Ring of Famer
Join Date: Dec 2003
Location: The Springs
Former NU player taking the firing of Doak Ostergard to heart. Peddy and Cally called out in this open letter.
My name is Ben Kingston. I played football at UNL from 1995 thru 1999, many of the years you were also an employee of the university. I can honestly say that those 5 years were the best but hardest times of my life; I learned more about the type of person I was and, more importantly, the person who I wanted to become than at any other time in my life. A large part of that experience was due to the relationships that I formed with the coaches, the staff and the my teammates. As I'm sure you have heard, the character and tradition of Nebraska's program is what has separated (emphasis added) us from other institutions. This didn't happen by happenstance; it happened because its tradition was a reflection of the people of the state of Nebraska. The character of Nebraska's program, up until recently, has transcended each era and though it did change with the times, it didn't let the times change it. Nebraska's signature tradition was there when my uncle played in the early-70's. It was instilled in me by the Peter brothers, Grant, the Makovickas, et al. when I was a freshman. In 1999, when my fellow graduating seniors and I walked off the field in Tempe, AZ., for the final time donning scarlet and cream, we knew that we had done our very best to make sure that the program was being handed off to the freshman in at least the same shape as when we received it.
In the Nebraska "family," the coaches were the fathers, the upper classmen the big brother, and so on. Accordingly, the bar regarding character and attitude was set by the coaches and would only go as high or low as that which was exemplified by them. With Osborne and Solich, the bar was set very high. Players came from all walks of life, some with baggage, some without. Regardless, those who stuck it out became family and helped transcend the character of the program in the next generation of players. And because of such, most if not all of us left the the program with a tear in our eye because we knew we were truly loved as part of that family and that the Nebraska we knew would always be there with open arms when its family members returned. Sadly, in its present state, I'm now unsure whether or not this is still true. Which brings me to the point of this letter: The recent dismissal of Doak Ostergard.
During my time at Nebraska, I spent more time that I would have liked in the care of Doak. I first got to know him when he had me doing rehabilitation for a deep thigh bruise by running laps in the pool, along side Brook Berringer. Over the course of the next 4 years, during the ups and downs, he was a man in whom I developed unquestionable trust in his abilities as our head athletic trainer, and who became and still is a good friend. Whether your were first team or scout team, Doak and his staff did all that they could to see that you received only the best treatment while, at the same time, making sure that he lightened up the situation brought on by the inevitable pressures on a player.
When I blew out my knee during spring ball before my sophomore year, Doak was the one who made me chuckle in the training room only minutes after I was carted off the field and thought the world had come to an end. When I didn't have the heart to call my father to tell him about my injury because I didn't want to hear the sadness in his voice, Doak took it upon himself to make that call and put my father at ease. I often saw him stick up for players when a coach thought a player's injury to be less severe than it appeared. Much like a physician, he was an advocate for his players and was objective in his assessment; not to be swayed by the pressures of the program.
The reason I tell you this is because I know that your current players see Doak in the same light. And you have done them a great disservice by your actions, the etiology of which I am almost certain is personal, be it yours or Callahan's.
What is even more interesting is that I know that Coaches Osborne and Solich would echo the above. Two very meticulous coaches who were a part of at least 3 national championship teams also placed their trust in Doak Ostergard. No questions asked. This was evidenced by the fact that he was promoted to head athletic trainer when Jack Nicolite left to become a PA following the '95 championship season. Further, based on my experiences as a player, I also knew that the fine team of orthopedic surgeons believed in Doak and considered him one of the best at what he did. Don't you think that they, along with Dr. Albers, may be in a better position to evaluate Doak's proficiency in fulfilling his duties? Or have they and their opinions just fallen on deaf ears? Or, was his dismissal because of something completely unrelated to his job performance. I believe that in time, the facts will come out to support the latter.
Now, as an attorney, I see a lot of BS. Living out her in L.A., I'm knee deep. And well, in regard to the issue at hand, if I had to teach one of my young associates to spot a BS statement while taking the deposition of say, an athletic director or football coach, exhibit number one would be:
"Doak, you are not going to be kept on because we are taking athletic medicine in another direction. Thank you. Good bye."
Are you kidding me? What does that mean?
I would have loved for a journalist to have asked you or Bill that question at the beginning of the 2006 season.
Journalist: "So, Bill...in what direction do you see the Department of Athletic Medicine going in 2006?"
Bill: "Uh....medicine, what? Can you repeat the question?"
I now have a headache.
First, Steve, Bill, or whoever, if you can't give the man his dignity by being truthful, at least wake up 30 minutes earlier in the morning, throw on a fresh pot of coffee to get that caffeine-high creativity, and come up with something that at least makes sense instead of just regurgitating what you heard said on ESPN the previous night by the San Diego Charger's General Manager as to his reasoning for the firing of Marty Schottenheimer.
New rule for 2007: You are no longer allowed to used the word "direction" when it relates to the field of employment.
I can honestly say, based on my conversations with the former players, coaches, etc., that we now feel that the "Nebraska" we knew, the character that made this family great, has been lost...at least for now. This sentiment has been driven home most recently by your firing of Doak Ostergard. There was the Nebraska of Devaney, Osborne and Solich. And now there is the Nebraska of today. Please do not doubt the sincerity or accuracy of this statement. This "paradise lost" was not because of you choosing to "adapt to the times," "upgrade our facilities," or the like. It was lost because you, and now I realize Coach Callahan, do not know, or do not care about upholding and continuing Nebraska's tradition of character, integrity, attitude, sacrifice and family. One where egotism and megalomania are absent or, at the very least, take a back seat to what is in the best interest of the program and out of respect for the pillars of tradition on which the program was built. Unfortunately, starting at the top, it now seems that the tradition that was handed down over generations, even eras, was left behind when you decided that the program was going to be a reflection you and Bill, rather than what the program already was conceptually. When you and Callahan saw Nebraska as a blank canvass to paint any picture you deemed fit, a masterpiece was destroyed.
Steve, of course I am aware that being in an administrative position calls upon you to make difficult decisions. And no matter how you decide, you are always going to make some people unhappy. However, there are decisions which are just plain wrong, where the method of execution is even more wrong, and where the aforementioned axiom won't provide you any real-world justification. Case-in-point: Doak Ostergard.
I write this letter because Doak is a friend, a person I and countless other players believe in and, on what facts I have collected (more than you may think), believe he was treated very unfairly. No, unconscionably. Also, a lot of what I said has been collecting for some time, beginning in December 2003, and given last week's events, I felt that I needed to state was is contained herein.
I have bcc'ed a number of my fellow Nebraskans, including former players and friends. I hope that further comment by them will only further impress upon you and Mr. Callahan the fault of your actions.
I will always bleed Husker-red. I will always support the players and Nebraska. But Steve, rest assured, the players, past and present, are the true keepers of this program, not you and those under your pen. We now eagerly wait for our Cincinnatus to return.
Very truly yours,
Fullback, Class of '99