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Saturday, Jan. 10

Nebraska names former Illinois assistant Bill Callahan as head football coach       Send a link to a friend

[JAN. 10, 2004]  LINCOLN, Neb. -- The University of Nebraska has named Bill Callahan as its head football coach. Husker Athletic Director Steve Pederson made the announcement on Friday afternoon, after introducing Callahan to the team in a late-morning meeting.

Just the 27th head coach in the 114-year history of the storied program, the 47-year-old Callahan brings a wealth of NFL and collegiate experience to Nebraska.

"Coach Bill Callahan is a rare find," Pederson said. "As a Super Bowl coach, a top-level recruiter and an experienced coach on the college level, he has all the ingredients to continue the consistent success that typifies Nebraska. As I talked to football people from around the country, the name Bill Callahan is held in very high esteem. We are excited he is here, and I am happy to work with him to continue the success of this program."

University of Nebraska-Lincoln Chancellor Harvey Perlman conferred with Pederson throughout the search process and praised the selection of Callahan.

"Steve has been thorough and meticulous in his search for a new coach for our university, and throughout this entire process has kept the best interests of our program and university at heart," Perlman said.

"We have been searching for an individual who not only could rebuild our program on the field, but who would do so within the Nebraska tradition that has produced more academic all-Americans than any other school and has been characterized as a program of integrity. I am convinced that our new coach will uphold the Nebraska tradition and will run a program consistent with the idea of a student-athlete, where academic success is at least as important, if not more so, than winning and losing."

After serving as head coach of the Oakland Raiders the past two years, Callahan said he was thrilled with the opportunity to return to the college ranks.

"I knew in my heart that Nebraska was an ideal situation from a professional and a personal standpoint," Callahan said. "Nebraska has all the components and elements of a rich tradition and history that was so appealing to me in this decision-making process. I've always respected the college game, particularly the passion and love the players have for the game. One of Nebraska's greatest traditions, of course, is its fans and the incredible sellout streak in Memorial Stadium. Having spent 15 years in the college ranks, I know that there truly is no place like Nebraska."

Callahan comes to Nebraska from the Oakland Raiders, where he became just the fourth rookie head coach to lead his team to the Super Bowl. He posted an 11-5 regular-season record his first season and went 4-12 last season. Hired by Raiders owner Al Davis in March of 2002, Callahan led the Raiders to the AFC West title and Super Bowl XXXVII.

The Raiders set an NFL record by appearing in Super Bowls in four different decades, and Callahan became the third first-year Raiders head coach to lead the team to an AFC West title and into the conference championship game, joining Art Shell (1990) and John Madden (1969).

In 2002 the Raiders led the NFL in passing for the first time in club history, and they also led the league in total offense for just the second time. That year Callahan was named the NFL Coach of the Year by the Touchdown Club of Columbus and the NFL Rookie Coach of the Year by Football Digest.

Under Callahan, the Raiders featured a multiple offense. In fact, in a three-season span, Callahan's Oakland offense went from leading the NFL in rushing (2000) to placing first in the league in passing (2002). In 2002, the Raiders became the first team to win games in the same season while rushing at least 60 times (60 attempts on Dec. 28 versus Kansas City; 24-0) and passing at least 60 times (65 attempts on Sept. 15 at Pittsburgh; 30-17).

Callahan followed his mentor Jon Gruden to Oakland as the offensive coordinator and coached the tight ends for the Raiders in 1998 before coaching the offensive line from 1999 to 2001. Under Callahan's tutelage, the Silver and Black allowed a team-record-low 28 sacks in 2000, a mark that was surpassed in 2001 with just 27 sacks allowed. In addition, with Callahan coaching the offensive line, the Raiders led the NFL in rushing in 2000, averaging 154.4 yards per game. The Raiders won the AFC West title three straight years with Callahan at the helm of the offense from 2000 to 2002.

Callahan's offensive players at Oakland earned eight Pro Bowl appearances from 1999 to 2001, while five more earned the honor in 2002, including quarterback Rich Gannon, who was the 2002 NFL regular-season MVP.


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Prior to his six-year stint with the Raiders, Callahan coached with offensive coordinator Gruden and head coach Ray Rhodes, serving as offensive line coach for the Philadelphia Eagles from 1995 to 1997. In his first two years with Philadelphia, the Eagles ranked second in the NFC in rushing and made the playoffs both seasons. During that time, current Husker Irving Fryar made two Pro Bowl appearances.

No stranger to the college game, Callahan spent 15 years in the college ranks, including 12 in the Big Ten Conference, at two strong academic institutions. He quickly became known as one of the game's best offensive line mentors and developed a reputation as one of college football's top recruiters. Callahan was not only ranked as one of the top 10 recruiters in the country by Tom Lemming in 1992, he was listed as one of the top 10 recruiters of all-time by Lemming in 2001, based on Lemming’s recruiting ratings over the past 20 years.

Callahan began his collegiate career as a graduate assistant at Illinois under head coach Mike White, who later coached the Raiders. Callahan was promoted to a full-time position in 1981, coaching the tight ends, and stayed at Illinois through the 1986 season, coaching the offensive line, quarterbacks and special teams. While Callahan was on staff at Illinois, the Illini participated in three bowl games, including a trip to the Rose Bowl following the 1983 season, when they won the Big Ten title with a perfect 9-0 record. Illinois finished fourth or better in the Big Ten in five of Callahan's six years as a full-time assistant.

After seven years at Illinois, Callahan coached the offensive line at Northern Arizona (1987, 1988) and served as offensive coordinator at Southern Illinois in 1989.

He moved to a second Big Ten school, joining former Husker Barry Alvarez (1965 to 1967) at Wisconsin in 1990 to coach the offensive line. Seven Badger offensive linemen earned all-Big Ten honors under Callahan, including center Cory Raymer, who was a consensus all-American in 1994. The 1993 Wisconsin team captured the school's first conference title in 31 years and defeated UCLA in the Rose Bowl.

Callahan grew up on the south side of Chicago playing quarterback as a prep student. He was a three-year starter at quarterback at NAIA Illinois Benedictine (now Benedictine University in Lisle, Ill.) from 1975 to 1977, earning honorable-mention all-America honors his last two seasons. He earned his bachelor of arts degree from Illinois Benedictine College in 1978, majoring in physical education.

He and his wife, Valerie, have four children: Brian, 19, Daniel, 17, Cathryn, 12, and Jaclyn, 11. Brian is a redshirt sophomore at UCLA, where he serves as a backup quarterback.

Bill Callahan at a glance


Birth date, hometown: July 31, 1956, Chicago, Ill.

Family: Wife Valerie; children Brian, Daniel, Cathryn and Jaclyn

Education: Illinois Benedictine College (May 21, 1978), bachelor of arts degree, physical education major

Collegiate playing experience (by season)

1975-1977 -- Illinois Benedictine College, starting quarterback, honorable-mention NAIA All-American (1976, 1977)

Coaching experience (by season)

1980 -- Part-time assistant coach, University of Illinois

1981-1986 -- Assistant coach, University of Illinois (tight ends, offensive line, quarterbacks and special teams coach)

1987-1988 -- Assistant coach, Northern Arizona University (offensive line)

1989 -- Assistant coach, Southern Illinois University (offensive line)

1990-1994 -- Assistant coach, University of Wisconsin (offensive line)

1995-1997 -- Assistant coach, Philadelphia Eagles (offensive line)

1998-2001 -- Offensive coordinator, Oakland Raiders (1998 tight ends, 1999-2001 offensive line)

2002-2003 -- Head coach, Oakland Raiders (named to the position on March 12, 2002; 15-17 record in regular-season play)

Coaching honors

2002 -- NFL Rookie Coach of the Year, Football Digest

2002 -- NFL Coach of the Year, Touchdown Club of Columbus

[University of Nebraska news release]

[Press conference pictures]

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