Huskers family to welcome back Frank Solich at January event

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) Ohio coach Frank Solich, whose firing at Nebraska is still debated among fans 15 years later, will return to the state this winter to receive a service award from the Football Writers Association of America.

The organization announced Friday that Solich would be presented the Tom Osborne Legacy Award at the Outland Trophy banquet on Jan. 9 in Omaha. The FWAA said Solich has agreed to come to the event, which will be one of his few public appearances in the state since he was dismissed in 2003.

Solich was an All-Big Eight fullback at Nebraska in the 1960s, a longtime assistant to Osborne and a winner of better than 75 percent of his games as head coach.

”It will kind of bring some closure and full circle to the thing,” Osborne told The Associated Press. ”The guy made a significant contribution here, first as a player, and he was with me for 19 years. And he was a great coach. People don’t realize if you win 75 percent of your games, play for a national championship, been a conference champion and come close a couple other times, that may be about all you can ask for.”

The Tom Osborne Legacy Award is presented to a person who, in part, exhibits the integrity, sportsmanship and fair play associated with the Hall of Fame coach who led the Huskers to 255 wins and three national titles in 25 seasons. Solich did not immediately return phone messages.

Solich’s return is seen as another step in the reunification of the Nebraska football family. Solich was the last coach to lead the Huskers to a conference championship, in 1999, and none of the three coaches who followed him lost fewer than four games in a season.

Osborne, along with new coach Scott Frost, began discussions about acknowledging Solich’s contributions shortly after Frost was hired in December. Frost was Nebraska’s starting quarterback in 1996-97 and helped the Huskers send Osborne into retirement with his third national championship in four years.

Solich was Osborne’s hand-picked successor, and he went 58-19 from 1998-2003. The 2001 team played in the BCS title game, losing to Miami, despite a 62-36 loss to Colorado in the final regular-season game.

A 7-7 campaign followed in 2002, prompting Solich to reorganize his staff. The Huskers went 9-3 in 2003, but losses to Missouri, Texas and Kansas State were lopsided, and former athletic director Steve Pederson fired Solich, saying ”I refuse to let the program gravitate into mediocrity.”

The Huskers have gone 113-68 overall and 66-48 in conference games the last 14 seasons.

Solich was named head coach at Ohio in 2005 and has a 97-71 record in 13 seasons.

”Let’s put it this way, I told him if he at all felt uncomfortable, I wanted him to feel completely free to not come,” Osborne said. ”He thought it over and said he thought he would like to come back. This wasn’t anything I tried to put any pressure on him to do. I just thought people would like to see him and it would be a good event. I think most people in Nebraska feel he did a good job when he was here, and he has done a good job since.”

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