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Bo Pelini Is Staying at Youngstown State For a Reason

And it’s not the reason that most Nebraska fans think it is.

Youngstown State v Pittsburgh Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

Tom Shatel of the Omaha World-Herald seemed surprised when word broke last weekend that Bo Pelini and Youngstown State were working on a new contract for Pelini. He figured Pelini’s competitive urges would have him wanting to get back to big-time college football, even if only as a defensive coordinator.

I’m not surprised at all. In fact, I suspect that Pelini is exactly where he wants to be right now and for the next couple of years.

Many Husker fans like to believe that Pelini is back in Youngstown because that’s the only place that would hire him. I suspect that opinion merely serves as confirmation of their opinion of Pelini’s coaching ability. I don’t believe that, though. I think Pelini had plenty of opportunities available to him in December 2014. After all, if Hugh Freeze can get a division 1-A job (at a Christian university, no less) after all he did at Ole Miss, there’s a place for Pelini somewhere. Let’s be honest, we now know that just about everything Bo Pelini said about Shawn Eichorst in that infamous leaked tape was pretty much spot-on.

There’s a reason that Bo Pelini sought out the Youngstown State job, and it’s very simple.

Family. Home.

Bo Pelini has always prioritized his family more than I think a lot of coaches do. We saw it in 2007, when he was at LSU. Yahoo Sports had an article, now no longer online, that talked about Pelini taking time on a gameday to watch his son play soccer in Baton Rouge.

On the morning of the biggest game of his career, college football’s top assistant coach is standing on a grass field, watching a bunch of 8-year-olds play soccer.

Across town, many of the 92,000 fans who will attend LSU’s showdown against defending national champion Florida are already stirring gumbo and guzzling Miller Lite in the parking lot at Tiger Stadium.

But to Bo Pelini, that game is no more important than the one he’s at now – mainly because his son, Patrick, is among the players trying to kick the ball into the net.

”It’s fun watching your kids grow up,” Pelini, who also has two daughters, says later. “Baseball, t-ball, gymnastics, ballet. I try not to miss anything.”

LSU’s defensive coordinator pauses for a moment and grins.

”But,” Pelini says, “I do think a few people get freaked out when they see me standing on the soccer field the morning of such a big game.”

It’s not the first time people freaked out when Pelini got caught doing things with his kids, like taking his son to a Duke/North Carolina basketball game.

In a 2014 interview with Omaha television station KETV, Pelini said that “family is first” for him. In that interview, he credited his wife, who he met in high school, for filling in for him when his job conflicted with his job responsibilities.

So when things didn’t work out in Lincoln, where did he turn? Home. It’s not like he “needed” the money; he had earned seven figure salaries since 2007, and had a $7.65 million buyout coming from Nebraska. It was unlikely that he would get a job that would pay him more than his NU buyout, so why not go home? Less of the other ancillary stuff of big time football that he hated and more of what he prioritized. Family and old friends. His kids get to attend the school where he met his wife.

Frankly, it’s a no-brainer.

I don’t know Bo Pelini’s thought process, but to me, it’s pretty clear why he sought out the Youngstown job. And YSU athletic director Ron Strollo seemed to think the same thing four years ago:

“I think what’s hard for everyone to understand is the last two years have been very challenging for Bo and his family,” Strollo said. “When he first reached out, he was just asking questions because at that moment he was unsure what the best thing was for his family.

“We never started a conversation that didn’t start with what was best for [his wife] Mary Pat and the three kids. It wasn’t about what the assistant salary pool was, it wasn’t about pictures of the indoor facility. It was about what was best for his wife and kids.”

And Strollo made it clear that Pelini pursued Youngstown State initially, having a third party make the call to YSU on his behalf the day after Shawn Eichorst dismissed him in Lincoln.

Doing the math on that KETV story, it appears that Pelini’s youngest daughter is currently in tenth grade. So to me, it’s a no-brainer that he wanted to stay in Youngstown, and likely looks to stay for at least the next two or three years.

After that? We’ll see. Pelini could certainly earn more elsewhere once his buyout ends in February. But considering that Nebraska has been paying Pelini anywhere from $1.5 to $3 million for each of the last 11 years, he should have more than enough saved up that he doesn’t need to feel any need to pursue the highest salary possible. And let’s be honest, most of use would love to have a job that pays $213k, like Pelini’s first Youngstown contract paid him.

Bottom line to me: Bo Pelini is where he wants to be, and where he wants to be for at least the next couple of years.