Advantage: Pelini


Posted Dec 9, 2003



Since we’ve been down this road before, the situation shouldn’t be all that new. Yes, it’s a head coach and some possible assistants rather than a whole bunch of assistants, but the question remains the same....’when will something be announced?’. The current stagnation in recruiting begs that this matter be resolved, but for one, Bo Pelini, the waiting game is a game where he’s ultimately going to be the winner.

As I might have said in a few pieces here and there and hypothesized on, there’s a variety of scenarios that could be playing out right now. All which involve some sort of contract negotiations, quibbling on details and people trying to find that fine line between ego and objectivity.

I do think that it’s safe to say though that the longer this process drags out, there more Bo Pelini becomes the odds on favorite to go from interim head coach, to permanently at the position.

This up-coming weekend is a considerable one as a great number of official visitors will be present. Some that coach Pelini is recruiting himself. Steve Pederson with all his years as a recruiting coordinator knows that in this business, no news is never good news in the end.

Recruits want answers.

Up to this point, recruits have been given the ‘things are ok, this is still Nebraska and no matter, it’s a great place to be’ rebuttal. That works only so long as recruits, most recently, Andre Brown have decided that in order for them to be sure about their future, their going to look more closely at those schools who’s futures are not as up in the air.

You can expect that to continue and yes, you can expect current commits of the Huskers to look around as some already have. Allan Evridge is slated to visit Kansas State this up-coming weekend and you know one of the first things they will say. ‘We’re not just the Big XII champs, but we have a head coach, you know what our offense is going to look like and our continuity speaks for itself’.

That’s a tough one to argue with, but Evridge and his parents are awfully fond of offensive coordinator and offensive line coach, Barney Cotton and Nebraska’s new but interim head coach. Chances are, if Pelini keeps the job and Cotton is still around, Evridge will still be a Husker.

The list goes on from there as to the recruits that will keep looking Nebraska’s way if the fiery, Pelini does get the job in the end. And, of course those recruits that are committed more than likely will stay that way or at least a good deal of them, again some based on what happens to the assistants.

If you can say one thing about Bo Pelini is that you’ll never have to ask him what he means. Straight forward, almost to a fault, Pelini gives you the shortest answer to your question, all with a glare that dares you to ask it again.

In truth, Pelini is actually extremely personable off-camera, but it’s on-camera, in front of the press, well, if there is a learning curve for the Ohio native, this one will be it.

It’s not that Pelini has an issue with questions, but the type of question it is certainly has as much potential to raise his ire as it does to get an objective response. Question him, but don’t question his ability. Be inquisitive about how he does things, but don’t ask him to explain why. Pelini is what is, almost ‘old school’ in his personality, simple in his philosophies and very cut and dry with how he puts all of this together.

In short, Pelini is what he is and expect no compromise. As simple as his methodology seems when approaching the game, it’s equally simple in how he relates to everyone else. What you see is what you get. Don’t like it? That’s your problem.

While he’s probably described as a little abrupt, Pelini’s personality also lends to a great deal of affection. Probably not from the media, but certainly from those he coaches and those he considers close friends. I will make an assumption of the man that I believe to be completely accurate in that I think if you are his friend, you are one forever and he’s fiercely loyal to those he calls friends. If you’re not, find the nearest exit.

Because of who and what he is, Pelini either makes for the best possible coach you can have or the worst, but how that pans out usually depends on ability. I would think that based on what Pelini did with the defense this last year as a whole, that question is quickly answered.

With all his potential, his candidacy as the permanent H.C. for Nebraska shouldn’t have been an issue, but it really hasn’t come down to his potential, but that of those other candidates involved.

Of course, we’ll never know for a fact who everyone is, because if you just listened to what certain coaches are saying and of course, Pederson himself, NU has interviewed nobody and absolutely nobody has contacted NU about the job. None you can at least identify by name anyway.

With that being said, when you heard names like Urban Meyer being thrown around, again, it wasn’t that Pelini didn’t have what it took to lead the team, but maybe someone else had exactly what NU wanted. An established head coach, someone that knew offenses and a proven recruiter on top of that. No fault to Pelini that he didn’t fit those criteria, thus no reason to assume that pondering any other candidates should be considered an insult.

As someone recently reminded me, it’s just good business.

A business decision hasn’t been made though and the clock is ticking away. The more the hands move, the more the pendulum swings clearly into Bo Pelini’s favor. It almost becomes his job to lose. Or rather, Steve Pederson’s job to lose him.

Athletic Director, Steve Pederson is not in an enviable position right now. I mean, it’s not just about contract negotiations, discussions on clauses and figuring out where the money is going to come from or if there is even enough. It’s about being a director, politician, businessman and even diplomat all rolled into one. That fine line between ego and objectivity? Pederson has to find that not just with whoever he is negotiating with, but himself at the same time.

Steve Pederson has made no bones about the fact that he had a plan. The very decisive firing of Frank Solich after he posted a 9-win season for Nebraska would back that up considerably. If his plan is so well orchestrated in his head, that could lead to problems down the road, because some coaches might not want their contracts to fall, word-for-word within this plan Pederson has formulated.

What do you do then?

Obviously, you do what any A.D. would do and make sure the program succeeds even if it’s not a success that can be directly attributed to this vision of the future. Success is success and whoever gets the credit in the end, well, it should be academic.

That’s why this is probably Pelini’s job to lose.

No, the NFL notwithstanding, Pelini’s resume’ might not quite be that of some of the names we have heard being thrown around as possible candidates for the job, but when you sit back and think of the kind of coach you want simply in regards to what they know and what they have the capability of doing, Pelini will be hard to beat.

As a recruiter, the book hasn’t been written as this is his first full year scouting the prep-world, trying to convince them to come to Nebraska. But, there’s a group of kids coming in this weekend from Florida that are doing so because of him, a group of kids in Ohio that are all still looking at NU even now because of him and kids that are currently Husker commits that want to see just what happens to the former linebacker coach for Green Bay.

If his final returns are as good as what he’s shown thus far, Pelini’s prowess with the preps could be amazing.

As a leader, forget about it. Starting RE, Benard Thomas went from a guy that almost didn’t want to be at Nebraska anymore to a guy that said he would "run through a wall" for his coach. That type of impact was not limited to just him, that I can assure you. Players respect him, they fight for him, thus the motivation is obvious.

No head coach is the perfect head coach. No, not even Tom Osborne was faultless in his 25 years at the helm. With Pelini, there will be questions about the offensive staff, who will take his place as D.C. and some will ask while hiding behind a notepad if anything similar as to what happened immediately following the Kansas State game could be expected to resurface.

Bo Pelini’s emotions reside squarely on his sleeve and yes, the actions by him towards Bill Snyder were even applauded, such intensity seemingly so rare from a coach at Nebraska. As an assistant, you’ll get away with that, maybe even twice, but as a head coach, the demands go up, but those "unwritten rules" are far more numerous.

What Pelini will have to learn is what any coach has to learn, but if such wasn’t possible, no assistants would have ever ascended to the job. I guess most call that the benefit of the doubt.

What there isn’t a doubt of as well is the fact that as the clock ticks down, recruiting time dwindles ever shorter, a head coach will have to be named. Not after a bowl game, not after the NFL season, the decision as to who the head coach for Nebraska is must happen and happen soon.

For that reason especially, but only one of many others, Pelini is in what you could call the catbird’s seat. I don’t know if you could call this a decent analogy, but if you like, you could say that right now, Steve Pederson is on offense, Bo Pelini is on defense.

Anyone want to bet who comes out on top?

Advantage: Pelini

Steve Ryan can be reached at huskerconnection@neb.rr.com or 402-730-5619



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