One of the things I’ll never really understand is the complete and utter obsession some fans have with hiring coaches and assistant coaches with some sort of Nebraska tie – a former player, former coach, was born here, did a social studies project on Nebraska in the 5th grade, once drove through on I-80, whatever.
I can understand the concept that maintaining the sacred culture and tradition of the football program is easier (but not absolute) if the person is from here, played/coached here, or “gets” the fabled Nebraska Way. But it just doesn’t always work out that way. Steve Pedersen was born and raised in Nebraska, and worked at NU long before he returned to become one of the most hated people in the state.
And this is not necessarily a Nebraska problem. When Michigan fired Rich Rodriguez, the alumni, fans, and media made it clear that the Wolverines needed to hire a “Michigan Man” who knew and understood the program, the culture, and their proud traditions. Enter Brady Hoke…
For me, I think the desire to hire somebody with ties to your school stems from safety and comfort. Let’s face it: change is scary. Firing people opens up a Pandora’s box of questions – Who are we going to get? Will they be worse than what we had? Will they like us? Will we like him? The amount of unknown is overwhelming and can be frightening, so for some fans it makes sense to seek comfort in the arms* of a familiar name or face. As the old idiom states “better the devil you know then the devil you don’t”.
*There is the start of a break-up/rebound/booty call analogy in that last paragraph. I’ll let you run with that if you so choose.
This is not to say that certain candidates for Nebraska’s vacant head coaching job (i.e. Frost, Scott) would not (and should not) have a potential advantage because they know the lay of the land and what makes this unique and highly passionate fan base tick. Certainly, there are advantages to be gained through this – but there are also landmines too. Any baggage from your previous connections will be waiting for you at your destination.
Call me crazy, but I don’t really care if the coaches we hire are former players. I care if they can lead a team, coach their position, develop talent, and recruit new talent. Put it this way: who do most fans think was the better coach – Barney Cotton (Nebraska native, former Husker player, and UNL grad) or Milt Tenopir (none of the above)? Exactly.