Bridge over troubled cornfields

bo-peliniIf 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.

Stupid Expectations

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.




55 thoughts on “Bridge over troubled cornfields”

  1. Amen!!!
    Sometimes I feel like this is why we don't get the best recruits who wants to come and play ball where the fans don't support your coach or team when the going gets tuff!!! Grow up Nebraska Fans!!!
    GO BIG RED!!!!

    1. I dont think it hurts us look at Michigan State they cant fill their stadium good or bad seems like that stadium is pretty naked looking most of the time. Kids that come to Nebraska know rain or shine, win or lose that stadium will be sold out and packed when they take the field. Granted people leave when we get blown out but as players and coaches know that will happen at any level of the game what doesnt happen is even when a team struggles the fans show up fill a stadium no matter what. To say unrealistic expectations are there I dont think so I think people saw what we did last year with seniors on D and now what we are doing with freshman and seniors and they just see little to no improvement. I for one dont expect wins across the board but I dont expect ugly losses if we were competing in every game we lost that would be different for me the blow outs are what bug me. Perfect seasons are unrealistic expectations, showing up with a team that can compete and keep a game close win or lose is not. Here is hoping we improve on this note! GBR!!!!

  2. I agree with you. Sure I was upset while watching the second half of the UCLA game, but not nearly as upset as I was when reading the reaction it got. I went looking for others opinions on what went wrong and what corrections should be made and all I found was vitriol and rants demanding everyone and their mother lose their job. I just think that losing a game is no excuse for a poor attitude from fans.

  3. Nebraska made the decision to leave the Big 12 a few years back. That decision was not based on wins and losses. It was based on money. As the article indicates, football has become a money machine and there is no way to return to the days of old. I am a KSU alum and devoted fan. KSU has a history of a lot of years of terrible football. That cycle was changed. I was truly sorry to see Nebraska leave the Big 12. Wish they would have stayed. Some don't but it was exciting to see the stands at KSU with the Purple and the Red. Those were great days. Bo is suffering from the transition. Every team has cycles. Recruiting he can control. Availability of players, he cannot. Performance he cannot. He can coach until he is blue in the face, sorry RED, but the execution is on the players. Its just important to remember, it is not all on one man and I don't even like Bo much. But it takes 11 plus on offense and 11 plus on defense. Just my thoughts. Wish the Big Red Well!!!

  4. I've been saying the same things for years now. I rarely get the chance to go to a game, and when I do, if/when I see a fan booing our team, I get furious! How can you call yourself a fan if you're not going to support your team through thick and thin?? And you're right about Bo, he's doing things the right way, the Nebraska way. GPAs and graduation rates are at an all time high, kids are doing great things in the community, and they're staying out of trouble because of the integrity that Bo has instilled in them. You can't fire a guy like that for "only" winning 9 games per season. I believe in him, he wants to win more than anybody. Give him time, and he'll get it done

  5. What a well written, eye-opening article!!! I am hopeful all Husker fans who read this will gain new insight and put a new perspective on the role of the "supporters" of Husker Nation. It's not hard to tell this was written by a loyal Husker! Thank you!

  6. I was brought up with Nebraska Football, sitting in the living room with my brothers and sisters and my parents, and all of there friends. I am 50 years old and win or lose we still were Husker Football fans. I was very upset with everyone's attitude to get rid of Bo, why I ask is it always the coaches fault. It takes a team, coaches and fans (yes the fans) to make a game go either way. If you look up into the stadium and see the fans leaving, you feel you lost the support of the crowd. The Spirit of Husker Pride needs to come out and give those boys a boost, that we are here for them 100% win or lose. Thank you for writing a very touching article I hope a lot of people read this and get a better perspective.

  7. Yep, finally some reason. Especially liked the reality check that this is n't 1996 any more, and it would throw in that times have changed and it took TO 20 years to win, and that was before big money went biserk. Bo's fine, we're fine, and Saturdays in Lincoln is still one of the greatest days in college football.



  9. This is the best (true) article yet! LOVE it.. just wish all of NEBRASKA could come to this! I love the Huskers lose or win! They play their hearts out and for 18-2? boys, they are amazing 🙂 Bo Big Red! Stand up for our great team!!!!

  10. It upsets me and probably our recruits to hear we that we dont get top recruits. These kids are frezh out of high school and go out there to play their hearts out. Ive noticed great potential and ability in these men and its up to us as fans to support them and recognize their abilities. I believe we do have great top recruits and continue to get them, they just need guidance, acceptance and our loyal support along with their leaders.

    But a very well written read!

  11. We also need to quit measuring every coach up to Coach Devaney and Coach Osborne, as well as measuring every player up to those of the past. Yesterday is gone, tomorrow is the future. Expectations need to be in check. Keep the faith. Always support the Huskers no matter what. I've been a devoted Husker fan for over 40 years and have seen both the awesome and the really bad. As every season ends, I can't wait for the next. HUSKER POWER! GO BIG RED! THERE'S NO PLACE LIKE NEBRASKA!

  12. I am the first to admit that i don't know shit about football, But I do know that the Huskers are a good group and they have a coach that can bring out the best in them.Yes, losing hurts. But I always have, and always will stand by the team. Fair weather is all nice a pretty, but you see so much more in each person involved going through the storms. Besides, winning outlandishly off balanced games would get really boring. Give me a nail bitter, a hard fought game.
    Its not about the win or loss, its about those young men on the field.
    Thats something fans need to remember, not just Husker fans, but all College Football Fans.

  13. I've been saying this all week long… Im glad you put down on paper! ;). I was at last weeks game and I thought to myself where is the the 12 player when our team needed us? We sat quiet, so we are as much to blame we made it easy for U C L A It was pretty bad when their crowd was louder than us!
    I'm a husker and I agree with you 100%

  14. Excellent article. the crazy thing about early this week, I lost sleep over the whole thing. I have been a pro Bo guy, i love his fire, i love his pranks, i love his intensity. It would be stupid to fire a guy mid-season for what some gutless person reveals 2 years after it happened. his program has made my blood pressure a problem but it is part of loving them. I think we were very spoiled in the '90s with the Legend that is TO. Either way, i think it is time for Nebraska to #UNite. again excellent article.

  15. I think the weather is fine here. Now whether or not Bo should be fired for his comments, No to the Hell NO. The fans that booed or left early, shouldn't be considered fans. I was surprised he (Bo) didn't rip them publicly at the time; You don't do that to your team. End of discussion.

  16. Great article, I hope more of the fans will come to this conclusion. We have a season of football ahead of us. Let us all support our players and coaches GBR.

  17. I wish people would also remember that we all, periodically, rant about our jobs…to me, that is all that Coach Pelini was doing in the recording. If he had been saying those things to the press, I would have a different take on this…I feel it is a non-issue.

  18. What a gloriously beautifully written opinion. Of which I agree one hundred and twenty percent! Thank you for talking with sense and not hatred.

  19. Kudos. If all Nebraska fans would adopt this attitude it would be fun to be a fan again. Winning is all that matters for most, and it's not a "true" win unless it's a 63-0 blow out. Thanks for a level headed perspective, Brandon.

  20. Nebraska football…hell, Nebraska in general is not about winning…it's about the good life and what it takes to preserve it. Hard Work!

  21. If you are truly a Nebraska fan you stay and watch and cheer your team until the last second ticks off the clock. If you win–GREAT–if you lose you chalk it up and look forward to the next week. I love my team and I love Coach Bo and they all need our support. These kids play their hearts out and we need to quit being fair weather fans. We are fans of Nebraska football, good or bad.GBR!

  22. Amen, thank you for writing this. I think this echoes the sentiment of the majority of husker fans. I was born, breed, and raised husker fan. I will be for life. Something to also think about. If you have kids just pay attention to them, they don't care about wins or losses, they don't care about the score. They just love their huskers, period. We should all be the same. GBR

  23. it is sad but true, college football has become about the money……… my wish is that nebraska still had the big eight to be in….. nebr. and oklahoma game was the "it" game for me……….since then, i have become "jaded" about the whole system……money!!!!! i will always be proud to have been born in nebr. nothing to do with the football, etc……..

  24. I don't think I can write anythng different than what already has been said:) I was pretty pissed as well when this whole thing came out… This has been pretty hard on him you can see it in his face… I am sure this has been hard on his wife and kids as well. Nobody has bothered to ask about them… or am I wrong…

  25. At the same time, how long do we have to wait? Watching Bo yell his head off, swear and generally not show quality leadership just because he is a defensive genius?

  26. I bleen Red every game and its always the same… I love football all the teams are great just until they play Nebraska…. but I am with you let them play they are not pros they come to give it their all and when we walk out or yell bad things or blame the coach for not doing it good enoug its just passing the buck… they are a great team all of them he is a good coach… he is no different than anyone else who slips up and says the wrong thing… give him the break you would your partner or children… let the ball game go and have fun … we cannot always win there has to be a loser and we do not lose all the time…

  27. On the Callahan note. He may not have been the best coach in the Husker history, but you're right his recruiting skills were amazing. I think one of the best things Nebraska could do to get back on the track to moving forward is to bring him back solely for recruiting purposes. Then we will begin to build a great team once again.

  28. Washington State Cougar fan here. Great article, couldn't agree more. I've always had a lot of respect for the fan base of the Nebraska Cornhuskers, especially after the courteous treatment some of my fellow fans experienced in '94 in Lincoln. You all were great hosts, and made your team one I could root for so long as they weren't playing my Cougs. As you will remember, the Huskers were the dominant program in college football at that time, and the fans came to expect dominating wins every week. Such standards are hard to live up to. The landscape of college football is changing, and undefeated seasons are going to become more rare. I will not be surprised when Alabama's reign ends, things like that can't last forever. It saddens me to see good men, such as your coach, trashed because of a loss. It lowers my respect a little bit for your fan base ( I consider Nebraska and ND to be tops) and I hope you will put this game in perspective and support your program, no matter what. College football is a time to celebrate and have fun. Your enjoyment of it shouldn't only be when your team is winning big. I wish the Huskers, and Coach Bo a great rest of the season.

  29. 'Open in New Tab' means that I don't know which 'friend' shared this. I am glad that I found it though. I love your this paragraph:

    "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."

  30. So, truly good fans should basically sit back and cheer for the program regardless of what happens?  Support the program through thick and thin, with all disregard for right and wrong?  I hear this and can't help think of some Penn State fans, that against all morality, defended a program plagued by controversy.  To me, it is actually a measure of being a great fan to be critical of your own program as necessary.  To recognize when something is not right and speak out against it.

    For me, this is not an issue of wins or losses and I am disheartened that it appears to be so for so many Husker fans.  The reality is, if a parent wanted to find a glowing example of poor sportsmanship for their kids, they would have to look no farther than Pelini.  Just bring up YouTube and show them videos of Pelini stomping up and down the field throwing a tantrum like a four year old; yelling at coaches, players and refs with all the rage he can muster.  To me, the "greatest fans" do not ignore such antics. 

    Husker Fans are at a crossroads.  We can continue on this new course with Pelini at the helm and every Saturday sacrifice just a little bit of our own good nature…  sacrifice our own compulsion for fair play and sportsmanship in favor for what Pelini is offering us, or we can put a stop to the madness now.

    Now for those Husker fans that are truly not concerned with such lofty ideals at Nebraska and have already adopted the win at all costs attitude, consider a few other facts before rallying around Bo.  

    First, consider how the attitude of the coach infects the team.  When players watch their coach completely losing it on the sideline, even over relatively minor issues, their play most certainly is affected.  Bo Pelini projects to every player on the field that it is perfectly legitimate to lose your composure during the middle of a game.  While some would argue that Pelini only loses it when things go wrong, I would argue that the more Pelini loses it, the more things tend to go wrong with the team.  Think of where you work, when your boss is in a rage, doesn't that effect the attitude and efficiency of all nearby employees?  Do employees become more engaged with their work or does everyone run around in fear trying to avoid become the next target for the rage?

    Also, consider what a complete and total joke Nebraska has become in the media.  Now for those that don't think this matters, think again.  The opinion of the media, along with other coaches completely control the higher destiny of any team in college football.  While this may be wrong and unfortunate, until a full playoff system is instituted, we at Nebraska are always at the mercy of the opinion of the media.  So what is that current opinion?  Unfortunately, the only serious coverage that Nebraska has gotten over the last many years is when Bo once again makes headlines with his antics.  This will be the case this Saturday as well.  Just record Game Day on ESPN to see me speaking the truth.  Instead of showcasing the many talents of our team or the accolades of the program, once again ESPN will be discussing Nebraska's disreputable coach.

    Finally, it is impossible to argue that Bo's reputation for being a total jerk to his player, the refs and now the fans is not seriously considered by recruits and their families when deciding where to play.  This is just a fact.  I mean what parent of a talented player wants to send their kid into to what some perceive as the arms of the beast?

    In the end, Pelini will not be a legacy coach at Nebraska.  There is little doubt left that, considering the repetition of this issue, eventually he will step out of line AGAIN and even school administrators will say they have had enough.  The only question left is, do we tear off the band-aid now, or wait for it to fester a little longer.  We simply cannot, as the greatest fans, continue to defend the indefensible!  

    1. Rich, that is the most thoughtful and insightful comment on this topic I've read on this site. I grew up as rabid a Husker fan as anyone could be. That's because I had admiration and respect for Osborne. I rooted for the Huskers because I wanted Osborne to succeed and, by extension, his team to win. I have no respect for Pelini. He exudes all the grace and class of an the arrogant, profane thug. When Pelini loses, he throws his players under the bus with his never changing excuse: "We just didn't execute." No, the problem is that Pelini gets out coached. Obviously, he's no genius. I just shake my head at the fans who constantly make excuses for him.

      I've lost my once intense emotional connection to the team wand its fan base. Football is a fun support, but when it becomes your religion, it loses its appeal. If you don't care about dignity, honor, and class, if you want to buy into the "just win, baby" ethos, if you want to sell your soul for the sake of a BCS bowl bid, then you better get as good a bargain as you can for the high price you seem to be willing to pay. It's pathetic that Husker Nation holds its honor in such low regard that it will sell it all, and in exchange for what? A mediocre coach like Pelini? We're debasing ourselves for him? Count me out.

  31. although I agree that this isn't 1996 , and the old Bob D. crew is long gone , but what is missing most of all is the respect, the honesty , dedication , both in respect to the players toward their coaches and visa versa, coaches have to set example , lead with those qualities and the wins will come and it will mean more to the fans ! that's what the Bob D. people had and that's what made Ne. football as it is today . people want that back more than win at any means .

  32. I am sorry…. I do NOT agree….. I do NOT blame the kids….. I do NOT care what BO said……. BUT……. BO HAS TO GO….. he is not the answer….. Just an opinion…. and we know what there like, and who all has one….

  33. Bo is a good coach and I believe a good fit for Nebraska. Bo. needs to learn to control himself. If you watch closely as soon as he loses it on the sideline the game changes. Now think about winners, are they frustrated, angry, …. Last weeks game the D was all over UCLA and things were looking good when along come a field goal attempt in which one reff called it wrong followed by a display of idiocy by Mr. Pelini. GAME CHANGER. From that point on the defense sucked and the offense ….. When he can control himself he and the team do well when he doesn't things suck. Teach him to maintain his integrity through thick and thin and we will have a great program . If he can not do that then fire him. The only point he got across to me last Saturday was how big of an idiot he can be. Great leaders don't show off their emotions, they take care of business. Been giving him a break for several years, we need a staff that teaches them boys to maintain their integrity no matter what. If this group maintains good behavior and plays hard and gets beat then the opponent was one heck of a group, hold your head high and move on, my bet is if they do that there won't be to many loses.

  34. Hey I agree that a lot of fans are only about winning. I on the other hand just want the team to fight all the way through the game instead of looking like they quit half way through the game. I don't care if the win. But play with all your heart not this half ass cocky attitude.

  35. I would have to agree with this article. Husker fans have become quiet, fair weather fans. As far as the fans go, we should be lifting our team up not bringing them down. I remember the 1st game I went to back in the 80s, the stadium was so loud and exhilarating. The crowd would pump the players up so high that nothing could get them down. Now if you go to a game it's more like you are at the theater. It is so quiet, nobody stands and cheers, you actually get told by other fans to sit down. I am sorry when I get the chance to go watch my Huskers, I want to be loud. I want the stadium to be rocking for players on the field. If you have had season tickets since Kennedy was in office and don't feel like be loud anymore, and just want to watch the game. Sell your season tickets, and watch the game from your couch.

  36. As Husker fans, we have only one job; to support and encourage the players and the coaching staff and the program. Anyone who can’t do that better just admit they are not really a Husker fan. I love it when we win. I love it even more to know we graduate honorable and remarkable young men with character.

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