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Osborne: Next coach must understand Nebraska football culture

LINCOLN, Neb. -- The next Nebraska coach doesn't necessarily
have to have ties to the school, but Tom Osborne says the
Cornhuskers' next leader must have an understanding of the
program's unique culture and history.

Somebody such as former Nebraska quarterback and Buffalo coach
Turner Gill would qualify.

Buffalo athletic director Warde Manuel gave permission to
Osborne, Nebraska's interim athletic director, to speak with Gill,
Buffalo sports information director Paul Vecchio told The
Associated Press. He said an interview had not yet been scheduled.

Manuel told the Lincoln Journal Star that Turner has his support.

"I think it's tremendous. Turner is absolutely ready to coach at Nebraska. He's done a great job, an awesome turnaround. Although I would hate to lose him, he would be a great coach there."

Manuel told the the Journal Star that he believes an interview will take place "in the next day or so."

Gill's hiring would be a sign of progress, the head of the Black Coaches and Administrators says.

That's because Nebraska is a Bowl Championship Series school in the Big 12.

"It's a key job because it's visible," BCA executive director
Floyd Keith said Monday.

There are only six black coaches at 119
major-college football schools: Gill, Mississippi State's Sylvester
Croom, UCLA's Karl Dorrell, Washington's Tyrone Willingham, Kansas
State's Ron Prince and Miami's Randy Shannon.

Four years ago, Keith criticized Nebraska for its 40-day search
that resulted in the hiring of Bill Callahan, saying former
athletic director Steve Pederson didn't seriously consider minority
candidates.

Keith said he would send a letter to Osborne discussing the
BCA's interest in the search and the organization's willingness to
assist. Such letters are routinely sent to schools conducting
coaching searches, Keith said.

"We hope we have conversations with them during that process
and that they follow the guidelines for an inclusive and equitable
search," Keith said.

LSU defensive coordinator Bo Pelini also appears to be on the top of the list of
names mentioned most often as possible successors Bill Callahan.

The Journal Star reported that an airplane carrying Osborne and university chancellor Harvey Perlman left Lincoln bound for Baton Rouge, La., on Sunday afternoon.

The Omaha World-Herald reported that Osborne met with Pelini on Sunday then traveled to Atlanta. Parker Executive Search, the firm assisting Nebraska in finding a replacement for Callahan, is based in Atlanta.

Pederson interviewed Gill and
Pelini before Callahan's hiring in 2004.

One of the criticisms of Callahan, who was fired Saturday,
was that he didn't understand or appreciate the fans' passion and
high expectations. Both were inflated during Osborne's coaching
career, a 25-year period that saw the Huskers average 10 wins a
season and win three national championships.

"I think it's pretty important that they have a good grasp of
it," Osborne said of prospective candidates. "I think most people
in football have a kind of peripheral sense of what it is like."

Gill quarterbacked the Huskers in the early 1980s and was an
assistant under Osborne and Frank Solich. He left in 2004, after
Callahan's first season.

In December 2005, Gill agreed to a five-year contract to coach
Buffalo, which won just 10 games in its first seven years in the
Football Bowl Subdivision, formerly known as Division I-A. After
the Bulls went 2-10 in 2006, Gill led them to a 5-3 finish in the
Mid-America Conference, and a first-place tie in the East Division,
this season. Buffalo was 5-7 overall.

Pelini was the Huskers' defensive coordinator under Solich in
2003 after working eight years as an NFL assistant.

Told of the flight, LSU athletic director Skip Bertman told the Journal Star, "Are you kidding me?"

Bertman told the the Journal Star that nobody from Nebraska contacted him regarding Pelini, but added, "It's probably not absolutely, positively mandatory for an assistant. I don't suppose he felt he had to contact me, I guess."

Gill and Pelini did not return messages left by The Associated
Press on Sunday.

Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez's name has been
bandied, but he said Sunday he has no interest in a return to
coaching. Alvarez, who stepped down as Badgers' coach in 2005,
played linebacker at Nebraska in 1965-67.

"I've got the job I want right now," Alvarez said.

Osborne said it would be "nice" if the next coach already had
experience at Nebraska.

"But that's not going to be exclusive," Osborne said. "I'm
not going to make that a prerequisite. So I'll just try to find the
best candidate. And it takes two people to agree. I may talk to
some people that have Nebraska ties that want no part of it."

Among other names to surface in media reports are Rutgers' Greg
Schiano, Cincinnati's Brian Kelly, Boise State's Chris Petersen,
Navy's Paul Johnson and South Florida's Jim Leavitt.

Schiano said he had not been contacted by Nebraska and declined
further comment. Kelly also declined to comment.

Cincinnati associate athletic director for communications Kelby Siler told the Journal Star that Kelly wouldn't discuss rumors.

"He doesn't want to talk about it," Siler told the newspaper. "He doesn't want to field questions. We're just trying to figure out if we're going to El Paso, Charlotte or Birmingham [for bowl games] right now."

Siler told the Journal Star that athletic director Mike Thomas won't say whether he's been contacted by schools seeking permission to speak with Kelly.

Petersen, Johnson and Leavitt did not return messages left at
their offices and through their schools' sports information
departments.

Whoever the coach is, Osborne envisions a return to the days
when Nebraska teams played a bruising brand of football and
cultivated many of their best players from within the state.

Callahan junked Osborne and Solich's triple-option for the West
Coast offense, and the Huskers seemed to lose their hard edge.
Under Osborne and Solich, some of the most ferocious hitting
occurred on the practice field. Under Callahan, practices in full
pads were uncommon.

Osborne said he also wants the new coach to embrace the
atmosphere, which means showing respect for the program's past,
being visible and building the trust of fans and players.

"You want somebody whose word is good," Osborne said. "It's
very important in recruiting that the players trust you. That what
you tell them is going to happen.

"You want somebody that knows football and has a good work
ethic. You want somebody that can motivate. Some people know
football, but they really don't get people to play hard for them.
Again, I'm not saying that's the case [with the previous staff].
But you've got to get players to play hard."

Osborne said he won't mandate a particular style of offense, but
he said some facets of the old triple-option remain effective.

"I think it's really hard in college football if you don't have
some mobility in your quarterback, to be successful," he said.
"You need to have the ability to run the football once in a while
and scramble for a first down. The rest of it, I don't know. The
new coach will have to decide."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.