Thursday, September 19, 2013

The Good Bleepin' Life

Fun times here in Nebraska. Unless you've been living under a rock or in a Bluejay bubble, odds are you've heard of the mess in which Big State University's football coach has found himself. For those unfamiliar with the goings-on down Lincoln way, here's Keith Olbermann with the extended breakdown. If you don't want a dissertation on swearing in sports, this is the recording in question:

This has caused quite a stir among the Big Red faithful, with some of the more reactionary elements calling for Bo Pelini to be fired. That may seem awfully rash, especially given Pelini's record -- his teams have gone 9-4, 10-4, 10-4, 9-4 and 10-4 during his time in charge. That's a fairly respectable record, so why do some people want Pelini gone?

It seems like it's not so much the losses that bother Nebraska fans (though no doubt they still do to some degree) as it is how the losses keep happening. One could argue that Nebraska has taken on a bit too much of Pelini's personality over the years and become increasingly inconsistent, volatile and undisciplined. Plus, when the momentum turns away from the Huskers, things tend to snowball quickly. Pelini was hired in 2008 to stop Nebraska from falling behind not only the likes of Texas and Oklahoma but Missouri, Kansas State and Kansas. When the Huskers come up against teams that Nebraska fans and administrators think are their school's peers, though, the Huskers tend to fail and fail spectacularly.

2012: Ohio State 63-38 Nebraska; Nebraska 31-70 Wisconsin; Georgia 45-31 Nebraska
2011: Wisconsin 48-17 Nebraska; Michigan 45-17 Nebraska; South Carolina 30-13 Nebraska
2010: Washington 19-7 Nebraska
2009: Nebraska 10-31 Texas Tech
2008: Nebraska 17-52 Missouri; Oklahoma 62-28 Nebraska

Then there's the annual inexplicable loss that's come to be known as the "Bofart" game, such as the 2011 home loss to Northwestern, falling at home to a 5-7 Texas team in 2010 or committing seven turnovers in a 2009 home loss to Iowa State. Turnovers, dumb penalties and inconsistency have been a hallmark of Pelini's teams since his arrival, whether he had Callahan's players or his own.

Pelini continually tells people to "trust in the process" and that any problems are "fixable", yet the same problems keep popping up over and over again. His circle of trust is exceedingly small -- and will no doubt shrink further after Effgate -- and he's packed his coaching staff with friends and guys who are beholden to him for being where they are. There are no dissenting voices or outside influences within the locker room, and even the mildest of criticism -- and seeing as it's the Nebraska media, it will undoubtedly be mild -- sets Pelini off in a profane fury he justifies by saying it's all in the name of "protecting the kids." His behavior smacks of insecurity one usually doesn't associate with big-time college football coaches.

Even the most blinkered of Nebraska fans acknowledge that the college football landscape has changed since the mid-90s. Going 60-3 and winning three national titles in a four-year span isn't happening again anytime soon. What bothers people is that Nebraska consistently gets outplayed and outmaneuvered on the biggest stages, a fact that was as true in 2008 as it is today. The question now is whether the Nebraska program and fanbase will accept more four-loss seasons and having the Rose Bowl as its highest aspiration or jettison Pelini and risk drifting further into irrelevance.

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