Let me start this off with this: I love Bo Pelini as Nebraska's head coach. I think the ceiling on Pelini is as high as it is for nearly anybody who's in college football. He's a brilliant defensive mind, and has his motives in the right spot in terms of dealing with the people involved in the program. Everyone who's ever worked for Pelini or been coached by Pelini raves about the man. I truly believe he's the right man to be in charge of Nebraska football.
No, I'm not pleased about Nebraska losing three out of the last four games, but I still believe in him. I think he'll get to the bottom of this problem (if he hasn't already) and start working towards a solution. It might not be the solution that some fans are clamoring for, but that's OK in my book. Bo knows more about football than I (or the sideline critics) do, and I think he's fully capable and able to make the changes internal to the program that are needed.
That's not what I'm talking about though. The Lisa Horne story about the young sailor and the offer to call a play is just the latest in a line of bad publicity for Nebraska's head coach. There was the meltdown on the sideline in College Station in November, not to mention the birthday incident last month. Like it or not, justified or not, Pelini has developed a bad reputation and has become a target of this criticism.
Last month, Kansas State basketball coach Frank Martin had a Pelini-esque outburst after a loss to UNLV. He was in the face of his players, and then took it out on the media afterwards. It barely raised a ripple in Manhattan. Heck, Bring on the Cats spent more electrons covering the Pelini brothers after the A&M game than the outrages of their own head coach. Denial? There's something to that; it's more fun to make fun of others than your own. Is it the difference between football and basketball? True there as well; football is our national obsession. But in the case of Martin, the foundation for better publicity was set. The reason why he does what he does was very much clear.
Today, I heard the predictable chirping from Missouri fans, claiming that Pelini was in "over his head." No he's not. His record speaks for itself. But he needs some help being the public face of the program. Truth be told, it's especially ironic coming from a Missouri fan, especially after reading Vahe Gregorian's profile of Gary Pinkel, talking about how Pinkel walked out on Tiger fans and snapped at his own radio team on the air a few years back. At that time, Pinkel had been a head coach nearly five times longer than Pelini has. Pinkel grew into the job, and I have no doubt in my mind that Bo Pelini can grow into this job as well.
If you've watched the Bo Pelini show, you know what I mean. After home games, they do the game from the studio, and Pelini looks disinterested at best. For away games, they do the game from the stadium standing up, and it seems to work better. When I watch it, Pelini seems fine describing the plays; the problem is in the idle chitchat and features that invariably have to surround a show like this. Pelini obviously finds them as fluff, and makes it uncomfortable to watch.
Somebody needs to sit down with Pelini occasionally and work on the "PR" aspect of the job. He doesn't need it so much now; any criticism of Pelini typically gets offset by recognizing the progress the program has made since he's taken over. That being said, fan expectations continue to increase, and at some point in time, some fans won't be so accepting of these gaffes. (Speaking of which, seems that the only one upset at Bo Pelini was Lisa Horne; Morgan Ryan, the Navy's petty officer third class who was the honoree in San Diego, certainly wasn't.)
Nobody's asking for Pelini to become a media charmer like Barry Switzer or Bobby Bowden, but it sure would be nice that stories about Pelini focus on his accomplishments and not on these sideshows.