It sounded like an officer saying goodbye to the rest of his troop. Had there been dramatic video and slow motion effects, the man would have likely wiped a tear from his eye and slowly shuffled away from the podium to silence, leaving the media to wonder what exactly just happened as they screen faded to black.
In his quotes surrounding the Penn State game, before and after, Pelini made references to it being “an honor to coach” this football team and “something special” was going on. He also went so far as to comment about his coaching staff and that it would “be a shame” to break them up.
So why all the hubbub about the Iowa post game press conference? Sure there was a certain voyeuristic thrill in it, as Tom Shatel said, “I just saw a man set himself on fire,” but isn’t it apparent that this plan was set into motion a while ago?
How else do you explain Pelini’s regression back to his old self in the postgame? On the sideline? At halftime?
If Bo Pelini wasn’t a man who knew he was fired before the game then he was at least aware of what needed to happen in order for him to keep his job.
What exactly that criteria was will not be out for a while but make no qualms about it that in order for the head coach of Nebraska to keep his job, nine wins is certainly one of the bench marks. The others likely are the prototypical graduate players, have a disciplined team and don’t call your fans the noun version of the f-bomb.
And don’t take that the wrong way. Pelini is not getting let go because he spoke like a normal college football coach behind closed doors over two years ago. Pelini is getting fired for the same reason anyone at any job gets let go; a culmination of instances.
If an investment banker takes your portfolio from leaking money like a sieve and stabilizes it, you love that guy. “Holy crap I was losing thousands of dollars every year and now I’m actually making a little!”
Then six years later, you are still only making a little money and now the brashness of your investment guy really starts to shine through and you kind of dread talking to that guy, even though he’s still making you a little money. Would you look for a new investment guy? Or just be happy with not losing any money and making just a little.
Bo Pelini is a good coach and deserves another coaching job, likely somewhere as a defensive coordinator. The one thing people do not give Pelini credit for is his knowledge of big time football and what it takes to win in today’s environment. He’s spent time at Oklahoma and at LSU in his absence from Nebraska. He has seen what those programs had to do to stay relevant in college football and to some extent some of Pelini’s frustration might come from knowing that the job in Lincoln is one of the toughest jobs in college football with the most unrealistic of expectations.
Fans expect you to win or be in contention for a conference title every year with the chance at a national championship every few years. That’s the expectation that is echoed on talk radio and in the comment sections of forums across the state. Meanwhile, no one has won a conference title in the last 14 seasons at Nebraska. That’s the same amount of time that it takes for someone living on a farm in the Cornhusker state to have a baby and that baby get a school permit.
Pelini will likely be let go soon, maybe within hours of writing this column. Whether it’s fair or not will not be for me to judge but it’s tough to argue that this relationship wasn’t doomed from the start. Nebraskan’s broke up with an old girlfriend and went running back to the one that got away only to remember maybe why they didn’t date in the first place.
Things will never be like the days of old for Nebraska or any old power of college football. Recruiting has changed, the postseason has changed and media coverage has changed. Whoever comes into Lincoln to take over this program will have success, just like Pelini, and perhaps a little bit more every few years. Coaches can win at Nebraska based on facilities, tradition and the lack of strength in the Big 10. But everyone needs to start tempering their expectations to the new world of college football and stop thinking Nebraska is a coach and a Tommie Frazier away from 94, 95 and 97.