Recently it was reported in Sports Illustrated by Stewart Mandel that Bo Pelini may be on the hot seat if his team fails to improve upon a nine win season. Mandel believes that Pelini’s failures in big games as the head coach of the Nebraska Cornhuskers are raising major concern in Lincoln. Perhaps Mandel should familiarize himself with Husker Nation and what the fans of the Big Red desire and a short period that causes them to tremble with repugnance.
First, the time period was the failed Bill Callahan Experiment. Much of Husker nation was disheartened to see Solich dismissed to make room for the Callahan, the polished NFL Super Bowl coach. Surely Solich’s time as a player and an assistant coach had earned him a spot in the hearts of all of the Huskers fans. The assumption was that the new coach could recruit NFL talent to compete in Lincoln. Long story short the experiment was a failure. After 25 years under one coach, Tom Osborne, Solich was given only six seasons before then athletic director Steve Peterson fired him in favor of Callahan.
Ten years and two coaches was enough to confuse and sadden Husker fans. There was one man who could save the University and that man was of course no other than Dr. Tom Osborne who returned in the role of Athletic Director. Osborne’s return to the program brought with it a calmness and patience. As a coach Osborne was patient; he stuck with his game plan and used what was available to his team. A hard-nosed running game, a tough defense, and a strong walk on program were all pillars of the Huskers under Osborne. As an athletic director Osborne instilled that patience in the new staff in Lincoln. Osborne did not take the athletic director role to be a force only in the football department but rather to help the entire University – his presence alone brought stability. Osborne was also patient in his guidance of a first time head coach in Pelini.
Osborne never imposed his style of coaching on Pelini; he merely offered the young coach an open door and support. Tom Osborne and Bo Pelini are not the same man and that is okay. Osborne was able to see Pelini’s talents and embraces the passion he brings to the game.
It was with this same patience and leadership that Osborne helped select and groom his successor as Athletic Director Shawn Eichorst. Osborne’s final day as Athletic Director was January 1 but he stayed on to help Eichorst in the transition into the role in Lincoln until June 27. Hopefully during this time some of Osborne’s patience and leadership skills were passed on to Eichorst.
It has been 15 years since Osborne roamed the sidelines of Memorial Stadium. Nebraska fans are desperately in need of consistency. Barring an absolute meltdown this season there is little chance that Pelini will be replaced as head coach. In fact Pelini is starting to show some of Osborne’s characteristics. One that is greatly appreciated by the Husker fan base is his dedication to keeping an excellent staff under him and trusting them to do their jobs. Shawn Watson and Carl Pelini have moved on and their roles have successfully been filled by Coach John Papuchis and Coach Tim Beck
Finally there is no reason to begin a massive search for a new coach. Offensive coordinator Beck has done well in his role but does not have the experience to step into the role of head coach at as prestigious as Nebraska yet. The remainder of the Nebraska staff seems to be set in their roles as position coaches for the time being. The majority of top coordinators are offensive minds with the exceptions of Kirby Smart at Alabama and Brian Diaco at Notre Dame. There would be little need to bring in an offensive minded head coach with Tim Beck doing well. Only two names that could build on the tradition at Nebraska are two that were mentored by Osborne. They are former Nebraska quarterbacks Turner Gill (Liberty) and Scott Frost (Oregon), but the likelihood of either returning to Lincoln any time soon seems doubtful. Pelini should be safe for the foreseeable future and should concentrate on winning games, not where he will be raising his family.