Florida and Nebraska are two of the most storied programs in college football, possessed of a collective coaching lineage that includes names like Steve Spurrier, Tom Osborne, Urban Meyer, Ray Graves, Bob Devaney and Doug Dickey.
But neither program currently has a coach that it can build around—at least not to the mind of its fanbase. Florida's Will Muschamp, fresh off an ugly loss to Georgia Southern, and Nebraska's Bo Pelini, fresh off a blowout loss to Iowa, both received the dreaded vote of confidence from their athletic directors on Saturday.
Florida AD Jeremy Foley reiterated his commitment to Muschamp, according to CJ Jones of Scout.com:
While Nebraska AD Shawn Eichorst pledged support of Pelini, according to Sam McKewon of Omaha.com:
I want to reaffirm what I have said many times since I have arrived at the University of Nebraska—that I positively respect, appreciate and support our football student-athletes, coaches and staff, as we do everyone in the Husker family. We very much look forward to our upcoming bowl game and Coach Pelini continuing to lead our program in the future.
It's important to note that these words mean nothing. Whenever an AD issues a vote of confidence, it usually signals the beginning of the end. If things were headed in the right direction, no such vote would be needed; a sky this foul clears not without a storm.
Still, under the premise that both athletic directors are being sincere, a comparative question becomes obvious: Which one is erring more severely? Which coach deserves to retain his job less?
To me, the answer is Pelini. That is, Eichorst would be more wrong to bring Pelini back next season than Foley would be to bring back Muschamp. And the reason comes down to demeanor.
Both Pelini and Muschamp have glaring holes in their ability: The former can't coach a competent defense while the latter can't coach a competent offense. Both teams have struggled with those deficiencies this season and injuries have been kind to neither.
But Muschamp has never behaved in the same petulant manner that Pelini did after and during yesterday's loss to Iowa. In cussing about the refs and sardonically inviting his bosses to fire him, Nebraska's head coach made a mockery of his post and generally looked like a man who has lost his locker room (if not his mind).
Tom Shatel of Omaha.com put it perfectly in his reaction to the press conference, writing that he "just saw a man set himself on fire." It's one thing to lose and lose with dignity; it's another thing to lose like a fifth-grader with temper issues.
The way Florida has crumbled this year is unacceptable, and Muschamp is far from the most charismatic leader on the planet. Some changes in the ranks around him need to be made, but Muschamp is still just one year removed from a one-loss regular season and trip to the Sugar Bowl.
Pelini is one year removed from allowing 70 points in the Big Ten Championship, and he's just one day removed from the whiniest, poutiest display of his coaching career. That is not the same situation.
If just one guy deserves to go—which may or may not be the case—Pelini is clearly the more deserving. Only time will tell if Eichorst agrees.