Corn Blight stoked an interesting debate about whether Bo Pelini is a passionate coach just trying to turn this program around, or whether he's an arrogant maniac running amok. Here's the problem...we're only seeing Pelini, we're not hearing what he's actually saying to these players, except for a few choice lip readings. It makes for great video, but the truth is, we don't know what Pelini is saying.
But Bo Pelini has talked about this very topic previously. In the spring of 2007, Pelini talked to some Louisiana high school football coaches about this very topic. Sadly, the audio is no longer available online, but Steve Sipple of the Journal-Star did write about it shortly after Pelini was hired:
“I take this philosophy: There hasn’t been a player ever that has tried to make a mistake out on the field,” Pelini says. “If he made a mistake, he made it for a reason. Well, as a coach, you need to search for that reason — search for a way to get through to that kid. Ultimately, when you coach that way, the players are going to believe in you. And at the end of the day, they’re going to want to run through a wall for you.”
Pelini tells a story from 2003 when he served as Nebraska’s defensive coordinator. A defender made a mistake in practice, and one of the Husker assistant coaches castigated the player. The assistant ranted and raved and even ran from the sideline into the defensive huddle to get in the player’s face.
“I called the assistant coach over to me and said, ‘All that stuff you just did: Was that for you or for the player? Because I heard you yelling at that kid and not one time did you tell him what he did wrong,’” Pelini says. “I told the coach, ‘So, the next time, it’s on you.’”
The key, Pelini says, is “getting kids to understand what they’re doing so they can do it fast.”
“If I get after a kid, (later) I’ll walk up and put my arm around him and say, ‘You’re better than that, right? You know you’re better than that, right?’”
Maybe Pelini has lost it. Maybe he's a hypocrite. Or maybe the video is giving a false impression of what is really happening. Which is it? I don't know, but I do know that Pelini had the reputation of being a fiery leader in his previous college stints, and was beloved by his players.