For the fourth time in a two-year stretch, a high-profile Nebraska Cornhuskers football player has left the team on his own accord. This time, it was starting defensive tackle Chase Rome (via ESPN.com).
This begs the question: What is going on in Lincoln?
Local sports-talk radio in Omaha started off the day by pointing the finger at the softness of today's generation of collegiate football players. If that is indeed the case, why are players only soft in Husker uniforms?
You can point to other instances in which kids have transferred away from big-name programs on their own, but many of those cases can be blamed on the after-effects of oversigning, something that the Big Ten does not do.
The common denominator is Bo Pelini, but nobody in Nebraska seems to want to question him. Nobody wants to question why he was able to coach up the talent that Bill Callahan recruited and couldn't develop himself yet has been unable to recruit and develop similar talent.
Arguably the top three players of the Pelini era were Ndamukong Suh, Prince Amukamara and Lavonte David. Of those three, Pelini recruited only David, who was already a JUCO superstar and a highly sought-after commodity.
This is Pelini's fifth season at the helm in Lincoln. Every player on this roster has his stamp on them, yet outside of running back Rex Burkhead, Pelini has failed to recruit any would-be game-changers with the ability to get the Huskers back to the top of the college-football ranks.
It is my belief that there are several of ingredients involved in this mess. The first of these, as I already mentioned, is Pelini's inability to recruit high-level talent. The second is he and his staff's inability to develop the talent that they do recruit.
The third is Bo Pelini's attitude.
We've seen him berate players, coaches and officials on the sidelines for five years. It's one thing to be a fiery coach. It's quite another for players and coaches to fear making mistakes not because it harms their team but because they don't want to head back to the sideline for a face full of spit and a tongue lashing on national television at the hands of the man who controls their destiny.
Outside of his temper, his stubbornness is also an issue.
Not until this week, after his team gave up record yards to what was perceived as an inferior opponent, has he strayed from his defensive scheme. Now, finally, in the face of starting 1-2, he decides to swallow his pride and make a change.
The fourth ingredient is the fans. After the Bill Callahan fiasco, fans are happy to have anyone else as a coach, so long as he wins more games.
Because of that, they'll accept anyone—even a guy with whom most Nebraskans would not otherwise associate themselves—as the face of the football program and, realistically, the state.
The final ingredient, as I alluded to before, is the fact that the Nebraska media does not publicly question his decisions or methods, at least not recently. Are they afraid of the same tongue lashings his players get? Since when is a member of the media afraid to ask a football coach legitimate questions?
Like it or not, the common denominator of all that goes wrong, all that has not happened, all that Nebraska has failed to do in Bo Pelini's tenure at the school, is in fact, Bo Pelini himself.
Until he is either removed from the equation or changes the way he operates, Nebraska's current status on the college-football landscape will be the standard for the program.
Maybe Nebraskans are alright with that.
The chatter I hear in coffee shops and sports bars, however, tells me that most are not.
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