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Roundtable Discussion: Is the Nebraska Fanbase "Delusional"?

Ryen Russillo of ESPN Radio called the Nebraska fanbase one of the most delusional college fanbases. The staff weighs in on this statement.

Eric Francis

Brian: So, Scott Van Pelt and Ryen Russillo were talking about the most delusional fan bases in college sports. In the end, Nebraska was brought up. Listen here if you wish (starts at 9 minutes in).

Now, the points they bring up aren’t too wrong:

You have history to go off of (3 titles in 4 years), first 2 years in B1G isn't what they thought, 70 to Wisconsin 63 to OSU, last meaningful bowl win 99 Fiesta, start off 3-1/4-0 and lose, but don't drop off much cause of name and the coaches love them too much to not vote them up. Final AP poll position hasn't been very good in last decade plus.

Nebraska and OSU fans think SEC fans are only good cause of dumb kids and over signing, a "fast kid in the Panhandle (Nebraska I'm assuming) will go to a SEC school rather than Nebraska", went to the B1G and thought they would run table and they haven't come close. Blackshirts isn't such a thing anymore, this isn't Callahan's fault anymore. You're not "bad", but you're not as good as you think you are when you look yourself in the mirror.

Is the fanbase delusional? Russillo did bring up a point that, for what you claim to be before and during the season, the end result doesn’t back you up.

David: Well, we’re also in the top five in all time wins in CFB history, that’s significant. We’ve got as loyal a fanbase as there is in the country, as the sellout streak attests to. So, naturally, that’s all going to lead to high expectations and the fanbase isn’t wrong for doing so. I haven’t done the research to know if this is the case, but the Huskers have also played for 3 conference titles in four years, which, as we know the Huskers haven’t won any of. I’m guessing there haven’t been any other schools that have had that opportunity outside of Bama and LSU.

The recruiting note is particularly silly to me, though. Has there been a situation like the one he described? Has there been an "SEC caliber" player outside of Omaha or Lincoln that has had that opportunity? I don’t see a kid from North Platte or Hastings or Chadron that would chose Bama or LSU or Florida over Nebraska, much less a Vanderbilt or Miss. St. or Kentucky. The kid that moved to Lincoln last summer and then decommitted only to commit to LSU is a different case completely, but I don’t see a Nebraska native, especially a rural kid, not playing for Nebraska if given the opportunity.

To answer the question, are Husker fans delusional? I still say no. We have high expectations because we have the history that has been discussed before. There aren’t many programs that have that. Also, we’re using the word fan. Rationality isn’t something generally associated with the word "fan". Why are we expecting that? As we’ve seen with Notre Dame this past season, it’s not too much to expect the program to return to a championship level, even if it’s been more than a decade since we’ve been in that landscape.

Brandon: No, I don’t think Nebraska football fans are delusional. In fact, I’d say rather than thinking the program itself is elite, standing by its history is far more common among the fan base. The resume’s there. Look at everything David listed.

Recruits still consider Nebraska a big name, but that’s the problem. Sometimes it’s just that, a name, and while it’s nice to have an offer from Michigan, Southern California or Nebraska, if those offers are merely for show and they commit elsewhere, what’s the point?

What I’ve seen happen is a lowering of expectations, intentional or not. A decade ago, Husker fans still had their eyes on the biggest prize in college football despite Frank Solich’s 7-7 season. Once the 9-3 rebound happened, optimism was high. Then he was dismissed, the Callahan era ushered in a period of poor performance not seen in decades, and Bo Pelini brought back a similar record to Solich’s which was a breath of fresh air.

In year six of the Pelini era, fans are defending him by comparing his efforts to Tom Osborne’s nine-game winning streak, but the problem with that is a comparison of two entirely different eras. Nebraska played everyone in its conference each year, there was no Big Eight title game, no BCS, none of what fans across the college football landscape complain about today. Osborne did something that may never be duplicated.

Why do some fans seem adamant about defending the status quo? Simply put, they don’t want another Bill Callahan, and that’s understandable. It’s the belief that if Shawn Eichorst fires another nine-win coach, Nebraska’s going to be put back in the same situation it was with Steve Pederson, and it gets a choice way down on the list.

I don’t think these particular fans understand that coaches aren’t going to be afraid of the Nebraska job if Pelini is released. FBS coaches aren’t looking at the surface thinking, "Wow, a 9-4 coach was fired!"

They know all the details leading up to a firing, ones that no one outside of North Stadium does. They also know that Nebraska football is the money sport (who doesn’t?) and will have every resource they need and/or want to get the job done correctly, plus a large contract to do so.

It comes down to whether or not Eichorst and major boosters believe Pelini has peaked at nine or ten wins. While it’s nice to hear Nebraska’s name involved with ESPN, considering it was used when referencing a has-been hasn’t sit well among fans. How do you think the higher-ups took it?

Nebraska fans aren’t delusional, but many are content in believing history will repeat itself. Unfortunately, that’s incredibly unlikely and the Powers That Be aren’t going to give Pelini that much time to break through the four-loss ceiling.

Regarding the recruiting comments, like David said, I have no idea what they’re referencing unless they’re referring to Christian LaCouture. If you’re going to move from Texas A&M High to Lincoln, Nebraska to Louisiana, something’s up, and more likely than not, it’s the size of your ego.

I’ll also reference David’s Notre Dame comment. While Nebraska doesn’t want to get into such a rapid hire-and-fire scenario like Notre Dame was for a while, and I honestly doubt it would, Eichorst genuinely wants to have the right coach in place for the Huskers. Kelly looks like the guy for the Irish for now. Is Pelini for Nebraska? We’ll likely find out soon enough.

David: To add to the 9-win justification for Pelini, it’s worth nothing that Osborne never had the luxury of a 12 game regular season, plus potential conference title game AND bowl game to get there. He had 11 regular season games and a bowl game until the very end of his coaching career. That means he never had a winning percentage below .750. Ever. Not once. Pelini has yet to achieve that. Nine wins is a false standard. I’m not saying that’s an easy standard to live up to. It’s not. It’s extraordinarily difficult, but here, it is the standard, or at least it should be. I agree with Brandon in the observation that the expectations have been lowered. And, if that’s what people want, that’s fine, but I have a hard time believing it is.

That said, Pelini, in Osborne’s era would have tied for the conference championship in 2010 (it would have been a five-way tie, holy crap!) and would have won it outright last year with Ohio St. being ineligible. Had Osborne had to deal with conference title games before 1996, it’s highly unlikely they have the 14 conference titles they rightfully claim, though they probably play for a couple they finished in 2nd place for as well. How do you judge Pelini vs. Osborne with that information? Well, frankly, you can’t. Not rationally nor reasonably. The most reasonable comparison is the .750 mark, to me, though Bo does need a championship. He’s had the opportunity to play for three. He needs to close the deal. Right now, this is his bowl streak that plagued Osborne for so many years. That’s a bit of a rabbit trail, sorry, but it does get back to where the Nebraska "rationality" or "delusion" comes from.

Mike: Other than Rusillo’s Panhandle comment, I didn’t have a problem with what was said. Do Nebraska fans want to return to national prominence? Of course? Any school that has fallen on hard times wants that. Oklahoma wanted that in the 90’s. Florida wanted it during the Ron Zook era. Southern Cal wanted it for most of the 1980’s and 1990’s. Alabama wanted it before they hired Nick Saban. That’s the nature of every sports fan. But that’s not delusional

If the "delusional" remark originates from 2009 when Bo Pelini proclaimed Nebraska was "back", then he might have a point. And during the 2010-11 season, Nebraska fans underestimated the Big Ten and the difficulty of changing conferences. Was that delusion or naivete? I suppose you could make an argument that it was delusional.

As for the Panhandle comment, Rusillo is being delusional in thinking that if a 5-star player were to emerge in Scottsbluff, I’m pretty sure he’ll consider Nebraska. Maybe he’ll sign with Nebraska; maybe he won’t. But to automatically assume that he’ll jump to the SEC is the delusion, frankly. Look at the Rivals 100; a lot of players signed with the SEC, but many didn’t. Of course, considering Rusillo’s SEC bias, he might have been talking about the panhandle of Florida...

Jon: Congratulations if you’ve made it this far and didn’t just tl;dr.

I have never heard of Ryen Rusillo before this, but I don’t listen to a whole lot of sports talk radio. Maybe he’s famous, I don’t know.

Perhaps his comment about "running the table" in the Big Ten was related to college baseball. If it was, then he’d have hit the mark because Nebraska fans have been pretty delusional about that. With regards to football, I don’t know anyone who said anything about us taking over the Big Ten conference, although it’s not like we’ve completely sucked at it with the exception of the 70-31 Big Ten title game loss. That sucked. A lot.

Most sports talk radio hosts are dependent on your short attention span. If you thought about it for a moment, you’d say to yourself, "Hey.... wait a minute. The media poll is pretty much a mirror of the coaches poll with the exception that coaches don’t vote for teams on postseason probation." His panhandle comment is of the same variety, an inane comment meant to induce an immediate reaction.

"Blackshirts aren’t such of a thing anymore"... again, short attention span. 70-31!!! OMG! Hey, the good news is that 70-31 is the new 62-36.. although that’s not really good news is it?

And finally, the panhandle comment is indicative of why I don’t listen to a lot of sports talk radio. Do you listen to Colin Cowherd? If so, why? Why would you do that? Listening to people like this is like watching episodes of Family Guy. You’re slightly dumber after each episode. You don’t notice it, but you are. It isn’t a problem until you’ve watched several seasons and after that you’ve become a complete moron but it’s happened slowly enough that you haven’t noticed.

There is a section of our fan base that’s certainly delusional; specifically those who believe that we could go back to running Tom Osborne’s option offense and be as successful as we were when Osborne was calling the plays. Listen up, fullback lovers! Tom Osborne was incredibly successful because he was one of the greatest coaches in the history of the game, not because he ran some magic offense that was the key to winning all the time. If you really believe that the option is the key to Nebraska returning to the success of the 90s, then you must believe that the success can be easily duplicated. If you believe that, then you believe Osborne was only an average coach, and if you believe that, you’re not only delusional but you’re a dumbass.

I hope that we’ve helped someone.

Brian: Well, this is a loaded ass question to answer. Do I think SOME of the fanbase has this issue? Bet your ass I do. And it’s not a bad thing... at times.

The problem isn’t wanting to win a B1G or National championship during the offseason and such. That’s fine, if the fanbase wasn’t so damn hellbent on it, why get excited about it? Even Bo acknowledged that it’s a tough way to get into the preseason last year at B1G Media Days.

However, the issue then pops up whenever there’s a loss like Ohio State, or Wisconsin in the Big 10 Championship or such. It’s not that we, as a fanbase, don’t see the good wins or the come from behinds like Northwestern or Michigan State or such, it’s that when the trainwrecks happen, they just happen to be in front of a national audience and as violent as they are unbelieveable. A fan that thinks games like giving up 70 to Ohio St and 63 to Wisconsin are just things like aberrations.... well, that tends to be the issue, at least in my eyes.

I think you’re not delusional if you want to win everything this year, but if you say things like that even while believing there are issues, then that’s an issue. In no way am I saying you can’t believe your team isn’t capable of running the table and winning a conference title, However, I am saying that when you get your ass handed to you, the first thing you shouldn’t do is make excuses and keep your lofty goals when you can’t get there.

This isn’t the mid 1990’s. 60-3 runs over 4 years don’t grow on lemon trees in the summertime. There should be a realization that Nebraska isn’t the brand or such people outside the program think it is (proof runs in the whole Adidas contract thing). Yes, you can get by some stuff by name, but overall that only takes you so far in things like recruiting, scheduling, the AP and Coaches poll, etc. There’s a hump in that, like there is to win a conference title, etc. To get over that takes something changing for the better. What that is, I don’t know right now. Hopefully the program figures it out, sooner than later.