If you are a fan of the Nebraska Cornhuskers, you are no doubt aware and probably wrapped up in the current debate as to whether head football coach Bo Pelini should be fired for his team’s abysmal second half showing against UCLA this past weekend combined his comments that he made two years ago before an interview. If you don’t know what those comments are about, you can hear them for yourself.
Despite that, I believe that Bo Pelini deserves to be at Nebraska and not only finish out this season, but he deserves the support of the Nebraska fans that are now waiting on his doorstep with pitchforks and torches.
Like most Nebraska fans, I watched the UCLA game go to hell in a matter of 15 minutes. In that time, I sent quite a few texts to people that said that Bo was done at Nebraska. It was time to move on. We got downright embarrassed AGAIN on national TV. The game was a shit-show, just like the B1G Championship last year. I was done. Fire him, fire the staff and start fresh. We can’t get worse than this. It’s time to rebuild…again.
And that’s how I felt when I heard the audio of Bo, after the Ohio State game in 2011, cussing out journalists and the Nebraska fans who left at halftime when the Huskers were down 20-6 at half. It should have been the final straw that solidified that Bo isn’t fit for the program. But it wasn’t.
I started reading both sides and for the first time in a long time, I really thought about the future of Nebraska football, and what Nebraska football really means to me. And that’s when I saw the flaws in my – and I think a lot of people’s – logic when it comes to being a Huskers fan.
My expectations of Nebraska football – along with a majority of Husker fans – is to be a top-tier football team…every single year. And not just that, we get our hopes up for unbelievable things. People were talking about Nebraska winning the national championship this year. Nebraska…a team that graduated heavily on defense and was starting sophomores and freshman. That’s a lot of pressure to put on kids who are 5 months out of high school.
And this expectation has to be crushing on coaches and players. You win, and that’s what’s expected. You lose, and you should be fired. Now, I understand the argument, “We don’t lose…we get CRUSHED.” This is true. It’s actually Bo’s coaching style to not stop the bleeding when things go wrong, and instead keep going full throttle with the game plan. This can sometimes work (OSU 2011, Northwestern 2012) but other times it just accentuates the problem and leads to blowouts.
We’re in a different era
We are looking at college football in 2013. It’s not 1996 anymore. With parity in place and more schools following Nebraska’s lead in making football an economic engine for universities, we are running into much stiffer competition while getting fewer top-tier recruits. Also, the days of running an amazing option-based offense are over. That was our weapon for a long time, but it simply doesn’t apply anymore. The game has changed.
Admit it, you don’t care about the game, you care about winning
This is the truth that I had to come to. If I read that statement two days ago, I would have immediately ripped the author a new a-hole for writing it. “How dare you say that all I care about is winning!? I’ve been a devoted Husker fan for 32 years of my life! F#@& you!”
But when I was truly honest with myself, I realized that it wasn’t about the players, or the school, or the fun of watching the game. Being a Nebraska fan is about winning. We fired Solich for not being able to win a championship. We’re about to fire Bo for the same reason. We’re still living in a fantasy world where it’s 1996 and we expect to be ranked in the top 10 at the end of the season. If Bo were winning more games, I think his rant from two years ago would have been completely shrugged off. In fact, I doubt it would have even been brought to light. The opinion of Nebraska football hinges on whether the program is winning. But isn’t there more to a tradition as great as Nebraska’s than winning? We claim to be the best college football fans in the nation. To visiting teams, I would say this is true. However, we’re very fair weather when it comes to our own boys in Scarlet and Cream.
The hard truth is that we judge the program based on wins and losses, and that’s not good sportsmanship by any stretch. If we wanted to show that we were good sports we would stick by our team, through thick and thin. We would support the players by staying through the end of the game, even if we’re getting the shit kicked out of us. We will stay involved in the game, cheering loudly at every defensive stand, and not make Memorial Stadium into a 4th quarter morgue.
It wouldn’t matter if we went 12-0 for a season or 6-6. We’d stand behind our Huskers not because they won the game, but because they represent a great state and a great school. Because we graduate more Academic All-Americans than any other school. Because our players do amazing things for the community. Because Nebraska football is a vital part of being a Nebraskan. Does losing suck? Yes, yes it does. But do you know what sucks worse? Giving up on a team because of one or two bad games. That’s bullshit. And I’m calling it out on myself as much as anyone else.
Bo obviously sucks at defense now, right?
When Bo started as head coach, he had some amazing talent to work with on defense. Say what you will about Callahan, the guy got some great recruits. When Bo had the talent, he was able to do some amazing things. We won two straight bowl games with him, reversing our fortunes from the end of the Callahan era. In fact, we shut out Arizona in the 2009 Holiday Bowl. That’s not bad.
But Bo has an Achilles’ heal known as the two gap defense. A defense that’s based on having not only incredible athletes, but people who can think quickly, know where everyone is at on the field, and change where they are going to go in an instant based off of what the offense is doing. For college athletes, that’s an incredibly hard thing to ask. But when it works, it’s brilliant. When it doesn’t work (as it’s not now) it’s awful. If Bo could get a defensive coordinator who could help him simplify that defense for the college level, he could field a top 10 defense again. However, you’re not going to see that this year. This year will be tough, and teams have found Nebraska’s soft spot. They will hammer us to death with it.
At the end of the day
We may lose a few more games this year, but it doesn’t matter. I want to see the Huskers be successful, and right now Bo Pelini is our coach. And as such, I will support him, the players and the program by tuning in for each game, and instead of salivating for a win at any cost, I will look for growth in the team, listen for Hail Varsity, and remember that I am a member of a tradition that deserves more than what its fans (including me) have done for it.