Nebraska fans had been anxiously awaiting words from university officials for more than 48 hours. Those answers have finally arrived.
UPDATE: Article updated on Wednesday, Sept. 18, at 5:05 p.m. ET
At 11:54 a.m. CT, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln released a joint statement from chancellor Harvey Perlman and athletic director Shawn Eichorst. The statement read, via UNL.edu:
The comments made by Head Football Coach Bo Pelini in 2011, published Monday, are unfortunate and deeply concerning to us, as they would be to anyone who loves this university. Our coaches, staff and student-athletes must be held to a high standard and Coach Pelini's remarks were unfair to the legions of Nebraska fans and not what we expect from a representative of this university. Former Director of Athletics Tom Osborne became aware of these comments and the existence of a recording more than a year ago, and addressed the matter with Coach Pelini. We have observed, and many others have commented, that Coach Pelini’s demeanor has significantly improved since the time of this incident. Coach Pelini has given us his assurance that he understands the seriousness and inappropriateness of his comments. We believe he is sincere in his apology and in his regret. We are prepared to put the matter to rest. Our football student-athletes, coaches and staff deserve all of our support and we know the Nebraska faithful will be there for them.
There will be a lot of items picked from the overall statement and prodded at. The media and fans alike will scour over each sentence, looking for further insight into the decision.
From the entire statement, though, one particular item stands out more prominently than the rest.
"Former Director of Athletics Tom Osborne became aware of these comments and the existence of a recording more than a year ago, and addressed the matter with Coach Pelini."
In his time as athletic director, Osborne had been known to put out fires. He had also been known to defend his programs, the men he hired and the players recruited as a result. He never wavered on decisions and stood firmly by his words. That's just who Osborne was and still is.
When the two-year-old audio was leaked of Pelini using countless expletives toward fans and members of the Nebraska media, many wondered what would happen to the head coach.
Some assumed Pelini would be fired by the end of the week. Others thought the athletic department might let him finish out the season before parting amicably.
Whichever side fans were on, none seemed to expect what would unfold.
According to both Perlman and Eichorst, however, Osborne knew of the audio over a year prior to its release. In fact, Osborne dealt with the situation with Pelini. That changes things, doesn't it?
Since the original university statement was released, Osborne has come forward with a statement of his own. The statement read, via an extended tweet from the Omaha World Herald's Sam McKewon:
I was asked for comments concerning the recent incident involving Coach Pelini by members of the press and felt that it was inappropriate to respond until University officials had reviewed the situation.
After the comments were made public on Monday, I informed the Chancellor and Director of Athletics that I had become aware of the tape involving Coach Pelini last fall, about a year after the Ohio State game in 2011 when the comments were recorded. After I had listened to the tape I visited with Coach Pelini about it and expressed my concerns. Bo had not heard the tape at that time. I visited with all my coaches regularly about their conduct and language throughout my tenure as Athletic Director.
While the comments were certainly not good, I realized that Bo had gone through an emotional week and an emotional game and was in a setting where he thought his comments were entirely private. I visited with Bo on a weekly basis and did not find that his attitude toward the fans or the press as expressed by those comments were at all in keeping with what I knew his true attitude to be. He understands that the most important asset the Athletic Department has is the amazing fan support that we enjoy.
Bo’s academic record with the football team has been the best in my recollection. The behavior of his players has been excellent for the most part, he has won three divisional championships and had one of the best win-loss records in college football for the past five years. I recognize that there have occasionally been controversies but I have seen a willingness to change, reflect and improve in Bo over the years. I am very hopeful that the players, coaches and fans will pull together as unity of purpose has been one of our major assets over the last 50 years.”
Once again, Osborne put out a fire. This fire, however, was one no one expected to reignite after it had been handled.
When it did, people from all across the country assumed there was no other option but to let the head coach go.
That possibly would have been true had Osborne not stepped in.
Whatever happened over a year ago when Osborne and Pelini first learned of the audio is unknown. How it was dealt with is also between the two of them. What is known now is that an athletic director and university president cannot fire a head coach over an event that had already previously been dealt with.
Like it or not, Pelini's job is safe for now. If the head coach hasn't reached out to his former boss yet, now would be the time to do so.
Osborne helped save his job, after all.
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