It really doesn't matter if Bo Pelini wins 10 games this year. Honestly, it doesn't. The vocal minority is fanning the flames along with the national media who craves and creates constant drama. What I find is how much perspective those people lack. Let's give that perspective back to them today.
Examining Fan Perspective during the TO Years
Tom Osborne didn't win the Big 8 conference outright until his 9th season in 1981. He shared the title twice before that in 1975 and 1978. During those 2 years he posted a 10-2 and 9-3 record respectively. The Huskers ended up being ranked 9th and 8th respectively also.
9th and 8th? With 2 and 3 losses? That's right. 2 and 3 losses per year. It wasn't until 1982 that Nebraska finally made it over the hump and lost only one game.
Keep in mind that when Osborne took over the reigns in 1973, he had been with the Huskers staff as an assistant coach or GA since 1964 and that the Huskers had just had back to back national championships in 1970 and 1971. He had been the offensive coordinator since 1969.
The Huskers were in the Big 8 conference and weren't going to switch conferences. Recruiting inroads didn't change; there was no staff turnover as most of those that were with Devaney stayed on. Business as usual.
Most of us know that Tom Osborne didn't field a championship team until his final 5 years of his 25 year coaching career. We also know there was a stretch from 1985 to 1993 where TO won only a single bowl game in the Sugar Bowl in 1986.
While we're at it, let's look at recruiting. Tom Osborne had the luxury of being able to sign 105 scholarship players in 1973 through 1977.. That number was reduced in 1978 to 1991 to 95 scholarships. In 1992, that number was reduced to 92 and this number was set through 1993. In 1993 and 1994, that number moved to 88. In 1994-1995 that number moved to 85 which is where it sits today.
In other words, Tom Osborne was able to fill his cupboard with a lot more scholarship players than any coach following him at Nebraska could.
Examining Fan Perspective During the Pelini Years
Perspective has changed. People think that despite having a smaller number of scholarship players on the roster than (at least 20 more for TO during the 1994 and 1995 championship seasons) that Pelini should deliver IMMEDIATE championships.
Bo Pelini inherited a Huskers program that had its first losing season since the 1960's. While it wasn't a complete dumpster fire...it was definitely a program in shambles. The walk on program had been pretty much dismantled. Nebraska had lost its identity as a team and program.
Bo wasn't able to recruit his first 3 years. He just couldn't do it. Chalk it up to being a new coach and having a Nebraska team without an identity....whatever it was, we just weren't getting the best recruits (though we did get some awesome ones in Gomes, David and Dennard). The first year he only had half of the recruiting cycle and most of the Callahan recruits moved away from Nebraska to other teams...that happens when you fire a coach (keep this in mind all of you who are calling for Pelini's head on a stake). Pelini's first full year as a recruiter didn't work out so well.
How did he react? He hired recruiting consultants to help him. He asked for help. He made a change. He audibled...he made a mid game adjustment...whatever you want to call it, he reached out in order to get better.
It's interesting to me that Pelini is being held during his first 6 years at head coach to the standard that was set by Tom Osborne's final 5 years as a head coach. I honestly don't think it's fair to hold him up to that standard.
But here we are in 2013 lamenting Pelini's coaching and recruiting despite having a top 20 recruiting class the past 2 years and having never won fewer than 9 games each season.
It's like Nebraska fans have forgotten how to be patient...especially for what we hired Pelini for. We didn't just hire Pelini to win games...we hired him to rebuild Nebraska Football FROM THE GROUND UP. To rebuild the family feel of our teams...to rebuild the smash mouth tradition of running the ball right at a team...to rebuild the walk-on program. Pelini has had to do this in 6 years...and he's had to do it with his plate completely full in putting out the almost dumpster fire that happened in 2007. Fans' patience is wearing thin and it shouldn't be...I guess in the Facebook and Twitter world of today...me me me me centric themes run rampant and people want what they want when they want it which is usually NOW.
As If Rebuilding a Program Wasn't Enough, Let's Change Conferences
When Nebraska joined the Big Ten after the 2010 season...EVERYTHING CHANGED. No longer would we be playing in Texas every year. Many midwest games would be gone. No longer would we be facing spread offenses all the time.
All of those recruits we recruited in 2008, 2009, and 2010? Yeah, they'll still be there...but we'd have to change how we used them to face 5-6 new teams that we had never scouted before. We'd play games across the great lakes are through to the east coast.
Recruiting roads? Gone. Sure some would survive but many wouldn't because players want to be able to play in front of family.
For those of you that were fooling yourself...when Nebraska joined the Big Ten they had to rebuild their entire recruiting program. If you don't recognize that, you're kidding yourself.
Despite this tall order, Pelini turned in some of his best classes with a top 15 class in 2011. Many feel the 2012 class would have been highly ranked if it had not been so small as well. Think of this...almost every single one of the 2012 class has seen the field this year and played pretty well. THAT my friends, is amazing and it shows the talent we're pulling in as of late.
It's interesting that these two classes are having the MOST impact on this team currently. They're young. They make mistakes...but they've begun to step up and show flashes of greatness. Despite pulling the rug from underneath Pelini's feet in 2011, he's somehow managed to continue on with consistently winning and consistently recruiting well.
Summarizing The Timeline
Pelini inherited a program with the deck stacked against him. He took over a program that had barely any coaching continuity (THANK GOD for none from Callahan's staff) and rebuilt the image of the program, the foundation of the program, and the recruiting base of the program....and he rebuilt this recruiting program TWICE...He got more out of Callahan recruits than Callahan could ever hope to get out of them and turned around the program in a single year...yet people still think he can't coach, adjust, or adapt.
Yet, despite all these obstacles...he's held to a higher standard than fans ever held to any coach previous.
Fans are no longer patient. Fans are no longer understanding. Fans whine and moan about recruiting and throw out words like 'relevance' and 'national stage' and other catch phrases the media has shoved down their throat.
Tom Osborne had the benefit of being in the Big 8 at the right time...the 1970's and 1980's were the best years for Oklahoma and Nebraska...when playing Oklahoma and even losing to them was given credence on the national ranking of the Huskers. Perception of the media was that the Big 8 was one of the toughest conferences around with those two powerhouses in it.
And yet fans were patient enough with Osborne to wait 10 full years before Nebraska was ranked in the top 5...even though it was easier for them to be ranked (evident by being ranked in the top 10 with 2 and 3 losses) than any Husker teams nowadays.
Here we are. Impatient Husker fans. Thinking that removing Bo Pelini will help us 'turn the corner'. Holding Pelini's first 6 years accountable to the last 5 years Tom Osborne had (60-3 record). Thinking that Bo Pelini 'just needs to win' despite him rebuilding all the things that Callahan destroyed that we've discussed above.
Pelini has rebuilt Nebraska into a family of football players. He's embraced tradition. He's had Tom Osborne helping him through his first 4-5 years while doing it. And here we are ready to kick him to the curb.
I think Pelini should get 2 more years at the very least and possibly 4 more to see what he can do. Then he'll have had the same amount of time that Tom Osborne had...minus all of the coaching stability, conference stability, recruiting stability, and scholarship bonuses that TO had. I think he should get those years to show that he can do MORE with LESS...because he'll never have what Tom Osborne had...he has to build what Tom Osborne had himself.
Those of you who have read this far and still want Pelini gone, keep in mind these things:
- Firing Pelini will set the program back 2 years minimum
- We might get another Callahan after him
- The pieces are in play next year for a great defense and great offense...why not see what he can do?
I for one, hope that this little tirade gives a few of you perspective in how far Pelini has had to come during his time with the Cornhuskers and how he's had to do more with less during that time. I hope that it shows you that with all the turmoil happening around the Huskers during those years, he's found a way to consistently win and not let the Huskers fall of the edge like S. Miss, Temple or UConn....which could have happened based upon his first not so good years of recruiting. Lastly, I hope it gives you pause to the mob mentality that the media is trying to stoke up. Pelini should stay...we don't need to throw another wrench in the spokes of Nebraska Football.