Bo Pelini has been fired by Nebraska. Pelini spent seven seasons as the head football coach at the school. Nebraska beat Iowa 37-34 on Friday to finish the season 9-3, but athletic director Shawn Eichorst stated the program wanted to go in a “new direction.”
Pelini was 67-27 as the head coach, including one game as interim coach in 2003. The Cornhuskers won at least nine games in each of the seven seasons he was head coach. He guided Nebraska to two Big 12 Conference Championship games and one Big Ten Conference Championship game.
Nebraska was 6-0 in bowl games under him. For any other program, that kind of resume would be very impressive, and create legendary status. But at Nebraska just winning nine games and winning bowl games is not enough. The Lincoln school prefers championships, and ultimately he failed to bring any.
Despite appearing in three conference championship games Pelini won none. Pelini’s tenure came down to not winning the big game. This season was exemplary as Nebraska’s three losses came against Michigan State, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. All three teams entered Saturday ranked in the top 20. This season was championship or bust, as any season. As a result, Pelini was fired.
It is safe to say that he wore out his welcome. He had several instances that were a black eye for him with the program. The public spat with former Cornhusker quarterback Tommie Frazier in 2013 soured thoughts of some about the coach. Frazier questioned the defensive coaching staff, and Pelini fired back. While possibly just to defend his staff, going up against a legend like Frazier was not a good look to some. If that did not change Nebraska faithful’s mind about him, his private rant on the Cornhuskers’ fans and media did. The conversation was taped and later leaked to the public.
Nebraska can only move in a new direction by hiring a coach that puts them over the top. He will have to win Big Ten championships. He will have to guide Nebraska to a major six bowl game and/or the College Football Playoff. Anything less will make the Pelini firing look vacuous. The program has been searching to duplicate the success it sustained under legendary coach Tom Osborne. A coach that won 13 conference championships between the Big Eight and Big 12, and three national championships. Nebraska will now be looking to hire its fourth head coach since Osborne retired in 1998.
Frank Solich was fired after six seasons. He compiled a 58-19 record with one Big 12 championship and an appearance in the BCS Championship game. Bill Callahan was less successful as he compiled a 27-22 record before being fired after four seasons.
Whoever the next coach is will have a high standard to obtain. Championships are all Nebraska is concerned about. Finishing with nine wins will not be enough. Overpowering Iowa, Northwestern, and the Illinois of the Big Ten will not be enough.
For Pelini the next chapter remains uncertain. Winning nine to ten games per year at Nebraska is something athletic directors around the nation will not ignore. He also has credibility as a defensive coordinator. While Nebraska struggled defensively this season, he has the cred to build a stout defense when his concentration is solely focused on the defensive side. But for now Pelini will have to deal with being fired by Nebraska.
Commentary by King Motley
SB Nation – Pelini and Frazier words
Photo by RLEVANS – Flickr License