While I think there were some moments of truth and honesty in Bo Pelini’s comments to his former players after being fired from Nebraska, it is sadly obvious that there are many more pieces of spin, delusion, and possible fabrications.
Since I don’t really feel like splitting hairs or getting caught up in spin, I’m going to point out ten quotes where Pelini was completely, unequivocally, dead wrong:
1. “I didn’t really have any relationship with the AD.”
I include this one not from a fact or crap point of view, because I have no idea what type of relationship Bo and Shawn Eichorst had – nor is it really relevant to the point.
I include it because if Bo did not have a relationship with his boss, his direct supervisor – the guy who could fire him – that’s on him. I’m not saying that Bo needed to be a brown-noser or bestest buddies with ol’ Shawnie, but if I was concerned about being fired – or more appropriately, wanting to avoid being fired – I’d make sure my boss knew who I was, what intangibles I bring to the table, the names of the kids who be uprooted if I’m canned, etc.
I know Bo was a little busy trying to build a football team good enough to win championships and silence 1.8 million critics, but that doesn’t excuse not making an effort.
2. “(Eichorst) was never going to come out in the paper and support (us).”
From an ESPN.com story dated August 13, 2014:
- “I really enjoy what he brings to the table.”
- “I think we’re stable. We have a seasoned coach who has won a bunch of games. We’re resourced the right way. So we should be optimistic. We have good kids in our program. It’s never been about a lack of effort or passion.”
- “We’ve done everything they’ve asked us to do, within reason, so to me that should be a sign of support right there.”
All three of those quotes were said by Shawn Eichorst in regards to Bo Pelini. Writers from the Omaha World-Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, and Associated Press were in the same interview so Eichort’s words of support definitely made it into the “papers”.
3. “I went to a couple of the members of the board…and I said ‘Hey, you know what, if this guy ain’t gonna do his job, and if he doesn’t have the balls to go out there and support me, support these kids, support this program, then do me a favor and get rid of me.'”
Going over your boss’s head to the board is an underhanded jerk move in almost all situations. For a man who touts accountability and doing things the right way, this really makes him look hypocritical.
4. “And I said, ‘Hey bud, you can’t support somebody underneath a f—— rock.’ I said, ‘To do your job at this level, at a place like this, you gotta be a grown a– f—— man to lead something.'”
Without diving into a massive tangent about Eichorst’s style, his critics, and his performance to date, I will say that one of the things an employee has very little control over is how their boss leads and supervises them. Some bosses are micro-managers who need to be involved in everything. Some work best in the shadows, allowing their people to perform on their own. Smart employees figure out how their boss functions. Successful employees adapt and change.
Clearly, Eichorst’s behind the scenes leadership style is not what Bo Pelini felt he needed to be successful. But it doesn’t mean Eichorst’s style does not work or that he cannot be a strong leader of Nebraska Athletics.
5. “And fellas, this all stays here.”
Pelini may be wise to spend some of his buyout money on some sort of anti-spy technology for the that blocks recording devices.
Or maybe not trash his boss, fans, and/or media when in the company of anybody outside his immediate family.
6. “I am going to speak my mind, and that probably bothered (Eichorst) and bothered the chancellor.”
I would hope that Bo was encouraged to speak his mind while he was at NU. When Bo was given a topic that he was passionate about, he always came through with interesting and poignant things to say. Off the top of my head, Bo’s comments on recruiting reforms, marijuana usage, the decision to play the Penn State game after the Sandusky story broke wide open, and his concerns about ESPN’s involvement with the SEC Network were all well thought out and a welcome change from the non-answer clichés most coaches give.
But, yeah, I’m sure Eichorst and Harvey Perlman were bothered when Bo dared them to fire him last year. You just can’t do that.
7. “I would have resigned a year ago. Because there was some things that were going on that were making me miserable…I said I could suck it up.”
As numerous others have mentioned, the majority of this speech is a case study on the many ways Bo Pelini is deluded.
But if Bo Pelini ever seriously believed that he could “suck it up” and not let the litany of injustices he perceived get to him for an entire season….wow. That may be the most self-unaware thing he said at Nebraska – and this speech has plenty of strong contenders.
8. “It’s a b—- here.”
Yeah, the expectations at Nebraska are greater than those at 90% of the schools in the FBS, but so are the resources, traditions, and passion level.
I’ll be honest: this may be the quote that pisses me off the most. I would like to believe that after seven seasons as the head coach, Bo Pelini had a greater affinity for Nebraska (the program and the state). Instead, he comes across as some ungrateful jerk who was too busy crafting his Messiah complex after another blowout loss to appreciate all of the advantages he had at his disposal.
Is Nebraska (the state or the program) an ideal spot for a college football powerhouse? Of course not. I could give you 2,015 words on the limitations Nebraska’s coach faces in 2015. But don’t go calling my school or my state a bitch – especially to 100 guys who you recruited to come here.
9. “I thought you guys were more mentally beat in (the Wisconsin) game than we got physically beat. It’s a culmination of the negativity.”
Okay, scratch what I said in #7. THIS is the most self-unaware thing Bo Pelini said at Nebraska.
Or is it…
Now that I give it a second thought, it occurs to me that Nebraska ended the first quarter with a respectable lead over the Badgers. Was that a culmination of the negativity? Or what about when Bo dressed down Daniel Davie on the sideline? That sure looked like a mental beating to me. Coincidentally (or maybe not) that is when the wheels started to fall off. Maybe the Wisconsin game WAS a culmination of the negativity – the negativity that Pelini infused in the team.
Or maybe trying to blame the media, fans, and other external noise for a blowout loss is incredibly stupid.
Take your pick.
10. “I’ve been to these other places and it ain’t quite — the scrutiny, the negativity, it ain’t like that everywhere.”
The reason you didn’t face scrutiny and negativity at Oklahoma and LSU was mostly because those teams were successful. There is surprisingly little scrutiny and negativity when a team (like the 2007 LSU squad) wins a National Championship.
Oh wait, that shouldn’t be a surprise.
Let’s look at your alma mater: I’m guessing there was more scrutiny and negativity at Ohio State in 2011 when Luke Fickell went 6-7 than 2010 when Jim Tressel went 12-1 or 2012 when Urban Meyer when 12-0. Wonder why that is?
* * *
A few assorted odds and ends from the Pelini transcript:
Who leaked the audio? I’m not surprised that it was recorded. Heck, if you told me 10 different guys recorded it, I’d believe you. But who was the one who shared it with the World-Herald? Was it a player? Another coach? A member of the support staff? If it was a player, was he an upperclassman or a younger guy? Was he a starter, backup, or somebody buried on the depth chart?
“But at the end of the day, what I wanted to make sure, if there was gonna be a change, that I would have time to get on my feet. They gotta pay me.” I believe as much as anybody that Pelini loves and supports his players, but it is worth noting that he says this sentence way before he states any sort of concern for the players.
What the hell is Bo talking about with “when they forced coach Osborne out”? In a brief interview with the World-Herald, Osborne said “I wasn’t forced out”.
I tend to take Osborne at his word (he’s earned that respect from me), but I will gladly listen to any and all conspiracy theories.
“If it’s true what (Eichorst) said — someone told me, that it ‘crystallized’ for him on Saturday night” Am I to interpret from this quote that Pelini did not watch (or has not read quotes or seen clips) from the press conference announcing his firing?
I don’t think that the Pelini family gathered in the theater room that Sunday afternoon to watch Eichorst issue his statement and answer questions, popcorn in hand. But Bo seems like the kind of guy – as reinforced by this speech to his players – that would probably watch to make sure that s.o.b. Eichorst isn’t trashing him.
“Let me tell you, you go back a year, fellas, when I said what I said after the Iowa game? I was trying to press — I wanted to find out then where they stood. And unfortunately all I found out then was that they were p—— and they were gonna do what was politically right, or what they thought was the politically right thing to do.” Two reactions to this one:
1. I find it interesting that his outburst was a calculated move (or so he claims now). I wonder if his coaching in that game was also a calculated move – because I will always believe he coached that game like guy who wanted to be fired.
2. How was Eichorst’s decision to retain Pelini and publicly support him “politically right”? If you’re talking about the politics of getting people to support your decision, I could easily argue the “right” choice would have been to fire Bo last year.
Or is “politically right” a reference to a certain conservative U.S. Representative who is rumored to have played a role in Pelini being retained?
Has any former Husker football player gone on to work at (or own) a McDonald’s? Let me know in the comments.
Pelini makes many references to the “support” he did not get from Eichorst. What exactly did he want? Did Bo expect Eichorst to make a public statement of support after the Wisconsin or Minnesota games? Were there resources or other needs that Pelini asked for but did not receive? Was Pelini wanting Eichorst to be a more hands-on boss and a more visible presence at practice? Did Pelini expect an open-door policy from his boss?
What level of support was Bo getting from Tom Osborne when T.O. was Pelini’s boss? Maybe I’m not remembering correctly, but if feels like Osborne gave Pelini as much public support as Eichorst gave: a few words of support as part of a bigger interview on the athletic department.
But behind closed doors, it must have been a different story. My guess is Osborne really played a role in mentoring Pelini. I suspect Osborne gave him guidance, advice, and the reaffirming support from somebody who has walked in his shoes.
This is pure speculation on my part, but I think this quote from Pelini’s address to his former players supports my theory:
“It’s difficult when you don’t feel you have any support and nobody’s behind you.”
That sure sounds like somebody who wishes he had his mentor to lean on.
“There is a lot of things that go on there, and if you don’t have a grown man standing in front of the thing saying, ‘Hey, I’m behind it,’ getting everybody, rallying them — I can do it all I want, but they’re b——- at me, too. If they don’t get somebody to rally this whole thing together, it’s hard.” This quote is so telling to me. I see this as validation of the Bo-leaver belief that Pelini can be a top-level coordinator but is not equipped to run a program. I see this as Bo looking for somebody to be a deflector for the program’s criticism so he can keep his focus on football.
The part that intrigues me the most is the impression I get Pelini expected his AD to fill that role. Again, maybe my memory is failing me, but I don’t recall Osborne playing that role when he was the AD – at least not publicly.
How many Nebraskans are waking up today regretting that purchase they made from the Youngstown State bookstore? It’s amazing how quickly this audio has changed perceptions. Tuesday night, I drafted a couple of paragraphs about how Pelini seemed to be walking into an ideal situation at YSU. I fully expected many of the fans who still feel a fondness and loyalty for Bo to become Penguin fans this fall – much in the same way that Ohio University merchandise was found in many Nebraska stores in 2004.
I’m sure Pelini supports still exist, but you’d have better luck finding a liberal Nebraskan west of Kearney than getting somebody to express their support for Pelini.