What is wrong with this picture?
On Monday, Steve Spurrier announced his intentions on remaining at the University of South Carolina, where he has gone 83-45 over the past 10 seasons. Meanwhile, Bo Pelini was shown the door at Nebraska over the weekend after going 67-27 in seven seasons.
Judging by negative reaction from the football program and fans, it may be a decision Nebraska Athletic Director Shawn Eichorst and Chancellor Harvey Perlman ultimately regret. During his tenure, Pelini became a polarizing but popular figure among Nebraska’s loyal fan base.
Thanks to a dramatic comeback win at Iowa Friday, the Cornhuskers joined Alabama and Oregon as the only programs to win at least nine games in each of the past seven seasons. It is a misleading stat, and obviously the Huskers do not measure up to those powerhouses. They have either won or contended for national championships, while Pelini never even won a conference title.
November went from horribly bad to even worse, starting with a historic beatdown at the hands of Wisconsin followed by a home loss to Minnesota. After losing to the Gophers, ESPN’s Brian Griese suggested that Nebraska fans accept 9-3 and 8-4 seasons as the new reality.
News of Pelini’s firing brought overwhelming backlash from players and alumni, especially because Eichorst delivered the news via email. Some believe that Eichorst is biding his time until he can become athletic director at Wisconsin.
In a written statement, Eichorst suggested factors beyond the actual win-loss record played a part in the decision, hinting that Pelini did not meet obligations off the field. Most who follow the team saw an abrasive coach at times, but also a man loyal and dedicated to his profession who appreciated the support from his fans – despite what a leaked recording may have depicted. The timing also seemed unusual coming less than a year after Pelini received contract extension while Eichorst proclaimed him as the man to lead Huskers football “into the future.”
Setting the bar to the current climate at the University of Wisconsin is reasonable. The Badgers will be playing for a fourth Big Ten title in five years against Ohio State Saturday night. The entire athletic department at Wisconsin has set a model for others to follow, and one in which Nebraska is not far off of.
But considering the backlash that may result in transfers and recruits looking elsewhere, Nebraska football may take two steps back before going forward. One only needs to look at the current status of storied programs such as Michigan, Tennessee, Texas and Florida to see where the Cornhuskers may be headed.
Maybe Eichorst has a home run hire planned. It is possible Nebraska will win the Big Ten and be in the College Football Playoff conversation in the foreseeable future.
As for Coach Pelini, he will land on his feet – likely as a coordinator at either the pro or college level (Auburn is a possibility), or he could take a sabbatical in the television world for a year.
What cannot be debated is Pelini, his staff and his players left everything on the field during their time in Lincoln.