Bo Pelini

History says Huskers must get tough at the top – A rebuttal

In today’s Omaha World-Herald, longtime columnist Lee Barfknecht lays out his case for how Nebraska – particularly the football program – can return to national prominence.  In Barfknecht’s opinion, it all boils down to a single word:


Having read this column a couple of times, I think it all boils down to a single word:


I know that over the years, Lee has proudly embraced his title of “Nebraska writer Nebraska fans love to hate”.  But I’ve never hated him or his work.  Actually, quite the opposite.  I tend to appreciate his experience, his no-nonsense approach, and the cutting wit he unleashes at anything – or anybody.  But this is not his best work.

The most passionate of Husker fans usually don’t care for his words and actions – all stemming from an infamous vote in the 1997 AP Football Poll – but he usually makes good points and delivers them with a strong – if rough around the edges – style.

But this is not one of those times.

For ease of showing you why, I’ve pasted the original World-Herald column below, along with my comments.  Lee’s words are in bold.  Mine are not.

*   *   *

People who know what I do for a living occasionally ask if I’m going to write a book about Nebraska football. It’s true that I’ve seen a few things.

Before I start laying the snark on thick and heavy, let me state this:  I would read this book.  For all of his quirks, Lee has a talent for taking old stories from the barroom to the page without losing their humor or timing.

I sat across from Bob Devaney at his desk in the old South Stadium and shared a few end-of-the-day cocktails while discussing “world events.” (Hey, when they name buildings for you, you can bend the rules about no alcohol on campus.)

As we go through this column, we’re going to play a game I like to call “Lee Barfknecht Bingo”.  When Lee uses one of his tried and true tropes, you can mark a space off on your card.  We’re going to start the game off with a two-fer:  Lee references the length of his career, and Lee waxes nostalgic for the old-school journalistic access he used to have.  Keep watching those Bingo cards, because we’re likely to have a winner today.

I watched Tom Osborne come within a whisker of using the F-word to describe “that dadgum Sports Illustrated guy” writing a story that Osborne was sure to dislike.

I don’t want to doubt a man’s journalistic integrity, but raise your hand if you think Osborne has ever come close to cursing – let alone an F-bomb.

And I’ve seen grown men cry when I went to the Minnesota locker room after Nebraska beat the Gophers 84-13.

There are plenty more tales. But if a book ever comes, be prepared for a big chapter on a topic almost never addressed:

How in the world did Nebraska get good at football in the first place?

Actually, that topic has been addressed in several Nebraska Football books over the years, but whatever.

That’s not a knock.

It’s important to call out the one sentence in your column that is not a knock.

It’s a compliment to the ingenuity, work ethic and toughness — especially the toughness, which we’ll address later — it took to overcome a virtual automatic disqualifier to success: being a small-population flyover state with a wide geographic area.

Nebraska, from the chancellor’s office on down, took football seriously from the beginning, and it thrived. The Huskers won 77 percent of their games from 1900-40, and finished the 1940 season in the Rose Bowl, the school’s first postseason trip.

What followed was two decades of darkness, notable for lackluster administrative commitment to the sport after World War II and shaky coaching hires.

NU posted three winning seasons in 21 years, and won 37 percent of its games. That’s a level of misery an old Kansas State fan could identify with.

I hope some of the other program historians (Mike Babcock, I’m looking in your direction) weigh in on if that 21 stretch of misery was truly due to “lackluster administrative commitment to the sport”.  Furthermore, how would you quantify what a “lackluster administrative commitment to the sport” looked like 60 -70 years ago?  Is Lee basing his thesis of “lackluster administrative commitment to the sport” solely on “shaky coaching hires”?  Or is there more to it?  And if there is more there, what lens is he viewing it with – one from post-war NU or one from the arms race era of college athletics?

In big-boy college athletics, I’m a firm believer that coaches win games while administrations clear the way for championships. That’s why I love what Nebraska Athletic Director Tippy Dye declared as he searched for a new football coach in 1962.

Dye’s goals were for Nebraska to be No. 1 nationally, and to hire the best coach in the country, regardless of name or location. Boosters, community leaders and his boss were in lockstep with him.

No argument here on administrations “clearing the way” for championships, or an AD whose stated goal is to be number 1.  Unless somebody can point me to a quote that says otherwise, I’m pretty sure the current athletic department leadership at Nebraska has stated they want to win championships – just like every other AD since Tippy Dye.

Dye picked Devaney, coming off four conference titles in a row at Wyoming.

The former amateur boxer and assistant to Michigan State legend Duffy Daugherty whipped Nebraska into shape immediately, going 9-2 his first season to start a staggering 40-year run of success. What followed were five national championships between Devaney and Osborne, his hand-picked successor.

But since Osborne’s successor, Frank Solich, led NU to the 1999 Big 12 title and the 2001 national title game, this program has lost its championship mojo.

I sure hope Lee doesn’t try to boil the failures and shortcomings of the program since 62-36 into a single point, because that would be ignorant, misleading, and/or lazy.  There are a host of reasons – both internal and external –  why Nebraska has fallen from a championship-level powerhouse to an “Others Receiving Votes” school.  You definitely cannot do all of those reasons justice in a 1,500 word column.

That brings us to today’s topic, just six days from the 2016 opener:

Will the Huskers ever get good enough to win championships again?

No excuse exists for a school that spends the time, energy and money on football that Nebraska does to go 16 seasons without a conference title. That goes double when you play in the woefully average Big 12 North and Big Ten West.

First off, what the hell does “woefully average” mean?  A division can be average, or woeful, but not both.  And what about the short-lived Legends division?  Personally, I always considered the Legends to be spectacularly mediocre.  But I digress…

Yes, the Big XII North and Big Ten West have been – woefully or not – average over most of the last 16 seasons.  But let’s not pretend like the Big 8 was a grueling gauntlet for most of the Devaney/Osborne years.  Personally, I believe that in the conference championship game era, a division title is equivalent to a conference title in the pre-BCS era.  You played one really good team (Oklahoma), and few above average teams (Colorado and Missouri or Okie State) and bunch of nobodies (Iowa State, K-State, Kansas, etc.).  How is that different from the path NU took to win the Legends in 2012? Or the Big XII North in 2006, 2009, or 2010?  It’s not.

Swallow hard before you read the following:

A suggestion:  World-Herald editors may want to consider printing this disclaimer before the next click-bait column they publish.

Nebraska has the third-longest conference title drought among the 14 Big Ten schools. Only Indiana and Minnesota (both 1967) are more barren. You are known by the company you keep.

On the surface, this is a great and damning stat that helps set the stage for the point that Lee is about to make.  But when you look a little deeper, this stat is fluffed up bull.  For example, look at some of these memorable championship seasons:

  • Four of those teams (Iowa, Northwestern, Penn State and Purdue) shared their championship with another team.
  • That Northwestern championship squad (2000) was so great they ended up in the Alamo Bowl where non-conference champ Nebraska narrowly defeated them 66-17.
  • As for the other B1G newcomers, Maryland won a 9-team ACC in 2000.  That is a legit championship, unlike Rutgers:  The 2012 Scarlet Knights were one of four teams (in an eight team Big East) who finished 5-2, which technically made them co-champs with Cincy, Syracuse, and Louisville.  Louisville was the conference’s BCS representative, mainly due to beating Rutgers head to head.

Are any of these “championships” more impressive than being one second away from defeating Texas in Dallas in 2009?  I get that in sports, titles are the ultimate decider for an argument, but there are a lot of apples being compared to oranges here.

We all realize the landscape of college football has changed dramatically the past 20 years. Many of the competitive edges Nebraska used to hold — in strength training, nutrition, facilities, TV appearances, academic support — are gone or dwindling.

Translation:  “I acknowledge these things may have as big of an impact as what I’m about to mention, but they don’t fit my narrative so I summarily dismiss them.”

So is something else: toughness.

When is somebody in charge at One Memorial Stadium Drive going to throw open a window and scream, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore!” instead of tweeting mushy motivational sayings?

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a window at One Memorial open.  Do they lift up?  Crank out?  Maybe the issue is not with toughness, but an inability to open the windows.  Somebody get Maintenance and Facilities on the phone!

Also, mark off the Bingo square for “veiled shot at Shawn Eichorst”.

Nebraska has long achieved athletically in ways the outside world never thought possible. Two major reasons were the guts to hold people accountable and sheer determination.

It took toughness from Francis Allen to turn Nebraska into a national championship gymnastics school.

It took toughness from Dave Van Horn and his Husker baseball team to perform a College World Series miracle while playing at decrepit Buck Beltzer Stadium.

It took toughness from Terry Pettit to build a national championship volleyball empire from scratch, and more grit from John Cook to demand more excellence going forward.

It took toughness from Connie Yori to turn Husker women’s basketball into a top-15 program nationally, arguably NU’s most underrated success story. Why she isn’t still in charge makes little sense.

I’m not touching the Yori issue, but otherwise the answer is clear:  to win championships you simply need to hire legendary coaches!  Feel free to mark off “overly simplified solution to complex problem” on your Bingo card.

It took toughness from Bill Byrne to hire strong-minded coaches with successful pedigrees, to modernize Nebraska’s facilities despite roadblocks from old-guard boosters, and to set expectations for what turned into the Golden Decade of NU athletics (1992-2001).

I was not aware that Byrne hired Francis Allen, Terry Pettit, and Tom Osborne.  Good to know.

One of Byrne’s favorite things as athletic director was to tell his coaches, “You need to think about how to win a national title, and I’ll do everything I can to help.” It wasn’t a threat. It was about building a championship mindset.

Is anybody in NU’s athletic administration doing that today? The scoreboard in most sports says no.

The key part of that last sentence is the disclaimer “in most sports”.  Let’s ignore the National Championship the Volleyball team won as well as other conference championship teams – those don’t help Lee make his point.

Bingo card alert:  “Lee takes a direct shot at Eichorst”.  Is Lee implying that Eichorst is not offering to help his coaches win titles?  Or is question of “Is anybody in NU’s athletic administration doing that today?” a passive aggressive swipe at Eichorst for not doing a sit-down interview with Lee every month?  If you answer yes, feel free to also mark off “Lee is bitter because Eichorst prefers to not do interviews”.

And then there’s perhaps the toughest dude of all — Osborne.

Nebraska football always has been a far more fragile entity than the general public would believe, or want to know. It took Osborne, calm on top and paddling like crazy underneath, to keep what Devaney resurrected on track.

I’d love to know more about this statement.  If Lee does ever write that book, he should make it about this.

When it came time to put in the work necessary to play championship football, neither Osborne nor his staff and players took shortcuts.

The veracity of this statement really comes down to if you consider Prop 48 usage, some questionable disciplinary decisions, alleged steroid, and other rumors to be “shortcuts” or not.  Let’s just say that several of our former Big 8 rivals rolled their eyes at that claim.

Big Eight coaches used to discuss the dread they had seeing “Nebraska” on the schedule. It wasn’t the losses that bothered them most. It was the relentless effort the Huskers played with, and the physical beating inflicted that often lingered into the next game.

About a month after Osborne won the 1994 national championship, I asked if his quiet nature and strong Christian faith were ever at odds with the ruggedness his teams exhibited. He said no.

“You don’t win football games with choirboys,” Osborne said. “You’ve got to be tough to play. There’s no reason you can’t kick the tar out of somebody on the field and respect them off of it.”

First off all, that is a tremendous question to ask – and an even better answer.  It shows that Barfknecht is an excellent journalist (or at least he was in 1995).  And it helps show just how competitive the stoic Osborne was.

That culture has vanished since self-described genius A.D. Steve Pederson uprooted the Devaney-Osborne-Solich tree.

Bill Callahan’s West Coast offense was all about finesse and playing for field goals. Bo Pelini, despite his bully routine, put zero fear into opposing coaches. His teams tackled poorly, were fundamentally unsound and cracked in the biggest games on the brightest stages.

That Bingo card is really starting to fill up.  Mark down “Lee takes a shot a Bo Pelini”, “Lee takes a shot at Steve Pedersen”, and “Lee takes a shot at Bill Callahan”.

Now, we’re one year in with Mike Riley, an extremely nice man who went 6-7 and got outcoached by Purdue’s Darrell Hazell, who is 3-30 against FBS foes.

Check off “Lee makes a back-handed compliment”.  Also, in doing this exercise, I’ve really noticed just how little Lee cares for the Riley hire.  Clearly, he thinks that Eichorst could have – and should have – done better, but I don’t recall who he suggested NU pursue.  Probably Nick Saban.

And we’re four years in with A.D. Shawn Eichorst, also a very nice man whose Student-Athlete Experience policy is noble.

No, you cannot mark off “Lee makes a back-handed compliment” twice.

But a lot of the benefits and goodies that go to athletes today look to me like he’s spoiling children to get them to like him. Good luck finding many success stories where the teenagers are empowered and the adults (coaches) are hamstrung.

Check off “Lee makes a ‘get offa my lawn!’ statement”.  Maybe the Nebraska Athletic Performance Lab can implement a test to gauge an athlete’s ability to walk to school, uphill, through a driving blizzard.

I cannot recall if Lee is on the bandwagon for paying athletes since colleges and the NCAA make billions off of their efforts.  I hope not, because that paragraph where he mocks Eichorst for doing everything in his power to give a piece of Nebraska’s profits to the student-athletes would make him a championship-level hypocrite.

So where is the toughness?

Good question.  Maybe the NAPL can set up a test for this.  Or maybe analytics guru Tucker Zeleny can develop an advanced metric for toughness – along with measuring an athlete’s “heart” and ability to be “clutch”.

Big Ten Network analysts asked that at a recent Husker practice, calling the workout “Pac-12 style.” That’s Riley’s old league, known far more for finesse than power. The Big Ten is sausage-ball, made at the line of scrimmage.

Absolutely.  Nebraska has depth issues at a number of positions – specifically on both lines – but Riley should spend every practice doing full contact scrimmages and Oklahoma drills before embarking on the first nine game schedule in a “sausage-ball” league.  Brilliant!

Toughness isn’t an issue at Michigan. Ask tight end Jake Butt about playing for coach Jim Harbaugh.

“He forces us to be tough,” the senior All-America candidate said. “When you practice for four hours and you’re smashing into each other, you don’t have any choice but to be tough.”

And how does Michigan A.D. Warde Manuel support Harbaugh’s methods and madness?

“He has free rein,” Manuel said. “I want Jim Harbaugh to be Jim Harbaugh.”

Warde, good on you for putting out a quote that will be trotted out every time Harbaugh does something crazy.

Toughness isn’t an issue at Ohio State. All-America middle linebacker Raekwon McMillan said the Buckeyes’ fall camp is no place for the weak or timid. All involved are utterly accountable to coach Urban Meyer — every play, every day.

“The sense of urgency we have comes from the tradition we have at Ohio State,” McMillan said. “Failure isn’t an option. They put us through the ringer.”

Depth isn’t an issue at Ohio State either.  When you can put 14 guys in the NFL and still be a preseason Top 10 team, you clearly have a talent level that most teams do not enjoy.  Also, how exactly does Urb hold players “utterly accountable”?  If he’s doing something with accountability that NU is not, this would be a good time to pass that along.

Toughness isn’t an issue at Michigan State or Wisconsin, either. Those schools have taken the former Nebraska way of doing things and successfully made it their own.

Where does all this leave Nebraska?

Having to respond to a widely read column that provides no answers or ideas other than a vague concept impossible to measure?  Much like his bizarre crusade to improve Nebraska Basketball by retiring Tyronn Lue’s number, this column is little more than an excuse for Lee to lash out at NU’s administration.  Friends, that is a final box on our Bingo card!

After 40 years of quality football, 20 years of darkness, then 40 more years of championship-caliber play, the Huskers are about to complete another 20-year period of failing to strike fear in opponents. You see it on the field, and I hear it in the press boxes.

Whether NU will soon pivot toward another long period of success remains a mystery. What is clearer is the road this school has taken to get there. It starts at the intersection of toughness and accountability.

I still don’t know what point Lee is trying to make with “accountability”?  Is he trying to say that Eichorst should fire Riley if the team is not three wins better – er, tougher – than they were in 2015?  I doubt that is the case, since a) Lee regularly writes about how schools on the coaching change carousel rarely exit, and b) it would ignore how Eichorst held Pelini accountable by firing him.

Furthermore, how does Lee account for the discrepancy between his poster child of toughness – Osborne the coach – versus a man who hired many of the coaches responsible for the poor championship “scoreboard” Lee chastises Eichorst for – Osborne the Athletic Director?  Pelini, Tim Miles, and Darin Erstad were all hired under Osborne’s watch.

2015 Husker Preview – Unanswered Questions

In taking an in-depth look at what to expect for the 2015 season, we’ve covered some reasons to be optimistic and reasons to be pessimistic.  Between them, you’d think we have a pretty good gauge on how things will go this fall.

But yet, lingering questions remain.

Some of these may be evident by the end of the BYU game, while others may not be known until January.  Here are some lingering questions, along with my best guess on how they’ll be answered:

Does Mike Riley fully understand what he’s gotten himself into?  This is a question that I’ve thought about many times this off-season.  As you and I know, Nebraska is a unique place* and our singular focus and passion for the football team can catch outsiders by surprise.  For an example, consider the two previous head coaches.  I’m guessing each of them had a moment when they thought “Holy crap, what have I done?”.

*Some say there’s no place like it.

I thought about this during his introductory press conference (broadcast live on multiple TV and radio stations across the state).  Or when 60,000 people showed up for a scrimmage in April.  Or last month at Fan Day when the line for his autograph stretched over 100 yards and he was mobbed by fans as he tried to leave the field.

For his part, Riley has said all the right things in every interview.  He truly appears to appreciate our particular brand of football fervor and seems genuinely appreciative and excited to be a part of it.  There’s a part of me that thinks he “Gets It”.

But there is a part of me that knows Mike Riley has never come out of the tunnel on Football Saturday in Lincoln, Nebraska with 90,000 fans in red going crazy.  When he does, will he say “Holy crap” or “Here we go”?

Will Tommy Armstrong be Joe Dailey 2.0?  For those who have repressed memories of  2004, here is the short version:  Joe Dailey was a good quarterback recruited to play in an option based offense.  When Frank Solich was replaced by Bill Callahan, they tried to make Dailey into Rich Gannon.  Dailey looked amazing in the Spring Game, and showed some flashes during the 2004 season.  But mostly, Dailey looked a square peg being pounded into a round hole, and his numbers (17 TD, 19 INT, 49% completion) reflected that.  More importantly, Callahan and company navigated Dailey and the Huskers to a 5-6 record, losing multiple games by trying to win them through the air (see also: Iowa State, 2004).

Despite Riley’s reputation for running “pro style”, pass heavy offenses, I don’t see Armstrong being asked to throw it 40+ times a game or Riley and Langsdorf trying to implement their system completely in Year 1.  Instead, they understand that Nebraska is a “win now” job and Riley has said he wants Armstrong running plays he feels confident that he can execute.  That said, keep an eye on the passes that Armstrong struggles with – are they being removed from the playbook or will Langsdorf keep calling them?

Is completion percentage the stat to track if you want to gauge Armstrong’s success?  Nope, forget completion percentage.  While Armstrong will certainly need to improve upon his 53% completion rate from 2014, that stat can be misleading.  With the combination of another year of experience, an actual quarterback coach, and an increased use of screen passes and short throws to backs and tight ends, a jump in completion percentage is all but guaranteed.

Instead, the stat to watch is touchdown to interception ratio.  To me, TD:INT speaks to Armstrong’s accuracy as a passer, as well as the offense’s success.  Is Armstrong leading the team on scoring drives or is he making bad decisions and forcing throws?  In 2014, Armstrong had a TD:INT ratio of 1.83 (22 TDs to 12 INTs).  That ranked him 56th in the nation (tied with Rutgers QB Gary Nova).  In the Big Ten, Armstrong and Nova were tied for fourth – which really says how poor the quarterbacking in the B1G was last year (four quarterbacks, including three from the West, had more interceptions than touchdowns).

Where should Armstrong end up?  Well for comparison, check out the numbers put up by some other QBs last season:

  • Marcus Mariota:  10.5
  • Cody Kessler:  7.8
  • Brett Hundley:  4.4
  • J.T. Barrett:  3.4 (led the Big 10)
  • Jake Rudock:  3.2
  • Connor Cook:  3.0
  • Dak Prescott:  2.5
  • Brad Kaaya:  2.2
  • Sean Mannion:  1.9
  • Christian Hackenberg:  0.8
  • Trevor Siemian:  0.6 (last of the 12 B1G QBs with enough attempts to qualify)

With the first year in a new offense, I think 2.0 – 2.5 is a good target.  If Armstrong can get above 3.0, Nebraska probably wins the West and Danny Langsdorf earns every penny of his salary.

Who will be the breakout players on offense and defense?  There are lots of young guys getting their first big taste of playing time.  And there are existing guys who may blossom with new schemes and coaching (think Ndamukong Suh after Bo and Carl Pelini came to town).

On offense, I think of guys like Nick Gates, freshmen phenoms Stanley Morgan and Mikale Wilbon, or former walk-ons Lane Hovey and Trey Foster.  However, I’m going with tight end Cethan Carter.  He has the physical traits of the new breed tight ends playing on Sundays and has shown that he can get open.  Unlike Beck who thought the tight end was antiquated, Riley and Langsdorf seem willing to make them viable weapons in the offense.  I know there have been some questions about Carter’s work ethic in camp, along with his suspension for the BYU game, but I’m hoping that serves as a wake-up call.

Defensively, there are a bunch of options.  I like the raw talent of Josh Kalu and Kieron Willams.  I’ve heard great things about Luke Gifford and Dedrick Young.  I’m planning on waving the Jack Gangwish flag at every opportunity.  But I’m going with Josh Banderas.  You can see the athletic ability dripping off of him, and even in the graduate level calculus of Bo Pelini’s defense, you could see the potential.  I’m thinking that in a “high school” defense that encourages him to make plays, Bando could be all conference.

Who takes a step back?  The flip side of talented underclassmen and a coaching change is that sometimes guys who were contributors last year are lost in the depth chart this year.  On offense, I reluctantly look to Imani Cross.  There are too many guys splitting too many carries for Cross to show what he could do as an every down back.  I like Cross a lot and think he could be a great every down back in the right system – I just don’t think Nebraska is going to run that system.

On defense, I’m leaning towards Charles Jackson.  A year ago in fall camp, he was being hyped as physical freak and a star in waiting. Now after being hurt all last year and a coaching change, he is somewhat without a defined position or role.

Of all of the questions, I’m hoping I’m wrong about this one.

Is Mike Cavanaugh’s plan to only play a starting five on the offensive line a smart idea?  In interviews, I have seen Coach Cav say that he prefers to name a starting five who get the vast majority of snaps.  Players have said that if you’re on the starting five, you may not see the field.  The idea is that by having the same five guys out there series after series, game after game, the line will play more as a cohesive unit than a revolving door of linemen (which, by the way, is an amusing mental image).

I understand the concept, but I wonder if there isn’t value in bringing in a “swing” player once or twice a quarter to give a guy a rest, provide some extra coaching, or allow them to kick start a rushing game that may struggle at times.  It’s often said that Nebraska has more fans interested in the intricacies of offensive line play than any other fan base.  If that’s true, consider this something else to keep an eye on.

How many touches will the fullback get?  Speaking of things that are unique to the Nebraska fan base, there is the obsession that some of us have with getting the fullbacks involved in the offense.  I’m definitely a member of the Fullback Cult (give me a couple of minutes and I probably could name every starting fullback for the last 20 years), but my fullback fanaticism is multiplied by the senior season of Andy Janovich, from my hometown (Gretna, NE).  To the best of my knowledge, nobody from my alma mater has scored a touchdown for Nebraska.  Heck, I think Janovich’s career yardage total (35) is 35 yards more than all of the other Gretna Dragons combined.  So yeah, I’m invested in this one.

The good news is I think Janovich could see the ball once or twice a game, if not more.  If he gets into the end zone, the guy losing his mind in North stadium will probably be me.

Will the “tap out” rate be lower than it was in years past?  I’m not referring to MMA here.  Instead, I’m talking about how players signal that they need to come off the field by tapping their helmet.  In the past few years, there were several players a game who would tap out.  Some were injured, and some just needed a breather on the sideline before coming back in.

I respect players for knowing when they are not able to give 100% – I’d rather have a back up get beat for a touchdown than a starter who is gassed.  But in a perfect world, the player would be in good enough shape to not need a blow during an eight-play drive.  I never bought into blaming former Strength & Conditioning coach James Dobson for knee injuries, but players tapping out because they’re tired definitely goes on his tab.  The reviews on new S&C coach Mark Philipp have been very positive.  I’m hopeful that translates to the field.  We should find out during an unseasonably warm September Saturday afternoon.

What is the statute of limitations for comparisons between Bo Pelini and Mike Riley?  You know it is going to happen.  A lot.  Somebody talking or writing about Nebraska will make some type of comparison between how things are under Riley and how they were under Bo.  The odds are good that most will – innocently or otherwise – imply that Bo’s way was wrong.

But when should these compare and contrast sessions cease and desist?  When the ball is kicked off on Saturday?  At the end of the season?  When conference play starts?  At some point in the last nine months?  Never?

We all know Riley will appear in a lot of comparisons to Pelini this year.  The one word overview of each coach (fiery versus nice) makes for an easy target – especially for national media who are not around the program every day. As for the local guys and gals, I’d like to see everybody get start the season with four* Coaching Comparison cards where you can analyze how “Riley is doing X different from how Bo did it” without upsetting the masses.

*Technically, everybody started with five Coaching Comparison cards, but everybody used one when the Blackshirts came out before a game was played.

Use them all on the BYU game or horde them for the next four seasons.  The choice is yours, but when they’re gone you’re done using Pelini to illustrate a point about how Riley is running his program.

I’ll try to abide by this too, so feel free to call me out when I use up my cards.

How should we gauge success / progress?  This is the million dollar question for the season.  The simple answers you’ll hear are “meet or exceed Bo’s 9-4 record” or “avoid blowouts”.  But I’m not sure that tells the whole story.

Admittedly, this is a loaded question as “success” tends to refer to wins and losses while “progress” deals more with how the program has changed with Mike Riley at the helm.  Those are not necessarily the same thing.

As far as wins and losses go, yes, I think that the season will be declared a success if the 2015 Huskers win nine (or more) games.  It doesn’t matter if you consider nine wins to be the standard, a minimum expectation, or irrelevant.  When a national pundit does a two sentence summary on if Nebraska is trending up or down, the number of wins will be something they look closely at.  Without getting into the whole nine win debate, it will be likely be tough to make an argument that an 8-5 season under Riley was better than any of Bo’s 9-4 seasons.

As for “progress”, it is tougher to set trackable metrics around that.  Is “avoiding blowouts” not losing a game by 20+ points?  Is it having a higher ranked recruiting class?  Moving the team GPA and arrest numbers in the appropriate directions?

2015 Husker Preview: Reasons for Optimism


We’re now less than a week away from the start of the 2015 season.  Mike Riley and staff get to write their first chapter in the pages of Husker history.  Will this season be a repeat of Bill Callahan’s disastrous 2004 season or will it have the success and promise of Bo Pelini’s first year?

Here are ten reasons why you should be optimistic going into this season:

1.  The schedule is favorable.  Let’s be clear:  With two teams that finished 2014 in the top 20 (Michigan State and Wisconsin) the 2015 slate is hardly a cake walk, but there are many things to like.  What appear to be the toughest games (Michigan State and Wisconsin) are at home.  The most challenging non-conference opponents (BYU and Miami) will be missing key starters due to injuries and/or suspensions.  The rest of the conference lineup looks doable.

Put it this way:  Look at Nebraska’s schedule and tell me the game(s) where NU has absolutely no chance of winning.


2.  The offense should cater to Tommy Armstrong’s strengths.  I’m of the opinion that anybody who claims to know what the Riley / Langsdorf offense will look like without seeing them on the field is blindly guessing.  We have some ideas from the practice reports, but things like run/pass ratios and the types of passes are mostly unknown.  I’ll freely admit that I don’t know what the offense will look like against BYU, and I certainly don’t know how it evolve by November.

But here’s what I do know:  Mike Riley and Danny Langsdorf will sink or swim with Tommy Armstrong.  And since no first year coach wants to sink (even the previously mentioned Callahan), Riley and company will do everything in their power to ensure the plays they call are ones that put their quarterback in a position to succeed. Short passes, roll outs, deep balls, and yes, zone read keepers all seem likely to be staples in the offense.

3.  The simpler defense will allow the Blackshirts’ athleticism to shine.  Remember Sean Fisher?  He was a highly touted recruit who was dripping with athletic ability.  Before, and even after, he broke his leg, he possessed a lot of speed.  Coming off the bus, he looked like somebody who should be a star player.  But yet, he largely struggled at Nebraska.

Certainly, that nasty leg injury took a big toll, but I always got the sense he was thinking too much on the field.  It felt like he needed to process a large amount of information before he could unleash his physical gifts.  And remember, Sean Fisher is an extremely bright individual – somebody who graduated with a 4.0 GPA and is currently in med school.

I wish Sean Fisher could play in Mark Banker’s defense.

The 2015 version of Fisher – linebacker Josh Banderas – rather famously compared the new scheme to high school football where you attack instead of read and react.  That mentality should help several Huskers to show off their athletic talents.

4.  The defense will focus on stopping the run.  Bo Pelini’s defenses were usually very strong at stopping the pass.  In the Big XII, where teams liked to spread you out and throw it all over the field, this was a recipe for success.  Not surprisingly, Pelini won two Big XII North titles outright, and tied for a third in three seasons.

But then Nebraska moved to the Big 10.

To say that the Big 10 over the last five years has been a “three yards and a cloud of dust” league is a little simplistic, but there is no denying that Big 10 teams are primarily run oriented.  More appropriately, a Big 10 team isn’t going to pass if they can run over – or around – you.  Most pundits will tell you that Nebraska beats Wisconsin in 2014 if they made Joel Stave throw it 25 times.  But Stave only attempted 11 throws, because Melvin Gordon had record-setting success with his 25 carries.

Going back to the mid-90’s Glory Days, Charlie McBride’s defensive philosophy was rather simple: take away the run and make ’em beat you through the air.  Against the “fun and gun” Gators or Peyton Manning’s Tennessee Volunteers that sounded like a suicide mission.  Instead, it meant the defensive line could pin their ears back and pressure the quarterback.

A defense that focuses on stopping the run will be vulnerable to the pass, so Banker’s scheme will test Nebraska’s secondary.  But aren’t you willing to take your chances against the arms of Joel Stave, Mitch Leidner, and whomever Iowa trots out?  Me too.

5.  This is a young team with a lot of potential.  The current roster lists 21 seniors.  Of those, I count three who will likely start on defense (Byerson Cockrell, Daniel Davie, and Jack Gangwish) and four who start on offense (Alex Lewis, Chongo Kondolo, Ryne Reeves, and Andy Janovich).  Feel free to add Jamal Turner as another starter / contributor and we should probably expect that this will be Maliek Collins’s final season as a college player.

Other than that?  There are a lot of juniors, sophomores, and freshmen (both redshirt and true) who will see a lot of time this fall.  Getting a young core of players a lot of experience will pay dividends in the future.

6.  The road to Indy is manageable.  From most accounts, Nebraska’s biggest threats in the Big Ten West are Wisconsin and Minnesota.  As I noted above, Nebraska gets Wisconsin at home.  Minnesota is clearly the toughest opponent on the conference schedule, but TCF Bank Stadium doesn’t exactly have a reputation for being an intimidating place to play – especially when Nebraskans have shown they like to travel to the Twin Cities.

After that?  The rest of the conference road games are at West cellar dwellers Purdue and Illinois (who just first their head coach) and Rutgers.

It remains to be seen if Nebraska can win the West, but it would be tough to create an easier road to Indianapolis.

7.  The defense has strength at all three levels.  Think back to some of Nebraska’s best defenses.  Most of them had a talented – if not star – player at all three levels (line, linebacker, secondary).  On paper, Nebraska’s defense looks very strong up the middle with Maliek Collins and Vincent Valentine at tackle, Josh Banderas and Michael Rose-Ivey at linebacker and Nathan Gerry and Daniel Davie in the secondary.

8.  The cupboard isn’t bare at running back.  Let’s state the obvious right off the top:  Nebraska will not have a ball carrier who can consistently do the things that Ameer Abdullah did over his stellar career.

But don’t get caught up in the notion that Nebraska is devoid of talent in the backfield.  My guess is Terrell Newby starts, and displays the talent that made him a four star recruit.  He may not be a 25 carry a game workhorse, but I won’t be at all surprised if he gets 1,000 yards this year.

Beyond him, you’ve got freshman phenoms Mikale Wilbon and Devine Ozigbo, who have garnered a lot of buzz in fall camp.  From the practice reports, both have flashed potential and have earned carries and receptions.  After those two is the underrated (and possibly overlooked) Imani Cross.  At a minimum, Cross should continue to be a reliable 3rd down/goal line option.  Next in line is a former message board darling Adam Taylor.

And if all else fails, just give the ball to fullback Andy Janovich and get the heck out of the way.

9.  The assistant coaches are experienced teachers.  As you may recall, the biggest knocks on Bo Pelini’s staffs were their inexperience and inconsistent ability to develop three and four star recruits into star players.

Look across Mike Riley’s staff.  You’re not going to find anybody who was recently promoted from grad assistant or guys whose most significant coaching experience was at a golf course.  Receivers coach Keith Williams spent the summer having NFL wide receivers coming to Lincoln to workout with him.  Offensive Line coach Mike Cavanaugh focused on technique and intensity, and makes legendary line coach Milt Tenopir a guest of honor at practice.

One more:  How many of you felt that Pelini and Nebraska would have been better with a dedicated Quarterbacks coach or Special Teams Coordinator?  Riley’s staff has both, which leads us to the final item…

10.  Special teams should remain special.  Make no mistake, Nebraska had very strong special teams units in 2014.  Punt return was clearly a strength, but the Huskers excelled in many other areas last year.

This year, I expect the special teams to maintain last year’s standard – even with the amazing De’Mornay Pierson-El sidelined for 6-8 weeks with a foot injury.  With a dedicated coordinator in Bruce Read overseeing the units, and talented players like punter Sam Foltz, I expect NU’s kick and return game to be an edge.

Holiday Cotton Bowl

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End of Year Blowout – 2014

If it’s the end of the year, that typically means two things:  1) I’m a couple of posts shy of my annual goal and 2) I’ve got some odds and ends that never got finished.  Therefore, we grab one virtual stone, take aim at two metaphorical birds and fire off some miscellany:

Randy Gregory goes pro.

All year, I’ve been seeing Nebraska defensive end Randy Gregory listed as a top 5 – or at least high first round – pick in the 2015 NFL draft.  Some experts have him as the #1 overall pick.

Coming into the season, I probably would have agreed with that.  Gregory had a great 2013 season and looked to improve as a junior.  But four months later, I am not sure why Gregory is still considered a lock to be a top 10 pick.

Don’t get me wrong, Gregory is an athletic freak with a strong upside, but when I watched him play this season I rarely thought “this is one of the best players in college football” or “this guy is NFL ready right now”.

He has an amazing motor, hustles like a walk-on, and is relentless in his pass rushing – and maybe that’s what the Mel Kipers and Todd McShays are going off of.  But I also see a guy who – while improved – is still questionable on run defense, appears injury prone, and sometimes loses his composure.

Clearly, if he’s going to be a top 10 pick he made the right decision to go pro, but I’m not sure I’d want my NFL team to take him with their first pick.  The reward may not be worth the risk.

There’s Bo place like home.

Author’s note:  I wrote this after it was announced that Bo Pelini was going to return home to be the head coach at Youngstown State.  This also happened to be the night before the second Pelini Audio Bomb was dropped.  After that beauty hit the fan, I didn’t think this would be well received:

Good for him.  Whether or not you liked Bo, supported him, or wish he would have been fired a year ago, I would hope you think this is a good move for him.  It was very clear during Bo’s tenure just how much he loves his hometown, and how much pride he has in his roots.  I don’t want this to come across as a swipe at Bo, but I think that when a coach truly loves the school, city, or state he represents, it generally leads success.

I don’t claim to know what Bo’s career goals were two months ago, or are today, but Youngstown State seems like a good fit for where he is at now – and a great stepping stone for future opportunities.  Even with Youngstown State’s history, there won’t be nearly as much pressure to win as what he felt at Nebraska.  It’s unlikely that Pelini will face 20+ media members after every practice.  Once again, his boss is the legendary, championship-winning coach and not a lawyer.  And most importantly, he’s back around family and friends.

Nebraska gets a new trophy game

Author’s note:  This was from a post tentatively titled “Freedom isn’t Free (but apparently, ugly trophies are)”

Big Ten loves it some trophy games.  Fine.  That’s part of who they are, so it should be embraced and cherished.  In that regard, I’m all for putting a trophy at stake in the Nebraska – Wisconsin series.  With both teams now in the West division, that matchup looks like an annual winner-take-all battle royale.

But whomever is responsible for the actual trophy has no idea what makes Big Ten trophy games so unique and fun.  The draw and desire is not to see two programs honoring “freedom”, “heroes”, or some other broad term that most everybody already respects*.

*I’m looking forward to future trophy games honoring “America”, “Moms”, “Apple Pie”, and “Three Day Weekends”.  Maybe Nebraska can get a trophy game going with Purdue or Rutgers for one of these themes!

Big Ten trophy games are about peculiar items that are only considered “trophies” by the teams involved:

A bronze pig.  A jug.  A wooden turtle.  A giant ax.  A spittoon.

Yeah, some of these are cheesy and corny*, but I feel that was part of the draw for Nebraska fans when we joined the Big Ten.  We could picture ourselves getting worked up over a bronzed ear of corn, a big cow, or some other random item.

*Yeah, that was intentional.  Memo to Wisconsin, Nebraska, and Big Ten leadership:  stop being embarrassed by the agricultural roots of our great states.

Nobody is getting worked up over the ultra generic Heroes Trophy (presented by Hy-Vee!) and I don’t see many players or fans getting too hyped over the Freedom Trophy.

And that is what is the most disappointing about this – it is just such a huge missed opportunity.  Nebraska and Wisconsin seem like natural rivals – and they have since the day NU joined the conference.  Two traditionally powerful schools, priding themselves on homegrown talent, big offensive lines, powerful run games, and passionate fans.  The ties between the two programs (Wisconsin legend Barry Alvarez was a NU player and assistant.  Nebraska’s AD Shawn Eichorst worked at Wisconsin) are big.  With both teams in the same division, the matchup just seems destined for a heated rivalry.  Adding a trophy should have been the cherry on top, but in this case, it was a swing and a miss.

Both Wisconsin and Nebraska are states that are proud of their agricultural roots, and are widely known for the food they produce.  Wisconsin is synonymous with cheese and if you want a good steak, find a cow raised on Nebraska corn.  A cow would have been a natural trophy – something with meaning to the two schools and states, something unique, and something that respects and honors the legacy of Big Ten trophy games.

But apparently somebody thought it would be better to go broader.

And that is disappointing to me.  The Big Ten could have done something unique to honor the people and culture of the teams involved.  Instead, they opted for something vague, non-specific, and unnecessarily self-important.  It makes me sad, but given this is the same conference that gave us Legends and Leaders, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that the Big Ten went for the most pompous route instead of the one that makes the most sense.

Ironically, the design inspiration appears to be taken from a December 2013 post on, where J.P. Scott wrote:

“I was rooting through some Husker gear when I came across a lunchbox that had “Huskers” painted onto one side and the Wisconsin “W” misprinted on the other.”

Seriously, toss a big ol’ flag in the middle and there’s your Freedom Trophy!

2014 World Series Games as Husker Bowl games

Author’s note:  The genesis for this post was the heartbreak of the Kansas City Royals’ Game 7 loss to the San Francisco Giants.  It reminded me of the 1984 Orange Bowl, where Nebraska was so close, but fell just short.  The original idea was to take each game of the World Series and find a comparable Husker bowl game (preferably one with national championship implications).  I didn’t games 2 -5 done, but here is what I had:

Game 1:  Giants 7, Royals 1 is the 2002 Rose Bowl (Miami Hurricanes 37 – Nebraska 14).  Some may question if the Royals should have been there, much like Eric Crouch’s Huskers were questioned for appearing in the Rose Bowl.  A game that was not as close as the final score indicated, as the Canes and Giants were dominant in all phases of the game.

Game 6:  Royals 10, Giants 0 is the 1996 Fiesta Bowl (Nebraska 62, Florida Gators 24).  Few gave the Huskers a chance against the vaunted Fun and Gun offense (“Nebraska can’t run on grass”) just like nobody gave the Royals much of a chance of coming back down three games to two.  At best, it was expected to be a close, hard-fought game that came down to the wire.  Instead, it was over in the second.  The Huskers exploded for 29 second quarter points to take a 35-10 halftime lead.  The Royals batted around in the second inning to score seven runs.

Game 7:  (Giants 3, Royals 2) is the 1984 Orange Bowl (Miami Hurricanes 31, Nebraska 30).  The games were so close, yet so far away.  The opponent controlled most of the game, a key injury (Rozier / Sal Perez HBP) left fans wondering what could have been.  But these two games will be forever remembered for a critical decision made late in the contest.  Should Nebraska go for two to win outright?  Should third base coach Mike Jirshelle have tried to send Alex Gordon home after his single was bobbled and booted around the outfield?  As much as fans may disagree (Nebraska probably would have won the National Championship by kicking the extra point to tie / Gordon may have beaten the throw or the relay may have been off-target) it says here that the right decision was made.  Osborne gained so much more than he lost by going for two.  Gordon likely would have been out by 10 feet, and the next batter (Salvador Perez) had homered off of Bumgarner earlier in the Series).

Braxton Miller is out for the season. 

Author’s note:  This was written shortly after Ohio State star quarterback Braxton Miller was lost for the 2014 season due to injury.  A local radio station was making the case that this injury was bad for the Big Ten, and therefore, bad for Nebraska.  I didn’t buy that.

It sucks for Miller and to a far lesser extent, Buckeye fans.  But I just do not feel compelled to feel bad because the Big Ten’s “best chance” at getting a team in the playoffs and therefore, restoring glory and respect to the conference is gone.  Yeah, Ohio State has a far tougher road to get into the playoffs – let alone win the Big Ten East, but I’m not really sure how that impacts me as a Nebraska fan – especially since Ohio State was not on Nebraska’s schedule, nor do they play either of the teams expected to contend for the West title (Wisconsin or Iowa). 

This may be 15 years as a fan of a Big XII school talking – but I don’t take a lot of pride in the successes of fellow conference schools.  Sure if the championship game came down to say, Alabama or Florida State versus Michigan State, I’d want the Spartans to win.  But I’m not going to chant “B-I-G” the next time a Big Ten school wins a title. 

*Or would it be “Bee-One-Gee”?

Heck, I think Nebraska fans are more likely to find amusement in the stumbles of conference mates (such as the typo in the Texas media guide) than gain pride in something that Illinois does.  Besides, getting a team into the playoffs isn’t going to magically erase the stigma that the B1G is the weakest of the Power 5 conferences.  That will take multiple years of bowl wins, non-conference victories, and most likely a national title or two.  As good as Braxton Miller is, he can’t do all of that by himself.

The “Obama Presidential Library” is unveiled in a Norfolk parade

Author’s note:  A Fourth of July parade in Norfolk, NE contained a controversial float of the “Obama Presidential Library” – a Obama caricature sitting in front of a dilapidated outhouse.  

As is my custom, I’ll do my best to leave my political views out of the discussion.  If you want to read an impassioned response from a conservative or a liberal, you have many options.  I’d rather try to view things from both sides of the street.

I am not at all surprised by the float’s popularity.  The joke seems to be lifted right out of my Facebook feed, which is often filled with images and other memes mocking President Obama.  Obama is not popular with many of my Facebook friends, and I’ve seen more than one person use language that was rather disrespectful.  That’s part of life with a left-leaning President in a very conservative state like Nebraska.

I’ve seen many people asking what the response would have been if it was a conservative politician being lampooned.  Certainly, in an ultra red state like Nebraska there are several options (the governor, both Senators, and all three U.S. Representatives are Republican – and the odds are microscopic that a Democrat will win any of those offices in November’s elections).  So I can understand that a hypothetical float mocking the accomplishments of Governor Dave Heineman’s 10 years in office would not be well received – if it was even allowed entry into the parade in the first place.  But that’s not the point.

Personally, I’ve had enough with the “where was the outrage when so-and-so was ridiculed” straw-man arguments.  Yes, folks mocked George W. Bush (as well as Bush Sr, and Reagan), just like folks mocked Clinton and Carter.  And I’ll guarantee that whichever Republican wins in 2016 will be mocked too.

Let’s all acknowledge that democrats bash republicans and republicans bash democrats.  Let’s also acknowledge that this childish back and forth is one of the things most people hate about our current political culture.  At some point, somebody needs to be the bigger person and say “This is over the line.  There is a time and place, and this is not it”.

In one local article, a defender of the float said it is nothing worse than a “political cartoon” in a newspaper.  That is a fair point.  I’ve seen sharper jabs in political cartoons than what the float was trying to convey.  But there is a difference:  There are not too many young minds who read the editorial/opinion pages.  The ones that do probably can understand the concept of political satire.

But when an outhouse float goes down Main Street USA to the applause and laughter of the crowd, it becomes tougher to explain to a child why we should continue to respect the office, especially when the current President is depicted outside a dilapidated outhouse.  I don’t have a problem if you don’t respect the current President, but I do take issue with being disrespectful of the office.


Why Nebraska Can Win the Holiday Bowl

Lost in the shuffle of Bo Pelini’s firing, the coaching search, Mike Riley’s hiring, another Pelini audiotape, and other December distractions, is a rather important item:  Nebraska is playing a talented and respected University of Southern California team in the Holiday Bowl.

Very few people are giving the Huskers much of a chance in this game.  The Vegas odds-makers have the Trojans as a seven point favorite, and very few experts are predicting a Nebraska win.  Locally, many fans and media members aren’t giving the Huskers much of a chance either.

But Nebraska can win this game.  Here are some reasons why:

1.  Nebraska should have a talent and manpower advantage.

When you think of Southern Cal, you think of tons of four and five star recruits with NFL talent at many positions.  Certainly, USC has some stars (especially at quarterback, receiver, and defensive line), but these Trojans are still feeling the effects of the sanctions from the Reggie Bush era.

Between sanctions, injuries, and suspensions, USC will only have 56 scholarship players available.  Though the Huskers have injuries and suspensions of their own, they should have well over 70 of their 85 scholarship players available.

If Nebraska can find a way to wear down the Trojans (either with a fast pace or a sustained ground attack) the Huskers could capitalize on this manpower advantage.

2.  The offensive and defensive coordinators have free reign.

During the bowl prep, offensive coordinator Tim Beck was asked if he ever got to run the offense he wanted at Nebraska.  His “no comment” response was rather telling.  On the other side of the ball, it was widely assumed that although John Papuchis was the defensive coordinator, it was really Bo Pelini owning the scheme and calling the plays.

One of the big questions is what will the coordinators do without Pelini around?  Will Papuchis change up the scheme?  Play more zone?  Blitz and attack more?  Will Beck crank up the pace?  Run a bunch of trick and gadget plays?  Unveil new exotic formations?  Have Tommy Armstrong throw it 45 times?  Will both coaches treat this game as an audition for their next coaching job?

If Papuchis and Beck decide to do what they want, it could provide a mental boost for the team, as well as the element of surprise over the Trojans.  Personally, I think they’ll both operate very similarly to what we’ve seen all season long, but I won’t be shocked if they throw in a new wrinkle or two.

3.  The team wants to win one for Bo.

There is little doubt that Bo Pelini deeply loved and cared for his players.  Most of the players return that love and still have a deep sense of loyalty for “Coach Bo”.  It’s hard to believe, but we’re still less than one month since Pelini’s dismissal.  That month has been filled with drama and emotion for the players Pelini recruited and the coaches he hired.

Maybe interim coach Barney Cotton will try to invoke the “us against the world” bunker mentality one more time to win one for their vanquished coach.  I guarantee that several players will dedicate their performance in the Holiday Bowl to Pelini.

4.  Nobody expects them to win.

Let’s face it:  a constant of Pelini era teams was inconsistency.  Much like Forest Gump’s chocolate box, you never knew what you were going to get from the Huskers.  Big underdog to Colt McCoy’s Texas Longhorns?  Nebraska plays tough and should have won the game.  Big favorite over FCS McNeese State?  The team struggles and needs an amazing play by Ameer Abdullah to avoid an upset.

The point is, the times you doubt the Huskers, expect them to lose or get blown out, that’s often when they play their best and find a way to win.  This is one of those games.  Only the most blindly loyal, Kool-Aid drinking fans are confidently predicting a victory.  Many fans expect Nebraska to lose, if not get blown out.

Will the Huskers win Saturday night?  I have no clue.  But there is no reason they can’t come back from San Diego with a victory.

10 Ways Bo Pelini was Dead Wrong

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 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.

But today?

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.



Twenty Ways Bo Was Right

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:

Now What?

By the time you read this, Mike Riley will have been formally introduced as the new coach of the Nebraska Cornhuskers.

Much has already been written and said about Riley – a guy who was completely off the radar in the Huskers’ coaching search.  I don’t have much to add that has not already been said elsewhere.  Besides, I think it is time to more forward.  Today.  Now.

To that end, I have some to-do items and friendly suggestions for all of the stakeholders in the Nebraska Football program

Head Coach Mike Riley

You have the most to do, so you go first.

Earn the trust and respect of your players.  As you probably know, Bo Pelini was extremely beloved by his players.  They were shocked and hurt when he was fired, so some may view you as the bad guy (or the agent of a bad guy).  Job one will be to get your new players to trust you, respect you, and ultimately buy into the culture you’re going to create.

How do you do this?  Well Coach, I’m hoping you know the answer better than some amateur writer.  I’m putting my trust in you that you can get this done.

Hire the best damn staff you can.  The need to hire a talented staff full of teachers and recruiters is of the utmost importance.  You’ll probably get some pressure from the fans to look at an offensive coordinator who works down the road from where you used to coach.  You can investigate that if you want.  Frankly, I’m more concerned about putting this program in a position to win titles than in the number of guys with Nebraska ties.

I assume you’ll bring some guys from your Oregon State staff, and that’s fine – especially if they are the best person for the job.  I would humbly suggest that you give serious consideration to a handful of Bo Pelini’s assistants.  There are some guys there who can help you.

Also – I absolutely love your idea to hire a full-time special teams coordinator.

Immerse yourself in the culture and tradition.  You said you are a history major, so you have come to the right place.  Nebraskans value and cherish the rich history of this program, and a healthy respect for where Nebraska has been will serve you well.

Learn to love walk-ons, Blackshirts, Runzas, and red hot dogs fired out of an air cannon.  Talk in reverent tones in how Devaney’s 1971 team kicked the crap out of the Alabama team you played on.  Speak with respect of what Tom Osborne did.  Give some love to the players from the Solich, Callahan, and Pelini eras.  There are lots of good guys from those teams that are worthy of your respect.

Recruit, recruit, recruit.  Salvage this class and land some surprises.  Make a (positive) statement for how you will do things at Nebraska.  I’m hopeful that you are a helluva coach, but your job – and your ability to meet the standards of Nebraska fans – will be much easier if you bring in NFL-caliber talent.

Decide what you want to be, and build your team around that.  I have my ideas on what would work both offensively and defensively, but nobody is playing me $3 million for my football strategies.

Use the talent at your disposal – and make no mistake, the cupboard is far from bare.  Understand the conference you’re playing in, and the weather concerns of this great state.  Then build a winner.

Tear down the wall.  You’ll hear a lot about the “us against the world” mentality that Pelini often operated in.  As a result, this team often felt into that mindset.  The result was an unhealthy, toxic environment that led to mistrust, players and coaches on the defensive, and ultimately, Pelini’s dismissal.

You need to blow up that wall.  Get the team out of their bunker and into the light.  Let the fans and media embrace your program and throw their tremendous support behind you.

Nebraska players

It’s okay to still be hurt by what happened on Sunday.  It’s okay to still feel a love and loyalty for Coach Bo.  I’ll even tell you that it is okay to question if Nebraska is the best place for you going forward.  These things are natural.

Here is what I suggest:

Throw yourself head first into bowl preparations.  By Sunday night, you’ll know who you’re playing, where, and when.  Hopefully it is a good team in a fun destination.  At some point (maybe as soon as Monday) you’ll start diving into your practices and prep for that game.  Do whatever you can to improve yourself and prepare yourself to play a great game.

There’s going to be a lot said about the direction of the team during the bowl preparations – coaches hired, schemes discussed, etc.  Try to block that out and focus on the here and now.

If you want to dedicate your performance to Pelini and the coaching staff that recruited you, developed you, and gotten you to where you are today, you should absolutely do that.  I’m guessing the last 30 days haven’t been a lot of fun, and the season has probably been disappointing for you.  But you owe to yourself and your teammates to finish this season strong.  Give it all you got.

Think about your future.  Once the game’s over, feel free to consider what is best for you – academically and athletically.  Maybe you think that your skill set will not work in Coach Riley’s schemes.  Maybe you don’t feel a connection with the new coach.  As I said above, it’s natural to question these things.


Don’t make hasty, impulsive decisions – especially if transferring may cost you a year of eligibility.  Talk it over with Coach Riley and his assistants, your family, and other people in your life that you trust to be honest and supportive.  Think not only about your playing career, but about your education and your life after football.  Where do you want to be, and how will you get there?

If, after all of that, you feel in your heart that somewhere other than Nebraska is right, do what is best for you, and ignore the small percentage of “fans” who are hurt by your decision.  Know that most Nebraska fans will respect your decision and wish you well.

Go all in.  If you’re staying with the Huskers (and I hope you do) then my advice is simple:  go all in.  Throw your faith in Coach Riley and his staff.  Help them adjust to Lincoln, and help build the culture and team that Coach Riley envisions.  Be a leader in offseason workouts and be ready to dominate in 2015.

Trust me, you can buy into Coach Riley and still be respectful to Coach Bo.  Besides, if you don’t, your playing time may be diminished.

Nebraska Media

Help us get to know the new coach and his staff.  Mike Riley seems like an interesting guy with a lot of experience and expertise.  Write the stories and profiles that help us know who this man is, what he believes in, and what his strategies and beliefs are.

Keep the criticisms honest and constructive.  It felt like, to me and other fans and observers of the program, that some of your criticisms of Pelini and his staff were rooted in personal conflict with the coach.  Many felt like certain media members took thinly veiled shots at Pelini, his staff, or players.  That needs to stop.

Nobody will deny that the media has a job to do, and that job sometimes involves being critical of decisions and asking tough questions.  That’s fine.  I hope the majority of Husker fans understand and respect this.  But the media needs to recognize the role that they (either collectively or personally) have played in the divide in the fan base.

Try to avoid Pelini comparisons.  I know that with every decision, change, and strategic move Riley makes, it will be very easy to compare and contrast that with what Bo Pelini might have done.  Don’t.  You’re better than that.  As for those of you appreciating the irony of this, given the previous point, I am hopeful that will be my final comparison.

Shawn Eichorst

You have led one of the better coaching searches in recent memory.  It was quick, quiet, and efficient.  The rumor mill churned out some names, but none of those were leaked from you or your office.  But your job’s not done:

Open the checkbook to let Riley hire a top-notch staff.  The rumor mill is churning out some big names who would make a splash.  It’s unlikely that all of them will come to Lincoln, but do your part to help Riley be successful by giving him a big, big budget for his assistant coaches.

Say “Yes.”  If you truly want this program to win conference championships and compete at a national level, be sure to say “Yes” when the coach asks for something.  That’s not a veiled accusation of anything that may or may not have happened in the past two years – frankly, I have no clue – but a simple reminder that you need to put your money where your mouth is.

Don’t completely retreat back into your bunker.  Be there to support your guy – especially if he loses a game or two this fall.  Loosen your stance on commenting on coaches during the season during his first year.  Let Coach Riley – and more importantly, Husker fans – know that you support him 100%.

Nebraska Fans

I’ve saved us for last, but that does not diminish the work we have ahead of us.

Embrace Mike Riley (figuratively).  I know many of you were hoping for a different coach (Tressel, Frost, etc.) or are underwhelmed by Riley’s resume or W/L record.  I get that.

But it is time to move forward.  Throw your support behind the coach and help him be successful.

Come Together.  Bo-leavers and Bo-lievers:  put aside your differences and unite behind Coach Riley.  I won’t tell you how you should feel about Coach Pelini or his tenure, but it is time to put that in the rear view mirror.

Relax on the local media.  You’ll notice I asked the media to take it easy on Riley and the players.  I think it’s needed.  But you need to reciprocate.

Not every article, column, or blog is an attack on the program.  Let go of your grudges against Dirk, Sipple, Lee, or any other writer who doesn’t agree 100% with your point of view.  We are fortunate to have some talented folks in the local media, and I have a hard time believing that any of them are intentionally stirring up conflict for clicks or kicks.

Be patient.  I have no idea how Mike Riley will do in his first year or two.  Maybe we’ll win the West and go to Indianapolis.  Maybe we’ll struggle and barely make a bowl game.  I don’t know.

But I do know that judging his first year or two solely by wins and losses is going to be a narrow-minded, short-sighted approach.  I’m more curious to see how his system is put in place and grown, how he and his staff develop the talent they have into something more, and the progress they make in big games (not getting blown out will be a great start).

Relax, take a deep breath, and be patient.

Now…how many days are left until the Spring Game?

State of the Huskers Survey – my responses

Since I asked all of you for your opinions on the State of the Huskers, and over 6,000 of you were kind enough to oblige, I figure the least I could do is share my responses and a brief justification*.

*Author’s note:  I composed this prior to Pelini being fired by Shawn Eichorst (that dude is really screwing with my writing schedule), so the responses refer to Bo in the present tense as Nebraska’s coach)

Here are the answers I provided when I took the survey last week.  Just promise you won’t hold any of these answers against me…

State of the Huskers header

1. What is the biggest issue facing the Nebraska football program?

Schematic deficiencies
Reason:  I feel Nebraska has the talent to win the West, but I question the approaches taken on offense and defense.  Yeah, you probably could say this is on the coordinators, but I look at it like this:  bring in the coordinator of your choosing.  If he runs the exact same scheme as what’s being done now, would he be successful?  On the flip side, would Beck or Papuchis look better with a different scheme?
2. What is the primary issue holding back the offense?
Offensive Line
Reason:  It starts up front for this team.  When the line is playing like “hell in a helmet”, the offense moves very well.  When they play like “Grandma Helen in a helmet”, Armstrong and Abdullah have problems and Beck looks bad.
3. What is the primary issue holding back the defense?
Defensive coordinator / scheme
Reason:  The Big Ten is a run-first league, but NU’s defense is designed to stop the pass.  As a result, teams often run at will against NU even if they have a below average QB.  (see also: Wisconsin, 2014).  You can put that on Papuchis (the guy with the coordinator title) if you want.
4. Do the fans and local media have unrealistic expectations for the Nebraska program?
No, as Tim Miles says “You get what you tolerate”
Reason:  If I had it to do over, I’d preface this question with a question defining what you believe the expectations are for Nebraska.  Without that, it’s tough to say they are too high or out of touch.
5. What do you believe the national perception of Nebraska is?
Low.  Nebraska is known more for Pelini’s anger, cats, and ugly losses in big games.
Reason: I think Nebraska’s name is still one that perks up the ears of casual fan, but with NU falling on their face in nationally televised games against ranked teams, Nebraska’s notoriety seems to be coming more from the dedicated Pelini Sideline Rage Cam and viral videos (the cat, Jack Hoffman, Harlem Shake, pranks, etc.)
6. Are you happier with where the Nebraska program is today compared to when Bill Callahan was fired?
Yes.  Top to bottom, the program is better.
Reason:  There is not any one aspect of the program that was better in 2007 than it is today.  A year or two ago, you probably could have cited recruiting and overall talent, but I feel like that has improved.
And for those who said the 2007 team would probably beat the 2014 Huskers, I never gamble on the Huskers, but I’d make an exception for you.
7. What is Bo Pelini’s biggest weakness as a head coach?
Lack of composure in stressful situations
Reason: If you think back through all of the bad losses (I’ll wait if you want to take a shot first), there almost always is a turning point when the flakes become a snowball, which becomes an avalanche.  When that point happens, I rarely see anything to give me confidence that the moment is being recognized and addressed on the sideline.  If anything, I feel like the pressure ratchets up.
8. What is Bo Pelini’s best quality as a coach?
Able to identify aresa of deficiency (recruiting, media perception, punt returns, etc.) and make improvements
Reason:  Despite his exterior, and “what do you think?” responses, I think Bo is very introspective and able to identify and acknowledge his shortcomings.  Even the staunchest Pelini detractor should be able to acknowledge the growth he has shown in how he recruits and gets talent, how he has let his guard down more often with the media, and has made drastic changes to the punt return game.  Critics will point out that it has taken a while for this side to come out – and that there is plenty more work to  do.  I agree, but I do see this as a big strength.
9. What upsets you the most about Bo Pelini?
Blowout losses
Reason:  Let me start by acknowledging that some blowout losses are due more to the players than the head coach.  But since Pelini strives for a “point the thumb, not the finger” culture, those ugly losses end up on his bill.
10. What is Bo Pelini’s best win at Nebraska?
vs. #9 Michigan State, 2011 (24-3)
Reason: I really wanted to answer the 2009 Holiday Bowl over Arizona, as that was one of the more dominating performances of the Pelini Era, but Michigan State, 2011 gets the nod for being a division game against a higher ranked opponent (even if I was not particularly impressed by Sparty on that day.
11. What is Bo Pelini’s worst loss at Nebraska?
at Texas A&M, 2010
Reason:  The A&M loss has almost everything a Bo-leaver could want: multiple sideline eruptions, costly penalties, inept offense, a nationally televised embarrassment, fall out from the Martinez confrontation as well as Carl Pelini allegedly breaking a camera.  The only thing this game does not have is a larger margin of defeat.
12. Is Bo Pelini a better coach today than he was in 2012?
Reason:  He has learned a lot of lessons (call it on the job training, if you like) and has improved his recruiting, his game planning, and when he pours his focus on something (i.e. punt returns) they do get much better.
13. Do you believe Bo Pelini can win a Big Ten Championship at Nebraska?
Reason:  He was close in the XII, twice.  If we buy the popular notion that the Big Ten is a lesser conference than the XII, then he should be able to get it done.
14. Should Bo Pelini be fired before the end of the 2014 season?
Reason:  I hear the reasons of the Bo-leavers (blowout losses, the Groundhog’s Day style of his core issues, the fact that he hired the two coordinators who may be hurting him, etc.).  I also hear the reasons of the Bo-lievers (growth, improving talent, etc.)  I’m leaning towards some big changes (possibly including Bo), but won’t commit to it.
15. Will Bo Pelini be fired before the end of the 2014 season?
Too soon to tell
Reason:  Eichorst is an enigma that few people even claim to know, so any speculation is pure guesswork.  I think to have a chance at saving his job, he needs to coach two very clean, dominating performances against Iowa and the bowl opponent – i.e. get his team to play to their full potential instead of to the level of their competition.
16. Who is Nebraska’s best coach?
Rick Kaczenski (defensive line)
Reason:  The D Line is the strength of the defense, and one of the brightest spots on the team.  Even better, they are young, young, young.  Certainly, you can give credit for recruiting to the staff, but their development and growth goes to Coach Kaz.
17. Who is Nebraska’s worst coach?
Tim Beck (offensive coordinator / quarterbacks)
Reason:  When he’s “on” as a coordinator, he can call a beautiful drive that leaves defenses grasping at straws.  When he’s “off”, he rides the same play too much, goes away from his strength, and tries to score  17 points on every drive.  And for being the guy (officially) in charge of developing quarterbacks, the career of Taylor Martinez (as well as the inconsistency of Tommy Armstrong, Jr.) is a poor reflection on their coach.
18. If changes are made to the NU coaching staff, who should be let go?
Both coordinators
Reason: Regardless of if Bo stays or goes, changes are needed on both sides of the ball.  By and large, the assistants do a good job, but the schemes are questionable.
19. Can you fire a coach who consistently wins 9-10 games?
Yes – We’ve done it before.
Reason:  If Bo gets fired, it will be more about the 3-4 losses than it will be about the 9-10 wins.  Period.
20. What does the Nebraska Football team need most?
A full-time, dedicated special teams coordinator
Reason:  If we believe the old coaching mantra that special teams are a third of the game, shouldn’t we have a full-time guy in charge of them instead of a bunch of guys pulling double duty?  That’s how special teams becomes an after thought, which is how the 2012 and 2013 punt return teams are formed.
21. How many more seasons should Bo Pelini get to take Nebraska to the “next level” before he is replaced?
One more year
Reason:  Let him make whatever changes he feels is necessary.  But lay it on the line:  Indy or bust.
22. On a scale of 1-10, how would you describe your level of passion for the Nebraska Football program?
Reason:  If you’ve ever sat within five rows of me at a game, you would probably concur (if not put me a little higher).  I did not go to 9 or 10, solely because I have a very passing interest in recruiting and I don’t read every single word that is written.
23. Has your level of passion for the Nebraska Football program changed in the last year?
My level of fanaticism has not changed.
Reason:  Things may not be all peaches and cream, but I’m still passionate about the team.
24. What are your feelings on 9 win seasons?
A nine win season is a successful season.
Reason:  I am on record saying that 9 wins matters.  That piece lays out my case.
25. Are you a season ticket holder?
26. If Pelini and his entire staff are retained for 2015, would you purchase/renew season tickets?
My decision to purchase season tickets is not dependent on the head coach.
Reason:  Even during the Callahan years, I never considered dropping my ticket.  I hope to hold a season ticket until I die.
27. Where do you go for Husker news and opinions? (Select all that apply)
Message board(s)
Blogs or websites not affiliated with NU
Sports radio
Print media (newspapers and magazines)
28. If additional losses would help spur changes to the coaching staff, would you root for the Huskers to lose one of their final two games?
I would never root against Nebraska
Reason:  I know the term “true fan” gets thrown about way too much.  But I’d love to hear somebody justify how can call them self a “true fan” while rooting for Nebraska to lose.
29. Would you be willing to sacrifice Nebraska’s NCAA record sellout streak if it resulted in a coaching change?
No, the streak is a sacred record.
Reason:  Regardless of who the coach is, I’m not sure the streak makes it another five years.
30. If Nebraska (regardless of the coach) was guaranteed to win a conference championship and make the Playoff in 2017, how many losses would you tolerate in the next two seasons in order to get a conference championship?
7 or less (NU goes 9-4 and 10-3 before the championship season)
Reason:  I believe in 9 win seasons.  I do not want anything less than 9 win seasons.  For all the big talk from some fans and media members, they would never endure back to back losing seasons even if Jim Delany hand delivered the championship trophy to their door.
31. Would you be okay with Nebraska coaches and staff knowingly breaking NCAA rules if it resulted in a competitive advantage?
Never. Nebraska does not cheat.
Reason:  If we learned anything this off-season (with two players being accused of stealing bikes), Nebraska is not paying players – or at least not enough to afford decent transportation.  Now, I’m not saying that it doesn’t happen at Nebraska, but I don’t want coaches intentionally breaking laws.
32. Is there an “SEC bias” in college football?
Only because they have had success in the last 5-10 years
Reason:  My reasoning can be found here
33. Are you excited for the College Football Playoff?
No, I do not think a playoff is good for college football.
Reason:  Prepare your torches and pitch forks – I’m not a playoff guy.  With some refinement, the BCS could succeed in it’s original mission of matching #1 vs. #2 in a winner take all game.  All a playoff does is invite more controversy.
34. What do you like best about college football?
Rooting for my team
Reason:  I watch very, very little of the NFL.  Why?  Mainly, it’s because I don’t have a team that I care about.
35. Should college football players be paid?
Yes.  Allow players to earn money for their likeness, jersey sales, autographs, etc.
Reason:  My thoughts are outline here.
36. Which announcer team do you like the most?
Kevin Kugler & Glen Mason
Reason:  I believe a good announcer is like a good umpire – he’s so good at his job that you don’t really notice he’s there.  And when you do notice him, it’s for good reasons (a strong call or excellent point) as opposed to bad ones (a blunder, bias, or other error).  To that end, Kugler is one of the finest play-by-play guys in the business.  Glen Mason is the former coach who provides good information and insight without kowtowing to the Coaches’ Fraternity Honor Code.
37. What is the best conference in college football?
Reason:  The SEC has a depth of top teams.  By the way – I continue to be amused that so many of you say there is an SEC bias, yet you also feel the SEC is the best conference.
38. Is the sustained success of the 1993 – 1997 Husker teams possible today?
No, the success of Osborne’s final five teams cannot be replicated today.
Reason:  Those years – especially the three championship years – were lightning in a bottle.  Teams may come close, but there are too many demons waiting to tear down success in today’s world.
39. What is your opinion of the Blackshirts tradition?
I would like to see it handled differently from how Pelini does it.
Reason:  Hand them out at the end of fall camp to the 11 starters (and maybe a nickel/dime guy).  Trade out if guys lose a starting job.  Repossess if you give up 400  yards to Melvin Gordon.
40. Can a “true fan” be critical of coaches and players?
Yes, but only to a point
Reason:  Never, ever go personal to a player or coach’s family or loved ones.  Do not drink and tweet.
41. Who is Nebraska’s defensive coordinator?
Bo Pelini
Reason:  I couldn’t resist adding this question.
42. Do you care if players speak to the media after losses?
This does not matter to me
Reason:  If I were a credentialed media member looking for quotes for the piece I need to have done by deadline I’d feel differently.  But as a fan?  I’m not going to lose sleep if Taylor Martinez doesn’t want to talk.
43. What is your opinion on the firing of Frank Solich?
It was the right call.
Reason:  Take Pedersen and Callahan out of the conversation.  Solich had the first four loss season in 30+ years, and started the dominoes of Devaney/Osborne streaks falling by going 7-7.  
44. Have you forgiven Bo Pelini for his profanity-laced comments following the 2011 Ohio State game?
Yes, I accepted his apology
Reason:  It was a heat of the moment thing when adrenaline was pumping.  If we forgive Richard Sherman for what he did on national TV, surely we can forgive Pelini for saying things that he thought were off the record.
45. Was the decision to join the Big Ten Conference a mistake?
Reason:  Aside from the academic boost, as long as Texas still sits unchecked in the XII, Nebraska was wise to get out.  That fact remains unchanged no matter how many crappy Big East/ACC rejects Delany adds.
46. In what state do you live?
Reason:  I was born and raised in The Good Life.  I do not have any desire to live anywhere else.
47. Are you male or female?
48. What is your age?
49. What is the highest level of school you have completed or the highest degree you have received?
Bachelor degree
50. Are you an alumnus of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Class of 1997 (Advertising)
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