Defensive coordinator Charlie McBride, a staple of the Nebraska coaching staff since 1982, chose to end his career after getting his last win in the same stadium where he got his first.
After the No. 3 Cornhuskers' 31-21 victory over No. 6 Tennessee in Sunday night's Fiesta Bowl, McBride made public what he had privately told very few of his players earlier in the week--that he was retiring to spend more time with his family.
"I love my family very much," McBride said, fighting back tears. "I think it's time for them. So I'm going to pull the plug.
"My first win when I was coaching was at Arizona State with Frank Kush at [Sun Devil Stadium], and my last win was here, too. It meant so much to me."
McBride often operated in the shadows of Nebraska's great offenses--the ones put together by Bob Devaney and Tom Osborne that featured tailbacks Mike Rozier and I.M. Hipp, and quarterbacks Turner Gill and Tommie Frazier.
But he quietly molded a dominant unit that became known as the "blackshirts" because of the color of the players' practice jerseys. In McBride's 18 years as defensive coordinator, the Huskers finished in the top 10 in total defense in Division I-A 11 times, including this season, when they were No. 4 entering the Fiesta Bowl.
In 1996, McBride was a finalist for the Broyles Award, given to the top college assistant, when Nebraska finished in the top seven among major colleges in all four major defensive categories.
"You guys all know what he's meant to this program," senior safety Mike Brown said of McBride. "He's someone that puts his heart into what he does. His players try to give their hearts right back to him. He's going to be missed. We love him dearly."
McBride, 59, had a difficult time maintaining his composure when he spoke to the players after the Fiesta Bowl, in which Tennessee had 311 yards total offense but only 44 net yards rushing. The defending national champions led the Southeastern Conference in rushing the past two seasons and were averaging 191.3 yards rushing.
"He was explaining how this was the best victory of his career," said Brown, who ranks second in career tackles at Nebraska. "He was kind of crying a little bit because it was over for him. He's going to be a guy I'm going to keep in touch with, be a friend of his for life."
Nebraska (12-1) probably will end up No. 2 in the final polls after No. 1 Florida State and No. 2 Virginia Tech meet tonight in the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans. But the Cornhuskers will enter next season with a new defensive coordinator for the first time in almost two decades.
"It's in a lot of ways a sad moment for Nebraska football," said head coach Frank Solich, who coached one of McBride's sons in high school in Omaha before joining the Nebraska staff.
"There's a reason why Nebraska has had great defensive teams over the years. Coach McBride is that reason."