Nebraska was set to clinch the Big 12 North in its season finale against Colorado in Lincoln last season, but the Big 12 didn't have a representative on-hand to give the Huskers their trophy.
"They didn’t think it would be safe to send somebody up," Osborne told the Lincoln Journal Star after the game. "That’s the word I got. You can call [Big 12 commissioner Dan] Beebe and ask him."
So reporters did. And Beebe enlightened them with an explanation that he had received death threats following a controversial Nebraska loss to Texas A&M the previous week.
Since then, Osborne had been quiet on the issue, but sat down for an interview in Lincoln with the Chicago Tribune earlier this week, and the subject of the threats came up once again.
Osborne wasn't on board with Beebe and the Big 12's response. He admitted he was disappointed with the sect of Nebraska's fan base who felt the need to send Beebe messages, saying it was usually a person who "lost a bet or was mad at the world."
But Osborne's chief complaint? That the death threats were made public at all.
"[I was] a little bit disappointed that it was a matter of public information because most anybody who has been in coaching for any length of time or a political figure has had some pretty serious threats," Osborne told the Tribune. "I've had a great number of death threats during my time as a coach, and most of them just got thrown in the waste basket, unless someone had a particular method that they mentioned or a time and place sometimes we'd turn in over to campus police."
I've said it before, but Beebe was no doubt in a difficult position and left with few options other than traveling to a place he felt uncomfortable going. It was a little bit odd that Beebe was so apt to answer his phone late on a Friday night as he did after the Huskers win over Colorado, but even if he didn't speak with the press, the problems would have been there regardless. Osborne's comments were the first time anyone knew about any hateful messages, but Beebe's options were either A) say nothing and look like he was snubbing Nebraska or B) Make it look like he was trashing a fan base, which, by the way, he went out of his way to prevent. In his comments to the media, he emphasized that he understood it was a small, small minority of fans and that the fan base had an otherwise pristine reputation.
The mess is mostly behind the Big 12 and Nebraska, but by the end, it's safe to say neither side came out looking great.
Osborne also insinuated that rather than have Nebraska play future Big Ten mate Iowa, the Big 12 contributed to sending the Huskers to the Holiday Bowl for the second consecutive year, where they faced Washington, who Nebraska beat in Seattle by 35 earlier in the season.
"I don't know how much the Big 12 had to do with that. It appeared that the logical step was to go to Phoenix and play in the Insight Bowl against Iowa, which would have been a Big Ten preview," he said. "Whether that was something Big 12 officials had something to do with, I don't know. It would have been a logical game, and the Big 12 is tied into the Fiesta Bowl and the Insight Bowl, so I'm sure they had some influence."
The Huskers lost the Holiday Bowl, 19-7.
"It was tough because we'd already played that team and beaten them badly and had been there the year before," he said. "So that might have contributed a little bit to our being flat and [not] playing like we could have."