Bill Clinton photo

Remarks to the NCAA Football Champion Michigan Wolverines and Nebraska Cornhuskers

April 09, 1998

The President. Welcome. We've had a lot of heavyweights in this room in the past but nothing to compare with this today. [Laughter]

Coach Osborne, Coach Carr, President Bollinger, Chancellor Moeser, Congressman Levin, Congressman Dingell, Congressman Upton. And I can't help noting today the presence of my National Economic Adviser, Gene Sperling, an alumnus of the University of Michigan. The only time he ever stops work is when Michigan plays football. [Laughter]

I am honored to have all of you here to celebrate the remarkable seasons of two great football teams from two great universities. For the entire season, everybody in America, especially in the last month or so, wanted Michigan and Nebraska to meet. I'm the only person who could pull it off. [Laughter] Since the sun is out, we ought to just go outside and settle the whole thing. [Laughter] We'll call it the Rose Garden Bowl. [Laughter]

In alphabetical order, we'll start with Michigan. All of America was awed by your performance in one of the most exciting Rose Bowls in history. A team that never lost its poise and never lost a game. Charles Woodson was terrific all season long, and deserved to be the first primarily defensive player to win the Heisman Trophy. The outstanding defense was complemented by a fierce offense, quarterbacked by Rose Bowl MVP Brian Griese.

I'd also like to say a word about Coach Carr. The man who brought Michigan its first championship in 50 years, he has quickly established himself as one of the best coaches in college football. Congratulations on taking the Wolverines to the championship in only your third season.

Now I'd like to introduce you, Coach, to say a few words.

Coach Carr.

[At this point, University of Michigan Coach Lloyd Carr thanked the President and made brief remarks. Wolverine cocaptains Jon Jansen and Eric Mayes then presented gifts to the President.]

The President. Thank you. As long as I can be on injured reserve for the next game. [Laughter] Thank you.

And now, a team that lived up to all the great traditions of Nebraska football. The Cornhuskers' overwhelming victory in the Orange Bowl was a fantastic finish to an undefeated season. The offense put 42 points on the board, led by tailback Ahman Green's 206 rushing yards, quarterback Scott Frost's three rushing touchdowns.

The 206 yards registered with me because I was in the stands in the Orange Bowl in 1978 when Roland Sales of Arkansas rushed for 205 yards. [Laughter]

The Nebraska defense also did a magnificent job in stifling the Peyton Manning-led offense of Tennessee that had been so strong all year.

For Coach Tom Osborne, the Orange Bowl victory marked a spectacular close to a spectacular 25-year career that included three national championships and 255 wins. Tom Osborne is truly one of the great legends of college football. His name now will inevitably be ranked in history along with Knute Rockne, Bear Bryant, and Pop Warner.

Congratulations, Coach, and thank you for not only all the wins but for the way you did it and the example you set.

Coach Osborne.

[At this point University of Nebraska coach, Tom Osborne, thanked the President and made brief remarks. The new Cornhusker coach, Frank Solege, and team captains Grant Wistrom, Jason Peter, and Aaron Taylor then presented gifts to the President.]

The President. It's beautiful. Thank you.

Now, what are we supposed to do? Usually, I'm supposed to—we're going to go out here and do the receiving line and the pictures, right?

Thanks again for coming. Congratulations to both of you on a magnificent year. And thanks for all the thrills you gave the rest of us who sit in the stands and watch on television. Thank you very much.

NOTE: The President spoke at 5:37 p.m. in the East Room at the White House. In his remarks, he referred to President Lee C. Bollinger, University of Michigan, and Chancellor James C. Moeser, University of Nebraska.

William J. Clinton, Remarks to the NCAA Football Champion Michigan Wolverines and Nebraska Cornhuskers Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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