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At the end of 2013, the Nebraska football program did not look like a happy place. After an ugly loss to Iowa, Pelini gave a defensive (and, quite honestly, shameful) press conference deflecting responsibility and all but daring Nebraska athletic director Shawn Eichorst to fire him. Speculation ran rampant, and it looked for all the world that Pelini’s tenure in Lincoln was about to conclude.
Fast forward a few months, and look how things have changed. After getting a show of support, Pelini has become far more accessible, making fun of himself on Twitter and embracing his brilliant parody account @FauxPelini.
More substantively, he allowed the media to observe almost all of spring practice, something that would have been unthinkable in years past. And he won the Internet when he led the team onto the field at the Spring Game carrying his cat.
The change in Pelini’s public persona has been amazing in its speed. But there also hasn’t really been any pressure on Pelini since the Iowa loss. What’s going to happen the next time Nebraska drops a clunker on the field? Will the bad Pelini come out again, undoing all his public image rehab? Will the questions about Pelini’s temperament—and his tenure in Lincoln by extension—arise once again?
When the heat turns up in the midst of the 2014 season, whether Pelini is able to keep some of this feel-good vibe going may end up being his biggest challenge of all next year.
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