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Nebraska has been here before. The Huskers have lived in that world of “reality meets expectation meets coach who’d be meeting both if he were at 99 percent of the schools he was coaching, but not Nebraska.”
Once upon a time, it was Frank Solich who was winning and winning handsomely, just not winning enough. This time, it’s Bo Pelini, and Nebraska should have learned the first time, but it apparently didn’t.
Pelini was removed as Nebraska’s head coach after a stirring win against “rival” Iowa in Iowa City, and as swift and blind-siding as it was, you’d have thought the Huskers lost by 50 and 10 players were suspended for missing curfew the night prior.
Pelini leaves Nebraska having averaged over nine wins a season, never falling even once below that number. If it seems asinine to fire a coach for winning 9-10 games every year he’s there, well, it is. He leaves with a career record of 67-27.
This won’t go over well, but the Huskers are one of a handful of programs seemingly unable to come to grips with the reality that college football seasons aren’t double-digit-win birthrights anymore. The climate of the sport has changed. You could add Michigan and Tennessee to that mix.
Once upon a time, Nebraska fans would have signed up in a heartbeat for 9-win seasons in the midst of the Bill Callahan era … the one that came when former athletic director Steve Pederson canned Solich. It’s not a stretch to suggest three to four years from now, that might be the mindset again, but my, someone got greedy in a hurry.
Firing Pelini is like dating a girl but telling your buddies, “I get that she’s a 9 out of 10 on a 10-point scale, has a job, and still lets me hang out with my friends … but she hates football and doesn’t cook!”
You’re either an idealist or pure idiot for chasing utopia, and you can go ahead and decide which one Nebraska is with this situation.
Aside from wins, why is firing Pelini ridiculous? Because Pelini’s players absolutely loved him AND he was winning. The first fundamental element of coaching is to win the locker room so you can create a culture. Following athletic director Shawn Eichorst’s decision which was followed by e-mailing the players to notify them, Nebraska players both past and present were extra salty … clearly showing that Bo was well liked in the locker room.
Whether people want to admit it or not, no one’s re-inventing the wheel coaching a sport anymore. They’ve been around long enough, and even if you’re some modern-day genius, none of it works if your players don’t want to play for you or the culture you’ve established.
Pelini clearly had the locker room.
Another issue moving forward is obviously the pervasive thought process that the AD, Shawn Eichorst, is just in it long enough to go back to his home state, Wisconsin, at some point. That’s impossible to substantiate, but it’s clear that actual Nebraska players think this, not Joe Message Board Guy.
Where will Nebraska go from here? What coach wants to sign up for a program that, twice in the last 15 years, has decided that 9 to 10 wins a season is not good enough? Sure, you can say that money will fix everything if you pay enough, and that’s partially true, but coaches who can “guarantee” that type of production aren’t exactly flying all over the place looking for jobs.
Then there’s the jokey “Oh well, he got a ton of money to leave Lincoln and not work anymore, and I’d sign up for that” crowd.
Sure, you won’t find the Pelinis at a soup kitchen tomorrow, but for a host of other staff that don’t make that kind of money below him, they’re now faced with not having jobs in the holiday season. There’s nothing particularly funny about that, but the bloodthirsty “fire the coach” social media crowd never thinks of that.
Being nice isn’t really a reason to keep someone and their staff in a job if you feel they’re not doing well enough. I’m just throwing it out there that not everyone in the Nebraska program gets to shove off with enough money to hang out for the rest of their lives getting up at noon, playing golf, and drinking beer every day.
What is a reason to keep someone and their staff in a job? Probably 9 to 10 wins a year, I’d reckon. Once again, it isn’t good enough for the new athletic director at Nebraska. He’d best hope there isn’t another Bill Callahan situation coming down the pike.
Fool me once, it’s on you. Fool me twice, it’s on me. This one’s on the people at Nebraska who decided Pelini wasn’t good enough in a college football world where very, very few are year in and year out.