Just when everybody thought the drama surrounding Nebraska football was over for a while, we got an encore.
Thanksgiving dinner discussions were about the firing of Bo Pelini and the hiring of Mike Riley. Christmas discussions were supposed to be about the bowl games, basketball and my personal favorite -- the Royals’ offseason trades and pickups.
But on Wednesday afternoon, we were given another chapter for the never-ending soap opera that is Husker football. An audio recording from several weeks ago of Bo Pelini’s meeting with the team was leaked to several news outlets. Needless to say, it was filled with profanities – many of which were directed at Nebraska Athletic Director Shawn Eichorst.
Quite frankly, I’m not going to miss this.
I typed out a text message to my brother about the ordeal, but I had to re-read it before I pushed “send.” In essence, I told him that seeing class restored to the Nebraska football program was more important to me than wins.
Whether new coach Mike Riley works out for Nebraska and delivers big wins – time will only tell. But what can be said with almost certainty is that we won’t have to deal with stuff like this anymore.
The profanity-laced ripping of players and the profanity-laced tirades against fans, media and the athletic director should be over now.
From everything I’ve heard about Riley, he’s the polar opposite of Pelini, which should be welcome news to any fans like me who believe Nebraska deserves better.
Bob Devaney, Tom Osborne and Frank Solich built a winning football program, but they also built a classy program. An example I love to use is when Nebraska got down 17-7 to Miami in the first half of the 1994 Orange Bowl. What did Tommie Frazier see when he looked over at the sideline? Did he see Tom Osborne spewing profanities at players and officials? Or did he see a calm, cool and collected Tom Osborne who didn’t panic in the heat of the moment?
I like to believe that when Nebraska played for those National Championships in the 70s, 80s and 90s, the whole country was rooting for Nebraska because the integrity of those head coaches. Maybe I’m exaggerating, but I don’t think I’m far off.
We’ve lost that in the last 10 years. As I write this, ESPN.com has the Bo Pelini rant as their fifth story from the top. Last year's leaked recording was in an equally prominent spot in the national headlines. Pelini bringing the cat out for the spring game – which was an obvious ploy to win back the fan base – was the top story on ESPN.com for several hours
To me, that stuff is embarrassing. The only time Nebraska football should be in national headlines is because they’re winning football games. I don’t think that’s too much to ask.
There have been successful coaches, like Bobby Knight, who have a similar coaching style to Pelini and it could work for him in the future. But it’s not the Nebraska way.
Mike Riley seems to be more the Nebraska-type. And even if things don’t work out for him in the win/loss column, I don’t see him compounding problems with stuff like this.
I think Nebraska fans can tolerate that. In fact, they’ve proven they can tolerate it in the past with Doc Sadler. Everybody loved Sadler, but he wasn’t getting the job done. The two sides parted ways in a classy manner and I think I can safely say most Husker fans still love Doc Sadler as a person.
I’m not sure the same will be said about Pelini.
A few other quick thoughts and opinions
*A piece of information that came from the recording was Pelini’s rant about how UNL Chancelor Harvey Perlman forced Tom Osborne out as athletic director. I’m willing to bet that won’t be the last we hear about that.
*One of the most concerning things for me about the recording was at the very end when it seemed like Pelini was pushing players to transfer. I thought that – among other things -- lacked class.
*A lot was made of how the players loved Coach Bo and were angry about his firing. As I said in a previous column, that’s not out of the ordinary. Players were upset when Bill Callahan was fired, too. But I’m guessing there may be at least one disgruntled player in the bunch. How else does an audio recording get leaked from a “players only” meeting.
*The most annoying debate that is sure to stem from this is the age-old debate of whether the media should have ran with this story or not. My take on it -- and I'm obviously biased -- is if you don't like stories like this, blame the ranting coach or the player who leaked it. Don't blame the media for running with a scoop that was delivered to their doorstep.