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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release April 9, 1998
                       REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
                         NEBRASKA AND MICHIGAN
                            The East Room         

5:37 P.M. EDT

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 Advisor, 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 and applause.)

Since the sun is out, we ought to just go outside and settle the whole thing. (Laughter and applause.) 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. (Applause.)

COACH CARR: Settle down. (Players cheering.) I told you to behave yourself in the White House. (Laughter.)

Mr. President, we are honored and privileged to be invited to the White House, and I hope you do it again next year. (Laughter.) We'd like to be back. Of course, for Nebraska, they're a great team; that's a habit. So congratulations to the Nebraska team.

Our team at Michigan is comprised of young men from all over this country -- from Maryland to California, from Minnesota to Texas, from Arkansas and all points in between. But we're here because we had great senior leadership, we had tremendous determination and the type of commitment that it takes to win a championship. And we're just -- this is a very, very special day for anyone who loves the University of Michigan. I know it's a day that we're never going to forget.

I'd like to have our captains, Jon Jansen and Eric Mayes, come up and present you with a gift. (Applause.)

MR. JANSEN: On behalf of the University of Michigan, I'd like to present President Clinton with a token of our appreciation. We've had a great time today, and it's a great honor to be here. (Applause.)

MR. MAYES: Also on behalf of the University of Michigan, we'd like to make President Bill Clinton an honorary Michigan man, with all the privileges that it invokes. (Laughter and applause.)

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. (Applause.)

COACH OSBORNE: Thank you very much. Thank you. Thank you, Mr. President, honored guests, all of you who are assembled here. I appreciate it very much. Of course, we're honored as a team, as a university, to be recognized in this way, and would like to extend our congratulations to the University of Michigan. Anytime you win them all, you've had a great year, and we have great admiration for your football team, and Lloyd and the staff and all that you've accomplished this year.

And I would like to extend my thanks to our coaching staff not just for this year, but for a whole lot of great years. And these players -- great commitment, great dedication. I think senior leadership on this team was probably the best that I've ever seen. I think there's no question that last January we decided as a team, as players, where we wanted to be January 2nd, what needed to happen. And it did. And it was a credit primarily to the players.

So very gratified. Nancy and I have had 36 great years at the University of Nebraska, and a lot of people to thank for that. The administration has always been very solid; the coaching staff has been wonderful. And every year, as far as I can remember, the players have done a tremendous job of committing themselves. So it's been a great run, a lot of fun.

I'd like to have our captains come up, and I'd also like to ask Frank Solege (phonetic) and Pam, his wife, to come up -- as our new head coach he'll do a great job for us. And then we have Grant Wistrom and Jason Peter and Aaron Taylor. So they're going to come up and make some type of a presentation here to the President. (Applause.)

MR. WISTROM: Mr. President, on behalf of the 1997 Nebraska National Championship football team, we appreciate your hospitality and thank you for inviting us to the White House.

Jason Peter would like to present you with a game jersey.

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, Jason. (Applause.)

MR. WISTROM: And Aaron Taylor would like to present you with the ball autographed by the entire team. (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT: It's beautiful. Thank you. (Applause.)

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. (Applause.)

END 5:48 P.M. EDT