18-2 lead in the series -- never really embraced CU as a rival, even when the game was moved to the Friday after Thanksgiving. But it`s not a coincidence that Osborne ratcheted up his recruiting efforts and won three national titles in the 1990s after McCartney reached the college football mountain top.

"After that there was an emphasis at Nebraska, even if it was subconscious, on beating Colorado."

Shawn Watson also experienced the highs and lows of the series on both sides of the border. The veteran offensive coordinator was on the right end of 62-36 score as a part CU`s 2001 coaching staff and on the wrong end of a 65-51 score as a Bill Callahan assistant in 2007.

"My first experience with the game was in 1999, hearing Coach Mac speak to our players before the game," Watson, Gary Barnett`s former offensive coordinator at CU, said. "I will never forget that talk. Mac had made the game very important at Colorado, and Gary understood that and felt the same way, which is why he asked Mac to speak to our team. ...

"I still haven`t forgotten that speech and I think of it every year."

Watson landed on his feet in Lincoln when Barnett was fired by Mike Bohn after the 2005 season. He was retained by Bo Pelini when the Callahan era at Nebraska ended following the loss to Dan Hawkins and Co. three years ago.

"At Colorado our scout team used to dress in Nebraska uniforms," Watson noted. "Here it is different. It`s another game and they`re all important. There is no disrespect intended, that`s just the approach at Nebraska."

Osborne returned to Nebraska as the athletic director in 2007 and orchestrated the program`s resurgence on the field with the hiring of Pelini and the decision to leave the Big 12.

Ironically, McCartney is now a candidate to become CU`s head coach once again.

"When Bill came and emphasized beating Nebraska they really picked it up," McBride said. "It was a great move by Bill. I hope the next coach at CU does the same thing in the Pac-12 with an opponent."