Unintentionally, Nebraska coach Bo Pelini gave Mack Brown a little break on Monday.
Brown’s murky future at Texas, guiding a rapidly descending program, has been one of the few college football stories getting national attention over the first few weeks of the season that does not involve Johnny Manziel.
Now it’s Pelini’s turn to be in the headlines for all the wrong reasons.
Two days after another stinging loss for the Cornhuskers, this one 41-21 at home to UCLA, Pelini decided to take on one of the most beloved players in Nebraska history. Then a few hours after Pelini said, “We don’t need him,” in reply to criticism from former Huskers great Tommie Frazier, the sports website Deadspin.com posted audio of Pelini complaining about fans and the media in a profanity laced tirade.
Amid all the expletives, Pelini also referred to “fair-weather” Nebraska fans, which might be worse than the cussing to many in the #GBR (Go Big Red) tribe.
The day ended with statements from Nebraska chancellor Harvey Perlman and athletic director Shawn Eichorst expressing disappointment in the coach, and Pelini apologizing.
“I take full responsibility for these comments,” Pelini said in a statement released by the school Monday night. “They were spoken in a private room following the Ohio State game. I was venting following a series of emotional events which led to this moment. That being said, these comments are in no way indicative of my true feelings. I love it here in Nebraska and feel fortunate to be associated with such a great University and fan base. I again apologize to anyone whom I have offended.”
Ironically, Pelini was the fans’ choice when he returned to Lincoln in 2008 to clean up the mess left behind by Bill Callahan’s tenure with the Huskers.
Pelini had been defensive coordinator under Frank Solich and became interim coach when Solich was let go after the 2002 regular season. Pelini led the Huskers to a bowl win and fans loved his intensity and hard-nosed style.
But since coming back, Nebraska has been stuck in a rut. There are worse ruts to be stuck in. Pelini is 50-21 and 29-11 in conference since returning to Lincoln. But the Huskers haven’t won a conference title or contended for a national championship. And since Ndamukong Suh left town a few years ago, Nebraska’s defense hasn’t had much bite.
Pelini can be abrasive. He often gets snippy with reporters. His reaction to Frazier’s Twitter rant, in which the former All-American quarterback called for Pelini to fire assistant coaches after another poor defensive performance against UCLA, was not at all surprising.
Nebraska fans generally seem to be tired of Pelini. Not enough big wins to satisfy supporters who still long for the glory days of Tom Osborne and his three national titles in the 1990s.
But it’s hard to fire a coach that wins nine or 10 games every season. If the leadership at Nebraska was looking for another reason to change coaches, they now have it.