Why Nebraska Made Mistake Firing Head Coach Bo Pelini

Erin Sorensen@erinsorensenContributor INovember 30, 2014

Nebraska NCAA college football head coach Bo Pelini speaks during a news conference in Lincoln, Neb., Monday, Nov. 24, 2014. Nebraska plays Iowa on Friday. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
Nati Harnik/Associated Press

No amount of wins will be enough for Nebraska athletic director Shawn Eichorst. After firing head coach Bo Pelini, Eichorst was clear that's not what it's about.

“I am good with the record that gets us in the position to win championships," he said.

And that's the one thing Pelini wasn't winning. While he was 67-27 overall for Nebraska during his seven-year tenure, he failed to produce a conference or national title for the Huskers. As a result, Eichorst was ready to take Nebraska in a different direction.

However, that decision could have serious repercussions for the Huskers. While Eichorst may feel he knows best, it's hard not to see the choice to let Pelini go as a mistake.

The expectation that Nebraska must win championships is daunting. Some, like ESPN's Matt Schick, don't think the Huskers should apologize for high standards, though.

Steven M. Sipple @HuskerExtraSip

Osborne: "I felt bad after Frank. I felt bad after Bill Callahan. I've walked in those shoes. I don't want to say too much more for now."

Nebraska doesn't need to apologize either. On the other hand, the Huskers have to be prepared for what that pride may do to national perception. After all, replacing a nine-win coach will not be easy, as ESPN's David Pollack pointed out.

Matt Schick @ESPN_Schick

Bo Pelini won a lot of games. But not a lot of big games. Standards at Nebraska are high. A proud program should never apologize for that.

This also isn't the first time Nebraska has been in this situation. In 2003, Frank Solich was in charge. He had just completed a 9-3 regular season. Similar to Pelini, Solich's biggest issue was not that he lost but how he lost.

During that season, Solich's Cornhuskers lost 41-24 to Missouri, 31-7 to Texas and 38-9 to Kansas State. It was that final game against the Wildcats that really sealed Solich's fate, as Nebraska determined that it was not a program that lost in such a fashion.

Husker fans know what happened next. Bill Callahan was hired to replace Solich and bring championships back to Nebraska. It never panned out quite as planned.

It didn't have to happen that way, though. Callahan wasn't the only coach the Huskers were eyeing. However, the biggest issue Nebraska faced in finding a new coach was itself.

In 2011, the Omaha World-Herald's Sam McKewon sat down for a two-part Q&A session with Urban Meyer (via HuskerBoard.com). The ESPN analyst (at that time) didn't hold back when McKewon asked him about Nebraska and 2003:

We actually were contacted by a third party. Not directly. I remember thinking about it. I had such great respect for Solich — he's an Ohio guy who's a good friend of mine — and I didn't agree with everything that went down. He won 10 games that year, right? That was alarming to me. I'm a coach, and whenever I see that happening to a coach, I think there's got to be something behind Door No. 1 to fire him after he won 10 games. I remember having great respect for the school but being concerned about what happened — and why it happened. If 10 games isn't good enough, I'm not sure what is.

Some may argue that the situation was different in 2003 than it is now, but looking at it on paper, it doesn't look like it. Eichorst isn't worried, though. "I’m not going to lower our standards," he said. "I don’t think Nebraskans want that.”

And he's right about that. Nebraskans don't need to lower their standards. However, firing Pelini wasn't the way to go about it.

When a team has a coach winning nine or 10 games per season, you don't fire that coach. Eichorst knows that because he was clear in how he addressed it.

“We weren’t good enough in the games that mattered against championship-caliber opponents and I didn't see that changing at end of the day," he confirmed.

Those are some high standards Eichorst is setting. Any coach who comes to Nebraska will not have win or loss benchmarks. Instead, it's all about winning championships and winning the games that Nebraska should win. Unfortunately, that's easier said than done.

Fans may point at former head coach Tom Osborne for inspiration. He won three national championships for Nebraska and 13 conference championships. While one of those conference titles came three years into his tenure, it also took him nine years to have a Top 5 finish, per SaturdayBlitz.com. Plus, those national titles took 20 years to obtain.

David Pollack @davidpollack47

Be careful what you wish for Nebraska fans. It's hard to find coaches that win at least 9 games a year.

That's not to say that Pelini had a national title coming, but only time would have told. And of course the college football landscape has changed since Osborne was coach, but Nebraska fans will never get to truly see what Pelini was capable of.

There were other options. Eichorst could have asked for Pelini to make some changes. Defensive coordinator would have been a great place to start. However, the athletic director didn't ask Pelini to make any changes.

"The people of Nebraska not only deserve high standards and expectations, but they deserve to reach them," Eichorst said.

Nebraska fans do deserve that. However, firing Pelini feels like a mistake. Eichorst likely has the next person in mind, and that person better be ready to live up to Nebraska's expectations. If he can't, Nebraska will be back in the same place it was after firing Solich.

It felt like a mistake then. It's hard not to feel like it's a mistake yet again.

All quotes and information obtained firsthand from athletic director Shawn Eichorst's press conference.


The latest in the sports world, emailed daily.