Tom Osborne says Nebraska wanted to play Michigan for '97 national title, but the Rose Bowl got in the way
Tom Osborne wanted to settle the 1997 national championship with Michigan, fair and square, on the field.
But the former Nebraska football coach, and current Cornhusker athletic director, says the Rose Bowl ultimately got in the way of settling an undisputed champ.
"We were undefeated, and Michigan was undefeated, and we very badly wanted to play Michigan and we were pretty much a free agent and able to move at that time, but Michigan had contractual obligations with the Rose Bowl," Osborne told Sirius XM radio recently. "So as the champion in the Big Ten they had to go to the Rose Bowl and they couldn’t’ play us. We weren’t allowed to go to the Rose Bowl at that time.
"I think those kinds of scenarios led to the BCS and the desire to get 1 and 2 together."
Associated Press file photo
The Wolverines, ranked No. 1 by The Associated Press, went on to beat No. 8 Washington State, 21-16, in the Rose Bowl. Nebraska, ranked No. 2 in the AP poll, throttled No. 3 Tennessee, 42-17, in the Orange Bowl.
Following the game, Nebraska quarterback Scott Frost made a plea to voters in the Coaches' Poll to vault the Cornhuskers to No. 1 overall.
"One, if you can look yourself in the mirror and say if your job depended on playing either Michigan or Nebraska to keep your job, who would you rather play?" Frost remarked after the game. "You watched the Rose Bowl and the Orange Bowl. Michigan won with a controversial play at the end. We took apart the third-ranked team in the country.
"The second point I have is: I can't see how any coach outside the Big Ten or the Pac-10 would vote for Michigan. Because if somebody from North Carolina, Florida State, West Virginia, Notre Dame--wherever it might--if they were undefeated and won the Alliance bowl game, they would expect to share the national title.
"It's been split before. Colorado and Georgia Tech split it. Washington and Miami split it. It's OK to split it. It should be split and it's up to the coaches."
The coaches eventually listened and crowned Nebraska -- in Osborne's final season -- as their national champion. Michigan kept its spot atop the AP poll, and the title was split.
The next season marked the debut of the Bowl Championship Series.
As for the current college football playoff situation, Osborne says he has some concerns over the newly-proposed four-team playoff model -- especially if it diminishes the importance of the regular season.
"We’re a little bit uneasy as to where this thing is going to head," Osborne told Sirius. "There will be a clamor for an eight-team playoff and then a 16-team playoff, and you have to worry about the student-athletes. How many games are they going to have to play and still go to school.
"So there are a lot of things in the mix and no one has a clear answer right now."