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Open Letter to Frustrated Nebraska Football Fans

Eric Francis

I know many Husker fans are frustrated after the 2013 season. Fans expected more than 8-4, and that frustration is natural. For some, that frustration has led to outrage. That's understandable as well. And for a few, that outrage is compounded by Shawn Eichorst's decision to retain Bo Pelini as Nebraska's head coach.

I'm not going to discuss the merits of that choice. I'm going to discuss how fans react, especially fans who want to put the whole Pelini era behind us and move onto somebody else. Which will undoubtedly happen at some point; Pelini won't be the Nebraska coach forever. He might be gone after the 2014 season, or years down the line. Even Joe Paterno's era at Penn State came to an end.

The question is more: will you stay a Husker fan, and if you are one of those saying no, then why?

I ask that because I was in that situation ten years ago. I was upset and angry that Frank Solich was fired after the 2003 season. I grew even more upset when Steve Pederson's coaching search drifted aimlessly in a desperate search for somebody - anybody - to replace Solich. Eventually, Bill Callahan was named, and I was somewhat relieved. Callahan seemed to have a better resume than most of the other suspects (Dave Wannstedt, Houston Nutt) that Pederson chased.

I gave him a chance for a while, but it didn't take me long to realize that Callahan was going to be a failure. Maybe it was that opening play of the spring game, where Joe Dailey flung the ball 50 yards downfield into triple coverage. I know it became a lot firmer when Callahan chose to kick a field goal (which was missed) from the one-foot line at Pitt. I think it became cemented when Callahan kept asking true freshman quarterback Beau Davis to throw the ball against Texas Tech, even though half of his passes ended up in the hands of Red Raiders.

I'd like to think I gave Callahan a chance; I even signed my wife up for "Husker Football 101 for Women" as a present. (She's a huge Husker fan as well.) We still have a picture of her with Callahan stored away.

All through the frustrations of the Callahan era, I never stopped buying my football tickets. I never stopped attending Husker games and cheering on the Big Red. My fandom was always bigger than Callahan or Pederson; it wasn't the players fault that Nebraska football (in my opinion) had been hijacked. I still made my donations and bought my tickets. I didn't miss a home game during that era. Even a ruptured bursa sac didn't keep me from hobbling up to row 86 of the south end zone on crutches for that 2007 game against Oklahoma State. Or the next week against Texas A&M.

Nebraska's 50 year long sellout streak is the one tradition that Pederson and Callahan couldn't kill. Fans have the right to cancel their tickets, hoping that it sends a message to the athletic department. But there are other ways of doing that. More importantly, though, is that cancelling your tickets is an irrevocable choice. If you walk away, there's a chance that you may not get them back again. And if you get them back, it may cost you much, much more to get them back down the line, especially if your seats are grandfathered in with a low or no seat donation.

Besides, that also punishes the players, who shouldn't be the target of any fans wrath. This doesn't mean critics shouldn't express concern about the direction of the program. Take issue with Pelini or Eichorst, if you wish. But don't take out your frustrations on the players or your fellow fans, especially the ones that still hope that Pelini is going to work out in the end.

After all, isn't that really what you really want? If Pelini ends up being a success in Lincoln, that's because he's made Nebraska a winner. You may have doubts and concerns, and you may be right. But is your hate of Pelini greater than your love of Nebraska football?

Nobody says you have to be happy about where Nebraska football right now. Heck, you don't even have to wear red on Saturdays if you're not feeling up to it. Back in 2005, I once wore an Ohio Bobcats t-shirt to a Husker game as my own personal protest. Mind you, I never cheered against Nebraska; I just left the red in the closet.

I've cheered for Nebraska for far too long to throw in the towel on Nebraska football when times got rough. I've listened to Florida State fans do the war chant at the Fiesta Bowl. I've been harassed by Iowa State and Missouri fans on the road after a loss. Nebraska bounces back eventually, and I knew that I could outlast Steve Pederson and Bill Callahan.

If you don't like Bo Pelini and are convinced that he's going to fail at Nebraska, then you can outlast him as well. Remember that last line of the Nebraska fight song:

"We'll all stick together, in all kinds of weather, for dear old Nebraska U"