In an Associated Press article discussing Bo Pelini's record at Nebraska, North Platte banker Mike Jacobsen called out Pelini's recent stumbles in big games.
''If he wants to get off the clock, he's going to have to eliminate the blowouts and he's going to have to get us into a top-10 finish and competing for a national championship,'' said longtime booster Mike Jacobson, a bank president from North Platte who in 2012 spent $2.5 million to lease a Memorial Stadium suite for 25 years.
At face value, it sounds like an angry booster trying to make waves. But stop and look a little more closely at this statement. "Get us into a top-10 finish and competing for a national championship" probably should be the goal for Nebraska football. Are we going to get there this year? Maybe not, but that should be what Nebraska football is striving for on the field.
Jacobsen leads off the quote with "get off the clock", which isn't quite the same as calling for his firing. It does express a growing frustration that time is running short on Bo Pelini. Jacobsen isn't the first to say that. Sports Illustrated's Stuart Mandel said just as much last week in his mailbag:
However, if 2013 results in another nine-win, Capital One or Outback Bowl season, AD Shawn Eichorst may face a bit of a quandary. In most cases, a consistent nine-to-10 win coach should not be on the hot seat. Nebraska already made that mistake once with its handling of Frank Solich. Yet this is Nebraska -- as in, five-time national champion Nebraska. The Huskers are a consistent Top 25 team, but they're still well behind the national elite. The program's NFL output has gradually dipped during Pelini's tenure. Personally, I don't have much confidence that he will ever lead Nebraska to national glory. If it hasn't happened in five years, it probably never will.
Of course, most coaches not named Bob Stoops aren't able to turn their programs into national championship contenders in their first five years as a head coach. Tom Osborne didn't. Nick Saban didn't. But that's the general impatience most people have with head coaches. (And before someone accuses me of saying Pelini is another Osborne or Saban, that's not what I said. Nick Saban didn't get a team to a BCS bowl game until his eighth season as a head coach, and Osborne was long accused of not being able to win the big one...and losing to Oklahoma, except when the Sooners were on NCAA probation.)
Another Jacobsen quote ends the story with a quote that could be read as threatening:
"Frankly," Jacobson said, "if Nebraska doesn't make it to the Big Ten championship, that could be a real problem for Bo."
But is it really a threat when more than a handful of Husker fans have basically said the same thing since the end of last season? Or the season before? Competing for championships is the expectation at Nebraska. And Jacobsen doesn't say Pelini should be fired, but rather it would be a "real problem." How big? That's the question.
In my mind, the story isn't so much what was said, but rather why a banker from North Platte would get interjected into the story of Nebraska football. Nebraska athletic director Shawn Eichorst refused an interview request for the article. Is the insinuation that the "big money" types are tired of Pelini? Or was he a random fan who agreed to discuss Pelini (and just happens to have enough money to purchase a new skybox)? Or is he speaking for all fans who want much more than 9 or 10 wins each and every season.
Is Bo Pelini's job really in danger if he "only" wins nine games a season? This is, after all, the school that fired Frank Solich after a 9-3 regular season. And for some fans, it's been too long since Nebraska won a conference championship (1999) or finished in the top ten (2001). And some are willing to take the chance that Nebraska could hire the next Urban Meyer, even if it means ending up with another Bill Callahan.
And whether you like Jacobson's quote or not, the simplest way to quiet all of this talk is to simply do it. Get Nebraska back into the Top Ten. Make the argument moot.