The Lincoln Journal-Star reported today that Public Policy Polling's latest poll of Nebraska residents shows that 58% of respondents had a positive opinion of Bo Pelini. Sounds good, doesn't it? Certainly President Obama would like numbers like that. Congress REALLY would. But compared to last fall, those numbers aren't good. Pelini's approval went from 70% to 58% in just under six months.
Now, let's put the numbers in perspective. It's over 50%. And it's not like people suddenly disapprove of Pelini either; the percentage of people with an unfavorable opinion of Pelini went from 14% to 17%. The biggest change was in people who aren't sure: last fall, it was 16% and now it's 25%.So what happened to sway people's opinions? At it's core, it has to be some of the ugly losses from last season: the inexplicable loss to Northwestern, the blowout by Michigan, and the second half meltdown in the Capital One Bowl against South Carolina. The finishing touch was, of course, Pelini yelling at the refs again. After two straight 10 win seasons where the Huskers were poised to grab a conference championship, a nine-win season was a disappointment.
I get these numbers. A few people have joined the "Pelini is the wrong coach" side, but this survey proves that it's relatively small. But growing...and that's the big concern. The bigger point is that nearly 10% of people went from a favorable opinion to not being sure of the coach. That's a warning sign right here that fans are becoming a little listless. I've sensed it on radio shows, and I've sensed it in comments. And I certainly understand where people are coming from. Nebraska seemed to take a step back last season. There are lots of reasons why, and the why is not the issue. The response isn't to justify last season, but rather correct what went wrong last season. That was the talk prior to spring practice. The response is to fix that this fall, and we won't be able to judge that for another six months.
Tom Osborne also saw his numbers drop, going from 86% favorable last fall to 79%. Unfavorables went from 6% to 10%. His decision to fire Doc Sadler was supported by 53%, and only 11% disliked that decision.
Bo Pelini and Tom Osborne shouldn't be concerned with poll numbers; their job is to run the football and athletic departments the right way. The polls are just supporting evidence that while 2011 was not a bad season for Husker football, it wasn't a great season either. In no way could either individual be considered on the hot seat, but by that same manner, some of the bloom is off the rose.
Getting to a Rose Bowl this fall would go a long way towards reversing that trend.