Stunning. Surprising. Dramatic. Even, uncalled for. Such have
been only a sparse amount of the descriptions behind the abrupt firing of head
coach, Frank Solich. Coming off a rebirth of sorts for NU, having just led the
Huskers to a road-win against Colorado, bringing back the oh-so comfortable
9-win season and even a chance to win one more, Solich was given his message,
his thanks for a job well done.
Your services are no longer required.
Citing wanting a different direction, not wanting to languish in
mediocrity and refusing to yield conference power to the likes of Texas and
Oklahoma, A.D., Steve Pederson addressed the media, stating his reasons for his
version of emancipation from complacency.
A decision Pederson said that he had come to possibly even
before he took the job as Athletic Director for Nebraska, coach Frank Solich was
removed without hesitation. Some of that lack of hesitation though was
admittedly not by his own choice, the now infamous story by the Lincoln Journal
Star starting an onslaught of media speculation, public outcry which ultimately
prompted a move that was untimely, but apparently unavoidable in the end. "I
made this decision now at the conclusion of the regular season in part because
of the media firestorm that surrounded this speculation and really left me no
option but to address it prior to a bowl game."
It was a media firestorm that Chancellor, Harvey Pearlman said
was initiated by a ploy to use the aforementioned, Journal Star as a means to an
end in attempting to tarnish the credibility of Pederson. "I believe that the
Lincoln Journal Star was used as part of an effort to undermine Steve’s
credibility." Pearlman stated. "And, I have no doubt about the truthfulness
about Steve’s assertion that he spoke to noone."
"Make no mistake about it, Steve Pederson and only Steve
Pederson is running the athletic department. He has my complete confidence in
making the difficult decisions to move this program forward."
The rumors, stories, speculation and what not, well, it all
entailed stories about boosters pulling the strings of the Nebraska A.D.,
Pederson being portrayed more as a puppet than anyone who was actually in
control. It was rumored that statements were made, threats about donations being
pulled if such and such actions were not taken concerning the present state of
the Nebraska football team. Pederson stated that at no time did he accept or
would he accept any donation with as he said, "strings attached".
"It’s not how we run this program." Pederson stated. "Nobody has
offered a donation with strings attached, because I think they know enough about
me to know I wouldn’t take it anyway. And, the quickest way to get your check
slid right back across the desk is to put strings on it."
The ultimatum said, the speculation aside from the actual firing
of coach Solich would be to his replacement. It would have stood to reason that
for such a dramatic decision with equally dramatic timing, a coach might have
already been chosen.
To that end, we may not know, but Pederson stated that he had,
had no contact with any prospective coaches at this point, but was going to
start a nationwide search for a candidate. Or, perhaps he already has his prime
choice right now.
In the interim, Bo Pelini was named the head coach, leapfrogging
Asst. head coach, Turner Gill. That choice will no doubt prompt most to think
that he’s a shoe in for the position, but even Pelini himself reiterated that
his position right now was as an interim,
but also said in response to inquiries about his
bring ready for the job, "I’m standing up here, aren’t I?"
Bo Pelini addresses media
named the interim
head coach for the University of
There’s so many questions that will have to be answered, but not
in a press conference where it’s a free-for-all and the answers ultimately don’t
do the trick. Recruiting, the rest of the assts., which Pederson said at this
time were currently "intact" and of course, the looming bowl game.
With respect to recruiting, I have already talked to a variety
of players, one being Daryll Clark who had just finished a conversation with
Turner Gill. What did Gill say? What could he say? "He said that he didn’t know
anything right now." Clark stated. "He just wanted to call me to let me know
what’s going on, but not even he knows what’s going to happen, so everything is
up in the air."
Clark said that he wasn’t going to be in a rush to any decision
on the stability or state of the program at NU, because he felt that only when
the dust settles and the final decisions were made could he ascertain for
himself just what kind of impact it would have on him. Daryll did say that a
decision to finalize the staff changes coming sooner would be preferred though.
"I’m looking at a few schools, but it would be nice to know what’s going on with
them pretty soon." he said.
Clark has an official visit scheduled for Nebraska in January.
I would think that most hope or are counting on that any
decision in finalizing the staff changes won’t last until after the beginning of
the year. With recruiting for the second year in a row being thrown into turmoil
based on coaching changes, addressing this issue expeditiously would seem
Like last year though, the cries for an immediate decision went
out, but the final decisions concerning the entire staff lasted considerably
longer than perhaps anyone (Solich included) anticipated. Nebraska did rebound
And it’s logical to assume they will rebound again when it comes
to courting the prep-elite, but this year is much more significant than the year
Again, this is the second year in a row that Nebraska has had
dramatic changes in the coaching staff. And, that’s with more changes likely to
come. One more year and that’s almost going to be a trend, one no program wants
Starting RE, Benard Thomas started a back and forth with the
A.D. that at one point appeared to be getting heated, at least from Thomas’
side, so much so that LB, Demorrio Williams had to convince Thomas to cease and
desist. That exchange was a bit surprising, but the question Benard asked before
he departed was about the recruits and telling them what coach they would be
playing for. Pederson simply stated that they would know when a coach was
There are two distinct mind-sets to the recent occurrences
within the football program at Nebraska. Opinions that are no doubt dividing
lines and creating rifts across the Husker state. It’s mostly based on what you
believe Pederson did was a motive of his intentions or others that were being
exhibited through him.
Personally, I would take this stance.
What Steve Pederson has been for better or for worse is a Husker
in form and function. That’s to say that even when he was at Pitt, perhaps even
he knew that one day his path would lead back to Lincoln.
He was born here, raised here, worked most of his career in this
profession here and now finds himself back with possibly the biggest decisions
he will ever have to make, right here, right now.
Nobody has more riding on this than him. Though Pederson said
that the totality of what he’s done as an A.D. defines his career thus far, it’s
clear that what he does now and the decisions he makes will have the greatest
One year in, he has ironically already found himself in a
‘must-win’ situation, having to choose right and choose right now.
You can’t make those decisions being influenced by boosters.
When it’s your butt on the line and not theirs, what you do, say, think and
ultimately decide is your fate, is your reputation and consequently, is your
burden to bear. I do not think that Pederson would shoulder any of that based on
the coercion of a financially blessed few. To do that would ensure that for his
entire tenure, Pederson would be at the control of others and I think we’ve seen
that Pederson isn’t willing to give that to anyone but himself.
As he said, these are his decisions for which he’s the person to
have to take sole responsibility, so to in turn base what you do, how you do it
and when on outside influences that have the luxury of being able to move on if
those decisions turned out to be ‘bad" while you have to find another job, it
doesn’t make sense for someone that has more than just a job to lose.
He’s a native. He’s raised in the state. This is where he calls
home and not the type of home a coach on the move calls his place of residence,
but a home that has been his no matter where he’s gone.
I would guess that in the end, it’s about some measure of faith.
And right now, it’s going to be pretty hard to come by considering the
circumstances in which everything has recently occurred. Pederson by his own
admission knows that he is probably not the most popular guy, but I don’t think
he’s looking to be loved. Respected would be preferable.
Hindsight is the only way we will ever be able to accurately
judge what has taken place in recent days and no doubt will take in some days to
come. I would say though that as much as fans feel they have lost or have to
lose, how much boosters say they have invested and think they have lost out on
at this point in time, the personal investment by Pederson in taking a job he
probably planned on being the last A.D. job he would ever have, who has more to
risk when it’s all said and done?
Like him? Ok. Hate him? If you want. Respect him? Maybe someday,
but no matter what, you have to appreciate the position he’s in. He took the
job, yes, but even "dream" jobs come with some fairly unsympathetic strings
attached. Strings that don’t have requests on the other side, but demands.
Strings that aren’t bought, they are paid for and strings that every A.D. had
before him and will have after he’s gone.
Pederson may not succumb to a "strings attached" M.O., but the
strings that came with the job will always be there.
Now, we’ll see for Pederson what those strings become, a purpose
in which he propels the program back to the top or a noose that ’helps’ drive it
to the bottom.
It’s his show, his program and yes, his future. There are
definitely strings attached after all.
Steve Ryan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or