The inaugural NAIA Champions of Character Foundation Awards Luncheon at the Kansas City Convention Center was about to conclude Wednesday when Jim Carr announced a final tribute to keynote speaker Tom Osborne.
Under wraps was the NAIA football national championship trophy.
“The NAIA coaches recently passed something we wanted to share with you,” said Carr, the NAIA’s executive director. “The NAIA proudly announces today that our football championship trophy will now be known as the Dr. Tom Osborne National Championship Trophy.”
One of the greatest coaches in college football history — whose 25 Nebraska teams won 83.6 percent of their games and three national championships, including one in his final year, 1997 — wasn’t a Cornhusker until he joined the staff as an assistant in 1964.
Osborne was a three-sport athlete at Hastings (Neb.) College, his hometown school, where his father and grandfather also attended. He played football, basketball and track for the NAIA school, and his teams appeared in the 1956 and 1958 basketball tournaments at Municipal Auditorium.
Osborne was hopeful for a good run as a freshman in 1956, until he walked to center court for the jump ball against Texas Southern.
“I was a 6-3 1/2 post, and Texas Southern had a guy named Bennie Swain, who was 6-9, 6-10 and about 320 pounds,” Osborne said. “He dumped in 32 points on me, and I felt terrible.”
He shouldn’t have. Swain was an NAIA All-American, played one season for the Celtics and ranks sixth on the NAIA tournament’s career scoring list.
Besides, Osborne went on to a great career of his own, one defined by high character, championship football, six years as a Congressman and his tenure as the Cornhuskers’ athletic director.
“We couldn’t have found a better person to kick off this event,” Carr said. “He was a championship coach, and a better person.”
Among the honorees:
• Darcy Mascotti and Danielle Hoop, members of the University of the Cumberlands (Ky.), cross country team who finished first and second in the Mid-South Conference championship last fall. But they noticed a rival who had been in front of them had taken a wrong turn and finished third.
Hoop and Mascotti told meet officials that Sharon Ronoh of Lindsey Wilson would have won the race, and Ronoh was declared the winner with Mascotti second and Hoop third.
• Nate Mohler, a senior at Bishop Miege, was honored as the high school student athlete of character award winner.