It has been quite some time since Nebraska last made a claim at a national championship. In fact, the last time Nebraska claimed a national title, they had to share the honors with a future conference opponent.
The year was 1997 and it was last college football season to end with two crowned national champions in the poll era. Nebraska took the top spot in the coaches poll after a perfect 13-0 season was capped with a blowout victory over Peyton Manning and Tennessee in the Orange Bowl, but the AP poll rewarded the Michigan Wolverines for their clean 12-0 record following a victory in the Rose Bowl (Coincidently, this is also the last time Michigan won a national title, but we’ll cover them separately at a later time). It was the third national championship in four seasons for Nebraska, sending head coach Tom Osborne into retirement on one of the highest notes possible. And although Nebraska would get a national title shot a few years later in the BCS system, this marked the end of Nebraska’s run atop the college football universe as changes in the college football world were about to unfold, with the Huskers playing a significant role in the evolution of the map of the college football world.
Last National Title Season: 1997 (22 years and counting)
Who was President?
Bill Clinton was the saxophone-playing Commander-In-Chief the last time Nebraska won it all. Clinton was in his second term in the White House at the time, although this was all before the infamous Lewinsky scandal came to light.
What was on TV?
In the first year of the television rating system, you could watch the first episodes of “King of the Hill” or watch “The Simpsons” move past “The Flinstones” for the title of longest-running primetime animated series. That show keeps on ticking today. Ellen had her landmark episode in which her character came out of the closet. Millions tuned in to watch the funeral of Princess Diana. Chris Farley made his final television appearance as host of “Saturday Night Live.”
Some of you may have begun watching “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” which debuted in 1997. Or maybe you were hooked on the brand new HBO show, “Oz.” 1997 was also the year a few famous shows went off the air, including “Coach,” “Roseanne,” and “Beavis and Butt-Head.” In all honesty, “Coach” was clearly a better show when Craig T. Nelson was coaching at Minnesota State and not in the pros. Plus, that theme song was great.
What movies were hot?
The box office records were smashed with Titanic pulling in $1.8 billion worldwide, easily outpacing the next best competition of the year (Jurassic Park: The Lost World and Men in Black). It was the first movie to break the $1 billion mark at the box office, but of course, it would not be the last. Since Nebraska’s last national title, 38 additional movies have broken the $1 billion mark at the box office, including the most recent addition with Avengers: Endgame, which just moved past Titanic.
This was also the year Harrison Ford told a terrorist to get off his plane in Air Force One. And in a world before Star Wars prequels, George Lucas brought the original trilogy back to theaters in special editions.
Who was on the cover of NCAA Football?
This was an interesting and important time in the history of the NCAA Football franchise. That’s because starting in 1997, that became the namesake for the series that had previously was named College Football USA for two seasons. EA Sports was able to use the NCAA name and logo through a licensing deal that was intended to be used for NCAA March Madness. Surely nothing could ever possibly go wrong with this licensing deal in future years, right?
NCAA Football 98 changed the name of the game for good. And although Nebraska legend Tommie Frazier appeared as the cover athlete for College Football USA 97 the previous year, NCAA Football 98 featured former Florida Gators quarterback Danny Wuerffel on its cover.
But if you weren’t playing NCAA Football 98 at the time, odds are you may have been hooked on a couple popular video games that also came out in 1997, including Final Fantasy VII, Mario Kart 64, GoldenEye 007 or Gran Turismo. Nintendo 64 (released in 1997) and PlayStation had some good ones at the time.
What else happened in 1997?
In just their fifth year in existence, the Florida Marlins won their first World Series championship with a Game 7 victory over the Cleveland Indians. This was also the first season with interleague play in the regular season.
John Elway and the Denver Broncos finally won a Super Bowl with a 31-24 victory over the Green Bay Packers in San Diego.
In the summer of 1997, Michael Jordan took home his fifth NBA Finals MVP award after leading the Chicago Bulls to an NBA title over the Utah Jazz. Not to be outdone, in the 1997-1998 season, Jordan again won NBA Finals MVP in his sixth and final NBA Finals appearance, once again leading the Bulls in six games over the Jazz.
During that 1997-1998 season, the Detroit Red Wings swept the Washington Capitals for their second straight Stanley Cup championship. The Red Wings swept the Philadelphia Flyers in the Stanley Cup Finals the previous summer.
Liz Heaston, a placekicker for Willamette University, became the first woman to play and score in a college football game.
Mike Tyson bit Evander Holyfield‘s ear.
Tiger Woods wins his first Masters Tournament with a 12-shot victory.
Will Nebraska return to their glory days?
The hopes are high for Nebraska moving forward as Year 2 under Scott Frost as head coach. In that 1997, Frost was a Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award finalist in 1997 for the Huskers after he became the tenth player in college football history to run and pass for at least 1,000 yards each. If not for Frost’s now famous flea-kicker against Missouri, Nebraska may waiting just a little longer since their last national title.
Nebraska has had a few good years since their last national championship, however. Frank Solich, the successor to Osborne in 1998, took Nebraska to a record fo 12-1 with a victory in the Fiesta Bowl in the 1999 season, and the Huskers were a preseason No. 1 in 2000 before ending the year at 10-2 with an Alamo Bowl victory. Nebraska wiggled their way into their first and only BCS National Championship appearance in 2001, where they were absolutely no match for the Miami Hurricanes in the Rose Bowl. That would be the closest Nebraska has come to sniffing a national championship since 1997, however, and the search is still on to get Nebraska back to the top level of the sport. A collection of 10-win seasons and multiple conference championship game trips came under Bo Pelini as the Huskers transitioned from the Big 12 to the Big Ten, but the Huskers continue to hope maybe this will be the year Big Red climbs back to the top of their conference and once again has people talking about Nebraska as a national title contender