Bo Pelini's 71% winning percentage should be "good enough" to keep his job at most schools. But Frank Solich and Tom Osborne were criticized heavily with even better records. That's why it's not "loony" to consider that Pelini's seat is warming at Nebraska. (Photo by Eric Francis/Getty Images)
The idea that Bo Pelini is somehow now on a "hot seat" list can seem awfully "loony" if you are merely taking a superficial look at the situation. Pelini has a fine won-loss record; four out of four seasons with nine or more wins and three division championships (including co-championships) on his resume. Frankly, I don't think Pelini should be on anything approaching a "hot seat".
But what I think is just that...a personal opinion. It's one I think most Husker fans hold, but I'm not as sure of that. And evidence that some Nebraska fans are not as enamored with Pelini as I am is out there, if you are paying attention.
Don't believe me? There are angry Husker fans that aren't happy with Pelini. For some, it's recruiting. Others, it's the frustrating losses (Northwestern? Iowa State?) And for some, it's the sideline volcanic demeanor. Those are all factors outside of wins and losses that affect the perceptions of Pelini. If you don't believe me, fine. Take Public Policy Polling, who's spring poll showed a 12% decline in Pelini's approval rating from last fall to this spring.
It's easy to confuse acknowledging that Pelini's seat is warming with actually turning up the heat. I think Pelini has done a good job so far at Nebraska, and so do many other schools, if you believe in the reports of schools interested in talking to Pelini in recent years. But let's put that "warming" in perspective. Pelini has the support of his athletic director, so as long as he doesn't take a Callahan-esque tumble, he's safe. Dennis Dodds of CBSSports.com puts him in similar company with LSU's Les Miles and Texas' Mack Brown. I don't think most fans consider that much of a "hot seat".
Nebraska is a special place, and the pressure is high to win. Nebraska hasn't won a conference championship since 1999. The high school seniors that Nebraska is now recruiting weren't even in kindergarten at that time. That's not entirely Pelini's fault, but it's his responsibility to change that. And while Nebraska fans love a winner, they have high standards. Frank Solich's winning percentage was over 75%, and that wasn't good enough for some fans. In 1978, fan criticism nearly chased Tom Osborne away with a nearly 77% winning percentage. Both records are better than Pelini's, I might add.
When you don't really understand Nebraska, you'll find yourself surprised by how Husker fans react. The signs are out there, if you're perceptive enough and look hard enough. That's why Pelini's seat is warming, even though his winning percentage is good enough for most programs. Husker fans don't consider Nebraska football to be in the same league as "most programs", and what should be good enough for most sometimes isn't good enough here.