Callahan named new Nebraska football coach

Friday, January 9th 2004, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) _ Former NFL coach Bill Callahan was hired as Nebraska's new head football coach Friday, ending a long search to fill the vacancy at one of college football's premier programs.

Huskers' offensive lineman Mike Erickson told The Associated Press that Callahan, who was fired from the Oakland Raiders last week, was introduced to players as their new coach Friday morning.

During the players' meeting, Callahan told the team that he would interview current assistant coaches next week to decide whether they would stay, Erickson said.

Callahan also told the players that he would be changing the offense, Erickson said. The Huskers have been running a ground-oriented option offense since 1980.

Callahan said Nebraska would be using facets of a West Coast offense, which is a style that features a short, controlled passing game, Erickson said.

Nebraska quarterback Joe Dailey said he is excited about the prospects of the new offense.

``I can run, but I can throw, too, so this is something that is going to fit me fine,'' Dailey said, adding that Callahan appears to be the right man for the job.

``(athletic director Steve) Pederson knows what he is doing,'' Dailey said. ``If he doesn't, he's going to lose his job, too.''

Erickson said he was excited about having a coach again. He said Callahan finalized his deal with Nebraska about 9 a.m. CST Friday.

Details of Callahan's contract were expected to be announced at a 1 p.m. news conference.

Callahan's hiring comes six weeks after Frank Solich was fired after ending the regular season 9-3.

Since then, at least three candidates pulled their names from consideration for the job.

Callahan, 47, was fired from the Raiders after a 4-12 season. In 2002, Callahan's first year in Oakland, he led the Oakland to the Super Bowl.

Callahan is only the fourth Nebraska coach since 1962. He is the first from outside the Nebraska family since Bob Devaney came from Wyoming to resurrect the program after Bill Jennings was fired at the end of the 1961 season.

Pederson hopes Callahan can return the Cornhuskers to the success enjoyed under Devaney and Tom Osborne, who combined to win five national championships.