Omaha, Neb. Tom Osborne says he's happy for Frank Solich -- but a bit surprised where his former right-hand man will re-enter the college football coaching ranks.
Solich on Thursday was named head coach at Ohio University -- a far cry from Nebraska, the prestigious program where he was head coach before getting fired after a 9-3 regular season in 2003.
Osborne, Nebraska's 3rd District congressman and Solich's predecessor at NU, said Ohio, with its 24,000-seat stadium and two winning seasons since 1982, was getting a steal in Solich.
"It's not a school that just jumps up and grabs you as far as name, but there have been an awful lot of great coaches that have come out of that school," Osborne said.
Solich, Osborne's hand-picked successor in 1998 after serving as his assistant for 19 years, has been out of coaching for a year. He devoted this season to professional growth, studying football philosophies at programs such as Oklahoma, Texas, Wisconsin and with some NFL teams.
Osborne said it was perplexing to him that while coaches such as Tyrone Willingham and Ron Zook went directly from getting fired to getting new jobs, Solich attracted little interest.
Osborne said Willingham and Zook were good coaches, "but if you look at the resumes and what they've accomplished, it seems to me Frank would come out quite a ways ahead."
Solich was 58-19 in six seasons at Nebraska, but he was fired after going 16-12 in his last 28 games, with eight of those losses by 21 points or more.
Solich revamped his staff after a 7-7 season in 2002 but was dismissed a year later amid athletic director Steve Pederson's fear that the Nebraska program was "gravitating toward mediocrity."
It probably hurt Solich that he was out of coaching so long, Osborne said.
"That whole thing happened last year so suddenly," Osborne said of Solich's firing. "When you're out of it a year, it's a little bit harder to get immediate notice from some of these schools."
Despite Solich's difficulty landing a job, he never expressed much disappointment, Osborne said.
"We talked quite a bit lately. It was mainly proactive stuff, what school he wanted me to call," Osborne said. "It wasn't crying over spilled milk."
Retired Nebraska offensive line coach Milt Tenopir said Solich undoubtedly was taking a step down by coaching at Ohio.
"It's Division I-A, isn't it?" Tenopir said.
Former Nebraska receivers coach Ron Brown said it was a tribute to Solich's character that he was able to get back into coaching.
"There's a relentless quality in Frank Solich," Brown said. "He's a great example of getting back up, rising up, and not laying flat out after something bad happens to you."