|Tom Osborne is a name that's been synonymous with Nebraska athletics since 1973. (US Presswire)|
Nebraska athletic director Tom Osborne announced his retirement during a press conference on Wednesday. Osborne will remain as Nebraska's athletic director until January 1, 2013, and will help find his replacement.
The 75-year old Osborne cited his age as the primary factor in his decision to retire.
"At some point, whether you're able to function or not, the perception that you're getting old can get in the way," Osborne said. "I don't want to be one of those guys everybody is walking around wringing their hands about, what are they going to do with him. That happens sometimes."
Despite his age, Osborne said his health played no role in his decision.
"I'm probably healthier today than when I was a member of Congress," he said. "That takes a big toll on you. I have no issues."
Osborne has been the athletic director at Nebraska since 2007 when he took over the position from Steve Pederson. Since taking the job, Osborne helped oversee the school's move from the Big 12 to the Big Ten.
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Before becoming the school's athletic director, Osborne spent 25 years as Nebraska's head coach, leading the Cornhuskers to national titles in 1994, 1995 and 1997. In his 25 seasons, the Cornhuskers went 255-49-3 while winning 13 conference titles -- 12 Big Eight titles and one Big 12 title.
After retiring following the 1997 season, Osborne ran a successful election to become Nebraska's third district Congressman. Osborne also ran for governor in 2006, but after losing to the incumbent Dave Heineman, Osborne left the political arena, returning to Lincoln as athletic director at the request of chancellor Harvey Perlman.
Perlman said he has already started searching for Osborne's replacement, and he praised Osborne for stabilizing the athletic department five years ago during a time of turmoil. The football program was struggling under Bill Callahan, and staff morale was low under athletic director Steve Pederson.
"There are people you can admire from a distance and then when you get up close you see all the warts," Perlman said. "That's not been my experience with Tom. It's been fun to interview head coaches with him and to see the national respect and awe they have of his reputation."
Osborne fired Callahan after the 2007 football season and hired Bo Pelini, who made the Huskers competitive again and led them to the Big 12 championship game in 2009 and 2010.
Among Osborne's other key personnel moves were hiring Tim Miles from Colorado State last March to coach the men's basketball program and hiring former major-leaguer Darin Erstad in 2010 to coach baseball at his alma mater.
Under Osborne's watch, the athletic department has built a new basketball practice facility and entered into a public-private partnership to build a 16,000-seat basketball arena in downtown Lincoln that will open for the 2013-14 season. He also oversaw an expansion project that will increase Memorial Stadium's capacity to more than 90,000 next year.
"I feel we're well positioned," Osborne said. "We worked hard on the culture and part of that has not just been internal. We've tried to link this place with the former players. ... Whatever we've accomplished couldn't happen if we didn't have a united fan base. It would be hard to find one equal to our fans around the country. It allows a program in a state of 1.8 million to be competitive with programs in densely populated areas."
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.