Shawn Eichorst, the Nebraska Cornhuskers Athletic Director, held a press conference to discuss the firing of Head Coach Bo Pelini Sunday afternoon. Here are the quotes (and now video!):
"Thank you all for being here today. Last night after consulting with Chancellor (Harvey) Perlman, I made the decision that our university needs new leadership in our football program, and I informed Coach (Bo) Pelini of my decision this morning. Careful consideration and contemplation went into the decision process, and I’m well aware of the short-term impact on our student-athletes. But in the end, this is what’s best for the university. Certainly the results of our games this season and in previous seasons played a significant role in my decision. But whenever I evaluate a head coach, I consider a number of factors both on and off the field beyond the outcomes of games. Let me say this. The people of Nebraska deserve not only high standards and expectations, but they deserve seeing our people and our teams reach them. I indicated during my introductory press conference that we will compete for Big Ten and national championships, and we will do so with class, integrity, sportsmanship and with a commitment to our student-athletes. I believe the action taken today is in line with that vision. Our football student-athletes had the weekend off as many of you know, and left campus to return home. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to inform them in person, so I did so by a written communication this morning, and will be following up with them tonight. Nebraska has some of the finest young men and women of character in all of college sports, and I’m confident they will continue to work hard in the classroom, compete with class and make us all proud. Barney Cotton is a Husker through-and-through, and serves as our associate head coach. Barney and I spoke this morning, and he has agreed to serve as our interim head coach and will work with our other assistant coaching staff members to prepare our wonderful team for a bowl game. Coach Cotton is a man of integrity and a great teacher of the game of football, and I know he will do great things moving forward to put us in a positive situation before we get a new leader in place. I will work diligently in the coming days to find the absolute best fit for the University of Nebraska. But I will not comment on or speculate about the process or the people. We have the best fan base in all of college sports. A legion of generous supporters, abundant resources and first-class facilities. We compete in the premier athletic conference, the Big Ten. We have tremendous student-athletes and we have a world-class education to offer them. Therefore I am confident we will find a great coach to lead our storied program. Until then, our focus, my focus will be on the young men in our football program and providing them with a positive support and attention they deserve as they prepare for a bowl game."
On the buyout of Pelini’s contract
"The approximate liquidated damages of Coach Pelini’s contract is about $7.9 (million). Certainly there’s mitigation in there should he find other employment. Our assistant coaches are about in the four (million dollar) range. They have another year on their deals. They have mitigation as well. I imagine they will either find employment here or elsewhere in short term. The funds will come from operational reserves in the department. We pay those liquated damages on a month-to-month basis."
On off the field issues that led to the decision
"It’s not so much the decision. It’s the consequence of the decision and our wonderful student-athletes and the impact on them and our great coaches and their families. Relative to what went into the decision I would say is totality of my review in the two years I have been here. There’s a lot of things that I look at. Outside of wins and losses, academics, leadership, the way in which we are teaching and our student-athletes are improving. During my review this past year, and at the beginning of the year when I set expectations, and I set standards, I had that in mind. At the end of the day, I didn’t see enough improvement in areas that were important for us to move forward to play championship-caliber football. We just for whatever reason weren’t good enough in the games that mattered against championship-quality caliber opponents. I didn’t see that changing at the end of the day. Coach Pelini, I have great respect for him. He’s a good football coach and a good man. It wasn’t a lack of effort by him or his staff or our wonderful players. I think new leadership was in order. We look forward to heading in that direction."
On the standards he set going into the season
"I’m not going to go into a public review, a personnel review. I have too much respect for our coaches and the difficult jobs they do. As I just said, there are standards and expectations at Nebraska that are high both on and off the field. And although we did win a bunch of games, we didn’t win the games that mattered the most. I think we gave Coach ample time, ample resources and ample support to get that done. Now we are headed in a different direction."
On Nebraska’s national reputation
"We have wonderful, committed, high character young men in our program, staff, coaches. Those are core values for us. I think everybody knows our five core values. At the end of the day, that’s what Nebraska is all about. We’re humble, hard-working, hungry people, and we are prideful. And we are going to move in that direction."
On if he asked Pelini to make changes in his staff in order to stay on
"No, I would not do that. I have great confidence in our coaches and you guys know me full well relative to that, I give them great latitude to do their jobs as they see fit, give them the resources that they need and get out of the way and provide support when it’s needed. I think we’ve done that. I think Coach understood that as well."
On how he communicated with Pelini
"I met with Coach Pelini this morning in my office for about 20 minutes. It was a cordial, professional conversation. I like Bo. Bo is a good guy and again a good coach. At the end of the day, I think we both agreed it was best to go in different directions."
On if Pelini agreed also
"You’d have to ask him that."
On if Pelini gave him a reason to believe he agreed with it
"After I told him we were going a different direction, I think there was agreement that that was probably a good idea."
On if previous head coaching experience is part of the expectations for the job
"As I said, I’m not going to speculate about the search process moving forward, the characteristics or the people. Up to this point, my total focus has been on this program and our young men. I don’t want to do a disservice to them by thinking about what’s coming next already. I want to do the right thing by this staff, by these players and their families. There will be a time in earnest later tonight for me to start thinking about the next leader of our program. I don’t want to get into that right now."
On off the field concerns
"I think in the totality of the circumstances the best I would say is we didn’t meet expectations both on and off the field. Getting into any specifics wouldn’t be something that I’m about. Again, I think there was great effort by everyone in this program to do the right thing and well-intended. In my opinion, we didn’t get to where we needed to be. We’re going to go a different direction."
On when he made the decision
"Last night it crystalized for me and I contacted Chancellor (Harvey) Perlman to discuss it with him. He was supportive of my decision to go a different direction. I notified coach this morning."
On if the Board of Regents was included on the decision
"I did not. That was Chancellor Perlman who handled that on his end."
On his win-loss standards
"What I would verbalize is what I already said. We have high standards and expectations, and that’s to play championship football. Whatever record puts us in position to win a championship, I’m good with."
On if the way the team lost was a factor
"It certainly was a factor."
On if the assistants will be on for the bowl game
"We asked them. After I met with Coach Pelini, we notified the coaches to come in and I had the opportunity to meet with all of them. As we had communicated with the coaches, I sent out a note to our student-athletes. We wanted them to hear it from us. We have asked our coaches to stay on and serve us either through the bowl game or until the new leadership gets in place and makes decisions that way. As I told them this morning, I have great admiration and respect for them and their families. Nebraska does things the right way. We are going to do it right with them and we are going to be supportive of them, and I think they will do a terrific job preparing our young men for the bowl game."
On if the assistants will recruit in December
On if he has contracted a public relations firm on search team for the process
"I have not."
On if he intends to
On if he will do this search by himself
On what mistakes of the previous athletic director’s decisions in this situation he would like to avoid
"I’m not going to sit in judgment of what someone before me has done. I’m looking forward. I’ve been doing this awhile and I have great faith and confidence in my approach. We will continue to analyze as we are moving forward. To make any sort of judgments about what anyone has done in the past is not my style and quite frankly isn’t the right thing to talk about."
On if he is aware of Steve Pederson’s search in 2003
"What I would say is what I just said. I’m looking forward. These are difficult jobs that we have and difficult decisions that we make with a lot of different factors involved with them. I’ll leave it at that."
On how important it is to hire someone with ties to the Nebraska program
"Good question. I’m going to respectfully decline to respond to that question for obvious reasons."
On selling the program to fans
"We have great fans. I know that everyone wants to win every game and be competitive in those games that matter and win championships. I felt great support. I felt great support in the building. I lead with that. I lead with a positive manner. I lead with core values. The language of our people in this building is good and they are supportive of the folks on the second floor and our student-athletes. Are there folks out there that are disappointed from time to time? Absolutely. You guys write about it every day. Am I concerned about our brand and pleasing our fans and especially those ones that want to do it the right way and in a positive way and keeping the stands full? Yeah, those are all things you need to keep in consideration. But there wasn’t one factor for me. It was the totality of my review over the last couple years. As I’ve described to you guys, my process is pretty strategic. It’s pretty disciplined. It’s pretty measured. It’s very inclusive. It’s very thorough. I do these reviews and when I sit down with our coaches and talk to them about what the vision is and what we expect. And I do that so we can get on the same page and agree that the resources are appropriate, and that I’m here and we’re here to help. But at the end of the day, they are going to run the program the way they want to run it and we are going to sit down and hold each other accountable for it. Hopefully that answers your question."
On how aware coaches were made of the expectations
"I think all of our coaches and staff members for that matter including our student-athletes understand the core of our expectations and our vision. Relative to our head football coach and what he was communicating to our assistants and that sort of thing – I think that’s best to ask them. I think we were pretty clear about what it was we were looking for. And that’s to recruit high character kids, who are seeking an education at a world-class institution. We want to do things the right way. At the end of the day, our coaches understand that pursuing championships is what we do, and being competitive in those games that matter is important. You guys have talked about it a bunch and you’ve written after games about their feelings. Every time you come away from those interviews, they are well-intended people who are trying to put our young people in a position to be successful. For whatever reason, we weren’t able to win enough games that mattered."
On how he unites the fan base after a firing
"Communicate. I am compassionate about that. This isn’t a day of celebration for me. We have a lot of really good young people that are in our program that are hurting—and I get that. My focus needs to be on that at this point and to be upfront with them, and to be there for them. At the end of the day—hopefully they understand and appreciate what they have here at Nebraska and the education they are getting here at Nebraska. I am fully aware of that, I played this game and I played championship-level-caliber football and I understand how much we love our coaches."
On what his message is to fans that feel uncertain of him
"What I would say is—is we had a lot of uncertainty where we were a couple days ago. So there was as much uncertainty in our program and where we were going as there probably is now, what is next? So hopefully folks have faith in me to do the right thing."
On if he worries about losing 2015 recruiting class, if so, does it impact timetable of decision
"First and foremost my concern is with our kids in our program and making sure they are mentored and led and pursue their degree; that is the most important thing we do here. Recruiting is important, and we will honor any commitments we have made, and we would hope those young people have looked at Nebraska as a place to get an education and play football at the highest level. Those things will take care of itself, in time, but we will be very nurturing and supporting in that environment. Our assistant coaches along with Barney Cotton will manage that (recruiting) from campus."
On why his evaluation is different than 365 days ago
"I think for me it was time to get a sense of what we were doing and where we were going—and to be patient. There were resources that our football program wanted that they didn’t have—so I wanted to provide those. I think you guys are fully aware of what we have done from a resource perspective. I owed it to coach, again, he is a good man who has always wanted to do the right thing and so I wanted to listen and provide the support—and I was hopeful we could turn this thing around the corner. I think the easiest thing to do would have been to go in a different direction. Sometimes I don’t take the easy road and that is ok."
On how financially competitive he will be for the upcoming coaching staff
"I am very blessed to be here at the University of Nebraska. We will do what is necessary to compete at the highest level. I have said this before, resources are not the question here at Nebraska. That does not mean we are not going to be responsible. I have seen people spend a lot of money and not do very much winning. We are going to get it right at the end of the day."
On if there is a willingness to pay whatever is necessary for whatever coach he thinks is best
"Number one, I think we are doing that right now, and number two, yes. We do what is necessary and reasonable, and I think the evidence is proof of that."
On what he says to college football changing from the 1980’s-90’s and how that relates to his decision
"My response to that is Nebraska has everything it needs to be successful at the highest level. We can go back and analyze the 80’s and 90’s and all that other sort of stuff but that is not going to help us out today. I think we are positioned to play championship-caliber football here at the University of Nebraska. Like I said, we have a world-class institution with an incredible education to offer for perspective students and current. Facilities are not the question, you guys get around a lot of different places and the way we treat our kids, Is unbelievable. If anyone has taken the time to review the end report that I just sent out, where we went chapter and verse on what we do, here at Nebraska and the economic impact that associates with that. I would hope that will open people’s eyes up to what the possibilities are. I am not going to lower our standards, and I don’t think Nebraskan’s want that. Is it a different day? Absolutely. It is a different day for everybody. At the end of the day, what are you going to do? How are you going to manage going forward, and I feel comfortable that we are positioned with the right leader to go where we want to go."
On if Coach Pelini ever voiced frustration this year because of a lack of support
"No, and I think Bo has been pretty public in the last couple months on how supportive we have been. I am appreciative of that, we will continue to do that. At the end of the day, the support comes down to the level that matters—and that is our student-athletes. We are bringing them here to shape their lives and get them an education and make them better people as they move along. To me, putting resources that way is a good thing and we are fortunate to have resources to do it."
On if is view drastically change in the last month
"No, I have been optimistic and supportive all the way through, and I have been pretty disciplined about waiting until the last regular season game. Generally I like to wait until after the bowl game to make any sort of observations. I have always felt that we had an opportunity to compete and we have provided what is necessary to do that."
On if the team has the talent level to compete at a championship level
"That is not my expertise, I would hope we do. I see it from a far. I think our coaches have obviously have seen that and that Is why they brought these young men into our program. At the end of the day, I think we have kids in our program that are capable of winning championships."
On if he notified Tom Osborne
"After I spoke with Coach Pelini I had one of my assistants give him a heads up, because I had some other people I needed to talk to within the staff. But followed up and left two messages to coach so hopefully I do have a chance to catch up with him in the next day or so. I know he is heading to Dallas for the college football selection show deal, but I do hope to follow up with him soon. I did not talk to him before I made the decision."
On why last night he decided it was time, why not after the Minnesota game
"The test had been taken, so it was time for me to sit down and reflect and be comprehensive and inclusive in my review. So I want to continue to be disciplined that way."
On why he did not wait until after the bowl game
"To be fair to our coaches and staff members and give them as much notice as possible so they could possibly either find other employment, or with our new leader catch on here. I am very sensitive to them and their families and trying to do right that way."
On if championship caliber football is his number one priority
"It is not my number one priority, I have a lot of priorities. Our number one priority is to educate our young people. Along the way, we want to compete for championships. We want to do it the right way, according to our core values in the way the Nebraska faithful would want us too. There is not one priority, there are a bunch of them. But the key one, is to educate—that is what we do."
On how close he came to making a change last season
"Not really close."
On how much concern was over sellout streak and boosters
"I didn’t have a lot of concern there, I just continued to be optimistic, as I said earlier, our people are really positive and want to support what it is we do. Hopefully they are in it for the right reasons and that is to provide unconditional support for our student-athletes. I felt good all along the support we are getting. Certainly the uncertainty has lingered, on both sides of the fence. Hopefully we can all come together when the dust settles and continue to strive forward in the same direction for the same thing."
On if there was an energy that did not fall in line with the overall vision
"I really haven’t been overly judgmental of that. My vibe is you, our fans, our coaches and students and want to do the right thing and head in the right direction. Often times we stray away from that a little bit. My focus is on trying to lead in a positive manner with great values and not be overly judgmental of those sort of things. I am real excited to look towards the future."
On how much fan input mattered
"It is important, it is certainly a factor that you need to consider. I try to separate myself from all that and be disciplined and give equal weight along the way. I am not overly persuaded by the negativity."
On what he wants people to know about Bo Pelini
"I think we need to thank Coach Pelini for the service has provided to the University of Nebraska and the sacrifices that he has made."
On if the win over Iowa play any factor in his decision
"Sure it did, our kids showed great character and resiliency in a tough environment. So it certainly did play a factor but in the final analysis, I had to evaluate where Iowa was."
On if he talked to Pelini afterwards
"I told him we have great kids in our program and that I appreciate the way they handled their business."
On the final analysis, why was where Iowa was a factor
"As I said earlier, as I looked back at the outcomes, I am trying to look at who are championship level football teams in that moment. How competitive were we in those games. We were not playing for a conference championship and neither was Iowa. And I have great respect to Iowa, it is a wonderful institution, and a great football program. But in the final analysis, there record was where it was and our record was where it was."