Sideline Report: Why Bo Pelini should not have been fired

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On Sunday, Nov. 30, University of Nebraska athletic director Shawn Eichorst dismissed head coach Bo Pelini from his duties as the head of the football program. The firing of coach Pelini felt like it was bound to come, yet still was a jolt to my system. Why is Pelini a bad fit for the Nebraska football program? Many try to give answers, yet they don’t see the whole picture.

Pelini finished his tenure of seven seasons at Nebraska with a record of 66-27 and seven straight seasons of nine or more victories. Pelini is now among names like Barry Switzer, Mack Brown and the legendary Tom Osborne as some of the only coaches to accomplish such a feat in their first seven seasons at a Power five conference school. Yet fans and media alike were still calling for Pelini’s head. “Pelini hasn’t won the games that mattered” and “no conference championships” are phrases that have been thrown around. While they initially seem like fair points, they hold some major flaws. Tom Osborne, arguably the greatest coach in the history of the game, didn’t win a national championship until his 22nd season. Osborne has a much better track record, but could never win the big game, fans and the media both said. Osborne  got to the big stage and could never deliver until he ended up winning in 1994, 1995 and 1997 of course. But winning takes time.

Pelini cared about his players and made sure that they graduated. Doing things the right way and playing fair in recruiting as well as games were some of Pelini’s goals. Consistency followed Pelini’s tenure at Nebraska and apparently this was not good enough for fans and the athletic department. Pelini had continued what his predecessors of Bob Devaney and Tom Osborne had always accomplished: caring about players and always playing within the rules. Pelini might not have been great with the media and always seemed divisive and “extremely angry on the sidelines,” but if anyone really paid any attention they would know the real Pelini: a coach who always seemed to do things like they are supposed to be done.

A man by the name of Bill Callahan came into Nebraska and completely destroyed everything. Callahan managed to break Osborne’s streak of nine or more wins in a season and embarrassed the program consistently. New athletic director Tom Osborne came in to save the program that he loves and hired a hotshot defensive coordinator from Louisiana State by the name of Bo Pelini who had previous experience at Nebraska as a defensive coordinator and interim head coach. Pelini immediately made an impact in only his second season with a Big 12 title game appearance and a win, if not for the worst penalty call I have seen in my entire life which resulted in a Nebraska defeat. Anyway, Pelini came away with two Big 12 title game appearances and two Big 10 title game appearances. Nebraska hasn’t won a conference title since 1999 and fans have grown impatient. How could Pelini brutally fail on the biggest stage?

Well, Pelini may have “failed” in those games. Technically, Nebraska still has not won a conference title since 1999. But what the fans that hold the NCAA record sellout streak don’t realize is that this is not the ’90s. Fans need to understand that this is a different game and the parity in college football is the greatest that it has ever been. Teams like Texas Christian, Baylor and Boise State have had success in recent years, even though they were all jokes in the previous decades. Pelini may have only won nine or 10 games every season (which is an insane feat) and may have given up one of the biggest rushing performances of all time this season. But, yet again, fans don’t see the bigger picture.

Bo Pelini (and even Faux Pelini) gave me lots of joy and I thank the Bo for his service to Nebraska football, the upkeep of the Blackshirt defense, his work on and off the field and the university as a whole. His contributions to kids like Jack Hoffman and his consistent approach to helping these student athletes shall not go unnoticed. Pelini will be missed and I will continue to be a massive Bo Pelini fan wherever he takes his career next.

Shawn Eichorst and chancellor Harvey Perlman made the wrong decision. The core values of what this program is all about were always upheld by Pelini. Eichorst and Pelini never had a great relationship and Eichorst never understood all of the good that Pelini has done over the last seven years. Fans have failed to realize this and so has the hierarchy at the University of Nebraska. Dark days are coming to Lincoln due to the ill-advised firing of an excellent football coach. The following seasons could be even worse than the dreaded Callahan years. The man with the most wins of any coach hired in 2008 has just left the building and there is no guarantee that a “better” coach is coming to Nebraska as a successor. Who really wants to come to a school where nine wins a season gets you fired?

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