Seven point six million reasons why.
That is the reason that the University of Nebraska will not fire head football coach Bo Pelini this year. That is the amount of money that it would take for the university to buy out Pelini’s remaining contract through the year 2017. That is a lot of corn!
Like most rabid University of Nebraska Cornhusker football fans—and, I hate to admit this—the loss to the University of Iowa Hawkeyes to drop Big Red to an eight and four season, was cause enough in my corn-addled mind to fire Pelini. It was bad enough to lose four games this year, but to lose to the Hawkeyes was almost an unpardonable sin. Granted, the Hawkeyes are a good team . . . but, they’re Iowa! Another corn growing state (and, for those people out there, they kick Nebraska’s butt at producing corn, too). No one likes losing to their archrivals from across the river. I am sure that this sounds like whining—and, it is—but, there are a lot of teams who would have seen an eight and four record as reason to celebrate (especially considering the age of the team and its uncharacteristic track record with injuries) . . . phttt! Not a true Big Red fan though . . . this is close to blasphemy in Big Red Nation . . . especially to cap off the regular season with a loss to the Hawkeyes!
The gut reaction is to fire Pelini . . . but, 7.6 million dollars is a whole lot of money to spend to scratch an itch that probably won’t go away anytime soon. Gut reactions are not always the best response to an issue . . . or perceived issue. When seeing red, one does not always make the best decisions or choices. Sometimes a person needs to step back, consider what is going on, and then make a decision. Something the University of Nebraska is not always willing to do . . . shoot they fired Frank Solich when he was a coach after winning nine games and losing three! They hired the flashy Bill Callahan to replace Solich, and then took a quick trip down the football toilet as he decimated the team and Big Red Nation. This pattern is not unfamiliar in big time college football . . . but, the University of Nebraska is just not used to this pattern after having such a huge run of success at the top for so many—not years, but generations. This supposed black spot on the Big Red reputation needs to be removed and removed now! It hurts too much! Cut it out now! Fire Pelini and everything will be okay! At least that seems to be the sentiment of many within Big Red Nation.
Again, 7.6 million seems like a big price to pay to get rid of a pain that is probably fleeting. Remember, an eight and four record is a winning season that lots of schools would die for. True, there is no Big Ten championship . . . there is no BCS bowl game . . . probably no New Year’s Day game . . . but, it is still a darn good record considering the season that the team and Pelini have been through. We, within the Big Red Nation, need to shut-up and put up with a little pain . . . after all, these are the pains of growth if used right.
There are not a lot of coaches out there who would have wanted to put up with Pelini’s situation. It seemed that player after player went down each week with injuries . . . the biggest of all was losing four-year starter at quarterback, Taylor Martinez, who set all sorts of school records on the field. The offensive line, touted as one of the best at the start of the year, replaced almost all of the first and second teamers after racking up the injuries during games . . . I hear that Pelini even converted the ball boy to a left tackle position so that there would be some depth on the playing chart for game days. Add to that the fact that a lot of players graduated from the team last year, and there were a lot of young, new players getting starting positions . . . and, getting injuries. This was one of the youngest teams that Pelini has ever put on the field. It was everything and anything that every coach goes to bed at night praying never materializes . . . Pelini lost the bet! Lost it big time! None of these issues are things that Pelini can control . . . poop happens. Apparently lots of poop happened to the Cornhuskers this year.
In all honesty, this is about where I thought the Cornhuskers would end up this year at the end of the season. In fact, they actually did better than my real self wants to admit . . . I saw them losing a couple of more games than they did. But, that is the real me talking . . . the die-hard Big Red fan in me expected an undefeated season, a Big Ten Championship, and at a minimum a BCS bowl game if not the national championship shot. Expect it every year . . . it is ingrained in Big Red fans. In the heat of the moment, when I am seeing red, my gut reaction is to fire Pelini. Fire him now! It is a heck of a lot easier to fire the coach than to deal with the fact that with everything that was piled on this team . . . everything that this team went up against each week (including disgruntled fans) . . . that they were actually overachievers who had a pretty decent season. Sure, it hurts not to reach unreachable expectations . . . sure, it hurts to lose to Iowa . . . but, the hurt will go away.
Husker Nation needs to get real. Husker Nation needs to deal with its denial to do the one thing that it expects its football team to do . . . man up and own the reality that it was just not a great season to put into the annals of history, but it was not a terrible season. Husker Nation needs to admit that this season was probably better than most of us expected in our moment of weakness prior to the season when we were being honest with the landscape of college football . . . when we were thinking we would be lucky to five football games. Husker Nation needs to deal with the fact that unexpected things happen . . . players get hurt . . . balls bounce funny . . . and, young players make mistakes . . . that poop happens. Husker Nation needs to realize that there are other things that matter more than football, and that the sun rises even the day after a big loss (even though it was pretty cloudy this morning after losing to Iowa). Husker Nation needs to get real and acknowledge that it is not going to fork over 7.6 million dollars to a coach that it would love to fire . . . admit that even the most rabid Husker football fan is not going to fork over a couple of bucks to help offset the university’s expense if they do fire Pelini and take a 7.6 million dollar hit . . . that they are not going to “put up or shut up”. Yeah, it hurts right now, but time heals everything including growth pains.
I do not like Pelini, but I also can think of 7.6 million reasons why he shouldn’t be fired. I also think that when someone has a run of bad luck, that he or she should get a second chance . . . Pelini deserves a second chance (or is this the seventh or eighth chance?). The fact is, no one from the university comes knocking on my door asking me for advice on how to coach or run a big-time college football program. Sure, I see red . . . but, it is Husker Red. I will moan and groan, but I still keep coming back no matter what the record of my beloved Huskers might be. I imagine somewhere down the line that will become the classic definition of “crazy” . . . doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results . . . yep, that is Cornhusker football at its best!