During his run as head coach of the Nebraska Cornhuskers, Bo Pelini has won a lot of games. However, when you coach at a program like Nebraska, it’s not just the number of games you win that’s important; it’s also about which games you win. While Pelini has racked up wins with historic regularity, he’s failed to bring any major wins to Lincoln. Could that lead to his exit from Nebraska football?
There’s no denying that Pelini is a good football coach. Nebraska has won either nine or 10 games in each of his first five seasons at the helm and his 49 wins in his first five years as a head coach ranks No. 15 all time in FBS history. Nebraska is one of just four teams, along with the Alabama Crimson Tide, Boise State Broncos and Oregon Ducks, to win at least nine games each of the last five seasons.
But the number that haunts Pelini’s tenure with the Huskers is zero. Pelini has won exactly zero conference titles for a program that boasts 43 conference championships but none since 1999. More importantly, they still haven’t won a title since making the move to the Big Ten, which severely undercuts any argument the Huskers can make for being one of the elite teams in the conference. The fan base is starving for a conference title, especially now that they’re in a new conference.
They’ve come close, of course. Last season, they won the Legends Division and went to Lucal Oil Stadium with a shot at punching their ticket to the Rose Bowl Game. But close only counts in horse shoes and grenades as the Huskers were embarrassed by the 7-5 Wisconsin Badgers 70-31. That terrible effort from a team and coach that prides itself on tough defense has given a sharp talking point for Pelini’s critics to needle him with this offseason.
This kind of pressure comes with the territory of being the head coach for Nebraska, however. The fan base demands championships and anything less is a disappointment. Former head coach Frank Solich won 58 games in six seasons from 1998 – 2003, but was fired because he didn’t bring home a conference title after his first season as head coach.
Even the legendary Tom Osborne faced similar criticism. Despite winning nine or 10 games in each of his first nine seasons in Lincoln, Osborne had detractors saying he couldn’t win the “big game.” That was before he went on to win three national championships in four seasons and punched his “Free Drinks for Life” card in Husker Nation, though.
So as Pelini comes into his sixth season in Lincoln, he faces one of these two fates after suffering the criticism of being good, but not great for years. Which path will the coach ultimately head down? We may find out in 2013.