Pelini saga provides interesting twists

2013-09-19T01:15:00Z 2015-08-27T14:42:58Z Pelini saga provides interesting twists Fremont Tribune
September 19, 2013 1:15 am

So much for the decline of American soap operas.

The saga of Nebraska football coach Bo Pelini has reached almost comic proportions this week, but fans aren't exactly laughing.

On Saturday, the Huskers surrendered 38 unanswered points -- at home -- against a good, but not great UCLA team while losing 41-21. Later that day, former Nebraska great Tommie Frazier blasted Pelini and his coaching staff in a tweet saying that changes needed to be made. Instead of ignoring Frazier's comments, the NU coach opted to say no one needs Touchdown Tommie involved in the program anyway.

That wasn't smart. Frazier was a disaster as a football coach at Doane College (3-17 in two seasons), but he is on the Mount Rushmore of Husker greats. He has earned the right to comment on the program and -- whether Pelini wants to admit it or not -- is an icon in this state.

Then on Sunday, an anonymous tipster sent an audio tape of Pelini complaining about Nebraska fans and two Omaha World-Herald reporters following a victory over Ohio State in 2011. The recording from 23 months ago is about as relevant as a Mitt Romney presidential campaign speech, but it didn't help the coach's sagging public relations.

The Deadspin report, however, did something that I didn't think was possible: It made me feel sorry for the Huskers' coach.

Pelini is an emotionally-charged leader. He has had several meltdowns on the sidelines in recent years where he has verbally blasted players such as Taylor Martinez and Jason Ankrah using language that would make astute lip readers blush.

Make no mistake, however, Pelini wants to win. Competitors love winning, but they hate losing more.

The week before the '11 Ohio State game, Wisconsin quarterback Russell Wilson and company thoroughly embarrassed the Blackshirts 48-17 in Madison. All the fallout from that game, plus Braxton Miller leading the Buckeyes to a 27-6 second-half advantage in Lincoln had to have Pelini's blood boiling.

Bo and the Blackshirts caught a break, though, when Miller had to leave the game due to an injury. I've always maintained that if Miller doesn't get hurt, Nebraska doesn't win. He did, though, and NU rallied for a 34-27 victory.

After the game, Pelini was venting to NU play-by-play announcer Greg Sharpe and an athletic department official about the fans, the reporters, the student section and his critics. Someone opted to record the rant and held on to it until this week.

Pelini has since apologized and NU officials say they want to move on from the incident. It seems that too much was made of it. I don't think there are many fans out there that haven't lost their temper at times and said things in a private that maybe they didn't mean.

The bigger issue is the James Bond character who secretly recorded the rant for what Pelini called, "their own agenda." In this day of social media, a public official can't let their guard down for a minute. If they do, some snake will look to profit off of it financially or just revel in the attention it brings.

It is difficult to figure out what the future holds for Pelini. He is supposed to be a defensive-minded coach, but the Blackshirts haven't been solid since players Bill Callahan recruited completed their eligibility. In Pelini's sixth year, NU is still getting blasted in big games.

Does that mean it is time for a change, as Frazier has suggested? Be careful of becoming one of those programs that changes coaches every three-six years. While Pelini has never won anything, he has had the Huskers in contention about every year. His sideline demeanor has improved this year, but the Frazier incident and the audio recording certainly haven’t endeared him to fans. He probably has a much shorter leash now than when the season began.

The one thing that could cure all of this is what Frazier was great at – winning big games. That can heal a lot of problems and ill feelings. Stay tuned. This soap opera is just heating up.

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