Congrats to @omavs QB Marlin Briscoe on being named to 2016 @cfbhall Class! https://t.co/zVUq7mwL2p pic.twitter.com/s4EnZBTkZW— Football Foundation (@NFFNetwork) January 8, 2016
The former Omaha South quarterback was drafted by the Denver Broncos in 1968, with the intent of turning him into a defensive back. But after a wave of injuries his rookie season, Briscoe was pressed into service at quarterback, and became the first black starting quarterback in modern NFL history. Briscoe went on to play nine seasons in the NFL, and eventually settled in at wide receiver for two Miami Super Bowl winning teams.
This is a bit awkward for UNO, though, because UNO disbanded their football program in 2011. It's a contentious issue to this day for backers of both football and wrestling, and understandably so. Accepting the demise of those programs is a bitter pill to swallow; there's no reason why they should like it.
The fact that it was the correct decision for UNO to make doesn't make it any easier. Football was going to be a budget drain, especially if it went to division 1-AA. The idea of playing "money games" against power competition is going away, now that the big schools are being restricted from scheduling lower division foes. (In fact, many schools are abandoning 1-AA and jumping up to 1-A to keep their programs afloat.) And staying in division II wasn't a solution either. In fact, the progress of UNO men's soccer and basketball at the division 1 level is proving that the move is working. Right now, UNO basketball has a better chance of making the NCAA tournament than any other school in the state of Nebraska. UNO's RPI is significantly higher than Tim Miles' program, and not that far behind Creighton. The only way a school from Nebraska is getting into the NCAA tournament is to win their conference tournament, and first place UNO stands a better chance than either Nebraska or Creighton to do that.
At some point in the next year, UNO needs to honor Briscoe, and that opens a window to offer an olive branch to the alums of the football program. Can a statue of Marlin Briscoe be erected either on-campus outside of Al Caniglia Field or Baxter Arena to honor Briscoe? (And while UNO is at it, can a concourse wall at Baxter Arena be dedicated and decorated to honor and remember Mike Denney's wrestling program and it's legacy of success?)
Football and wrestling are gone from UNO; they aren't coming back unless someone is willing to donate tens of millions of dollars to endow those sports. But they shouldn't be forgotten either. Marlin Briscoe's induction into the College Football Hall of Fame should give UNO the opportunity to do right with the legacy of those programs. They may be gone, but they shouldn't be forgotten.