57-61 Cornhuskers
(Authentic Reproduction)




As Bud Wilkinson's top recruiter and trusted assistant, Jennings was one of many OU assistants from their glory years and undefeated seasons to eventually obtain a head coaching job in the Big Seven or Big 8 Conference. Having been Elliot's top aide during his only season at NU led some to feel that the transition to better days would be smooth and in truth, Pete Elliot's sudden departure to California left the administration little choice but to promote Elliot's top assistant. What wasn't expected was a debut season of 1-9 and losses to everyone but woeful Kansas State. Unfortunately, it set the tone for his entire coaching tenure. Jennings was proof of what later became known as the Peter Principle for he was a terrific assistant, great recruiter, and his players liked him but he was not organized enough to be an effective head coach and lacked decision making ability while under fire. Despite decking out the Huskers in bright new red helmets, white center stripe and identifying three inch white numerals on each side, his teams never resembled the Sooner squads he had previously coached. 1-9 progressed to 3-7 and then two four-win years before dropping to another three win season. The 1958 squad featured the debut of HB Pat Fischer but little else. With Fisher and Don Fricke performing in a combination Split T and Single Wing offense, more than 4-6 was expected as 1959 concluded but the alumni saw progress and held their breath for what was expected to be a breakthrough season. Of the four wins in '59, one was a momentous 25-21 upset of Oklahoma, one that broke the Sooners seventy-four game conference victory streak and that alone made the Husker squad seem ready to win the majority of their games. The 1960 opener at fourth-ranked Texas showed Pat Fischer at QB and future Missouri head coach Warren Powers at HB and the team's 14-13 upset had the entire state dancing in the streets. Unfortunately, the momentum could not be sustained despite the improving play of speedy Bill "Thunder" Thorton, and again the Cornhuskers remained a four-win team. Following the '60 season, Jennings, who had seemed to ruffle feathers throughout the state, made things worse in a speech in which he stated, "I don't think this state can ever be great in anything..." and concluded it with "...our football team is about as good as anything we're trying to do." When Oklahoma was hit with probation due to recruiting violations, Jennings was identified as the stimulus to the investigation, supposedly claiming to have been in charge of an OU "slush fund." Jennings denied any involvement but highlighted the 1960 game against the Sooners by showing up with armed bodyguards as he took the field with the team. In '61 the wolves were at the door due to the team's inconsistent performance despite the play of future pros Fischer, Roland McDole, Bob Brown, and Mick Tinglehoff, and Jennings belief that he had to go out of state to get decent players. Less than half the squad was home-grown, a sore spot with supporters. Minnesota transfer Dennis Claridge who later had a two-year, eight-game pro career took over the starting QB spot behind future Viking center Mick Tinglehoff and with Thorton running behind 6'5", 251 pound super-soph Bob Brown (the "Boomer" moniker to come later for the talented biology major), much was expected. Little was delivered by a team that was just too slow on both sides of the ball and the drop to 3-6-1 and Jennings continuing agitation of the state populace and his own team had the Huskers seeking a new head coach. Squandering a two touchdown halftime lead against an average Oklahoma team was the final straw for many and the players publicly called for a change, citing the exhausting and lengthy practices that did not allow them to play well. Tinglehoff and others later noted that Jennings and his staff did not forward mail from pro teams to them and as one former player stated, "I was sick and tired of everything the coaching staff had done and I would have done anything to have kept that group of coaches from coming back in 1962." Jennings was gone and with him, the red helmets with their white center stripe and white player numerals on each side.

If interested in any of these NU helmets please click on the photos below.