Fans and media members are reacting to the leaked audio of Bo Pelini’s farewell address to his team from a few days after he was fired. Most of that reaction is rightfully critical as Pelini was very harsh – both in language and in message – in attacking his former boss, fans, media, and University leadership while portraying himself as somebody who was not supported by the administration.
There are several areas of Pelini’s speech where the coach is right, speaking the truth, or unintentionally stated an absolute fact.
Here are the nuggets of truth mined from the Omaha World-Herald’s transcript of the speech:
1. “(Eichorst) was never going to come out in the paper and support (us).”
Let’s set aside the inconvenient truth that Eichorst – in an August interview with the World-Herald, Lincoln Journal Star and the Associated Press – did offer support (even if Eichorst’s quotes read like a prequel to the Bo is fired press conference). I interpret Bo’s quote to mean that he was looking for his boss to speak up for him after the Wisconsin or Minnesota losses.
But if we know anything about Eichorst, it is that he’s never going to make public comments about a coach while the coach is in the midst of a season. Bo states a truth, but he should have been smart enough to know he was not going to get what he wanted.
2. “The scrutiny, the taking shots at you, and everything else – when you aren’t getting support from your boss, it can be stressful. It was stressful on me, it was stressful on my family.”
I have no doubt that hearing the “shots” aimed at you, your coaches, your players, and your hard work takes a toll. As much as coaches always say that they don’t read the papers, they still know what is being written and said about them. The stress of being on the hot seat probably didn’t help.
3. “I said to Kaz at one point, I said, man, this is killing me. I said, I don’t want to die doing this job. And I meant it. I was like, I don’t want to have a heart attack doing this job.”
Bo’s trip to the hospital at halftime of the 2012 Arkansas State game had to be alarming for the coach – especially as his stress level continued to mount.
On a related note – if you’d be willing to suffer a heart attack doing your job, please leave me a comment with what you do for a living
4. “They didn’t want us to win (the Iowa) game.”
Obviously, I do not think this is an indisputable fact. I would hope Nebraska’s leadership is not rooting for Nebraska to lose games – regardless of the reason.
However, it is tough to deny that the decision to fire Pelini is much easier (and more widely accepted) if NU doesn’t come back against Iowa. In the court of public opinion (both locally and nationally) it is much easier to can a coach who is 8-4 with three straight disappointing losses than one who has hit a certain win threshold for the seventh straight year.
Another related note: almost 30% of Husker fans would have rooted for Nebraska to lose that game if it got Pelini or his assistants fired.
5. “Because if you aren’t gonna support us, then it’s probably best for everybody involved that we part ways.”
I don’t really know what kind of “support” Pelini needs, but clearly he wasn’t getting it from Eichorst and the athletic department. So it is definitely best that the decision was made to part ways.
Hopefully everybody understands that now.
6. “You know, when they forced coach Osborne out — and that’s what happened, he got forced out — when he got forced out, I knew what was right around the corner.”
I have no idea if Pelini’s claim about Tom Osborne is fact, speculation, or a tinfoil hat conspiracy. None. But I will agree with Pelini that Osborne’s retirement was not good for Pelini’s job security – and the 2012 Big Ten Championship didn’t help either.
7. “it’s hard enough to get to build something, but you gotta have everybody going in one direction. And it wasn’t. Everybody wasn’t going in the right direction.”
This may be the truest, most honest thing Pelini said that night.
Unfortunately, I have a hunch Pelini meant it differently from how you and I read it – and that is another reason why it is good that Nebraska is moving on.
8. “If you guys need any help with anything, all you gotta do is ask, and I promise you, I’m there for you. I mean, I will do everything I possibly can to help you, no matter what.”
Runner up for the most honest thing Pelini said.
You can question a lot of things about the man, but you cannot question the love he had for his players.
9. “There’s a lot of talent in this room. There’s a lot of great kids in this room.”
I agree 100%. The current roster has both talent and kids that you are proud to have representing this university and state.
10. “And you know, if you choose to stick it out, you stick it out. If you choose not to, you don’t have to. You are free to do whatever the heck you want to do.”
I’m guessing this rubbed some folks the wrong way, but I have no problem with it. If a guy feels he will have a better opportunity somewhere else – and is willing to lose the year of eligibility – then I will wish him best of luck.
11. “I’m hard on you, the same way I’m hard on my own kid, but I love you guys. I really do. I recruited most of you guys to come here. And I told you I’d look after you, and I can tell you this, I did everything I possibly could. I gave you guys every ounce I could give you. I promise you.”
I believe that Bo gave everything he could for his players, and did not hold anything back.
Unfortunately, sometimes your best isn’t good enough.
12. “So hopefully (Eichorst) brings someone in here that is strong, that has some leadership skills.”
I’m becoming more confident that the “pencil pushing lawyer” may actually know what he’s doing.
13. “My advice is, fellas, is, it’ll be different, but if you choose to stay here, you give the new guy a chance.”
I think this is one of the more important things that Pelini said. The loyalty of his players is very strong (well, with the exception of the one who leaked the recording). I believe that “give the new guy a chance” may allow some of Bo’s fiercest supporters to play for Riley without feeling like they’re being disloyal to Bo.
14. “But at the end of the day, fellas, you’ll able to control your own destiny by what you put on film and how hard you work.”
Another statement that is 100% accurate.
Players who might be thinking about transferring should realize what an opportunity they have both now and in the spring to win a starting job.
15. “Don’t get caught up in all the BS, all the stuff the press says and doesn’t say around here. At the end of the day, you take care of you. You take care of each other. And usually when you have that attitude, things work out.”
File this under “easier said than done”, but Bo makes a good point. Somehow, the players need to tune out the media, message board chatter, and the crap knuckleheads say on social media.
16. “I can’t afford to get any dumber than I already am.”
Also very true.
Bo, I’ve never forgotten that you are a bright guy (academic All-Big 10 as a player), but the tone and message of these remarks were largely a failure that was not appropriate for your former players. I heard a great analogy: Pelini is like the divorced dad who trashes his ex to his kids before leaving the kids to live with mom.
Bottom line: you should have been smart enough not to say most of what you said to the players.
17. “You guys represent this place phenomenally, in the classroom, in the community.”
Personally, I think that will be a lasting part of his legacy at NU – even if it is rightfully overshadowed by everything else.
18. “If it wasn’t for you guys and the coaches and their families, I would have resigned a year ago. Because there was some things that were going on that were making me miserable. And all the money in the world ain’t f—— worth that. And that’s the truth.”
In my 8-5 career, I’ve been apart of some toxic workplaces full of situations, stressors, and supervisors who make you dread coming to work*. I have learned that a good paycheck is rarely worth being miserable. Granted, I’ve never made $3 million a year, but I’ve also never had the responsibilities or stress that comes with being head coach at a football power.
*Not referring to my current job or boss – I have a good gig, great co-workers, and boss that I completely respect.
19. “there were a lot of nights I would go and sit down on the bed, and sit there and think, “What the f— am I doing? Is this worth it?” Because I felt like it was taking years off my life. Really. The stress, it was hard. It got hard. It really did.”
I have no doubt that the stress of the Nebraska job – or any other brand name school – can be overwhelming at times. Especially when you have ugly losses or get stuck in a rut.
It is a shame that Pelini did not have a better outlet for the stress, because it really impacted his job performance.
20. “It’s hard enough when you have the negativity that comes from the media and the negativity from a lot of former players and this talk show and that talk show. You win and it ain’t good enough. It’s not good enough, how you won.”
You may not like this one, but it is accurate.
There is a ton of negativity coming at the program, even after wins. In every Husker game review I’ve written for HuskerMax, I have included “5 Areas for Improvement” and have been critical of coaches and players in other sections. And I’m just one voice out of 100 journalists, radio hosts, bloggers, and others with a platform to share an opinion.
Don’t believe me? Go back and read some of the things written after the Rutgers or Purdue games. With some of the things you’ll find you may be surprised that Nebraska won those games comfortably.
We can talk about how the coaches and players should ignore what is written and said about them; how they should focus on improving week to week instead of getting caught up in their press clippings or using them as motivational ploys – and that is likely a very valid critique of the Bo Pelini Era
That doesn’t dismiss the equally valid assertion that we as fans (and the media who purport to speak on our behalf) are rarely satisfied after wins.
You can counter that is because Pelini’s teams historically underperformed or failed to play a “complete” game up to their full potential. Again, a valid point.
Think back through your memory. When was the last time you were completely satisfied with a Nebraska win? Miami this fall? Last year’s bowl game? The home win over Michigan State in 2011? The Holiday Bowl domination of Arizona? Some time before Pelini took over? I’d say if you have to go back more than two seasons, Bo has a legitimate beef.
Look: I know that I’m not going to stop looking at all Nebraska games – win or lose – with a critical eye. That is part of what I do for this site. Besides, I have been criticized in the past for not criticizing enough.
But the fan side of me learned a long time ago* not to take wins for granted – no matter how ugly or undeserved they are. Yet, I feel there are folks out there who will not appreciate or be satisfied by any win that is not tied to a championship trophy.
*2002, with refresher courses in 2004 and 2007.
To those folks, I’d encourage you to relax and enjoy the journey a little more this time around. Yeah, a 27-13 win over a Big Ten doormat may not move your needle as much as blowing out Ohio State, but I would hope you can find the good in every win without focusing all of your attention on the negative.