What Leaking Pelini's Audio Does to Nebraska's Reputation
Bo Pelini's press conference yesterday already yielded enough good stories to talk about for two weeks. Between his reflective opening statement and his “we don't need” Tommie Frazier remark, a lot was left open to interpretation as to how he would lead Nebraska forward.
Then someone decided that Pelini's embarrassing losses and dissing of Nebraska's most popular player was too much. But even if this person is seeking to get Pelini fired, how fans respond to it will say a lot about the program the fans want.
As I tweeted yesterday, I'm more surprised that the F-bomb tirade was released than by the tirade itself. The question Nebraska fans should be asking is, how bad must it be inside the Husker football program that someone would seek out this tape and give it to Deadspin, a sports gossip site? Did this person think that Bo's self-reflection in his press conference Monday was completely phony? Would this person have released the audio if Tom Osborne were still athletic director?
I can't answer those question, but here's what I glean from the audio itself: Bo Pelini leads men, and every leader is confrontational. If any man is totally honest, he will admit he has had thoughts worse than what Pelini said. Pelini may not have known about the recording, but as a college coach, he undoubtedly tells his players to be wary of ever-present cellphone cameras. Pelini's heated conversation with a Big 12 officials after the controversial ending of the 2009 Big 12 Title Game got reported, and a few weeks later, Pelini said he thought that moment should have been private. This moment should have been, too, but it was not.
The media criticism will likely not hurt Pelini in the long run, as many successful coaches like Saban and Belichick are short with the media. What really hurts Pelini is the “fair-weather fans” comments, and that he seemed to be itching to leave Nebraska. While he denied pursuing other jobs, reports linked Pelini to Arkansas and had him “reaching out” to Tennessee last year, and while Nebraska fans may scoff at the notion of Pelini succeeding in the SEC, they should consider their own attitudes.
I don't know if “fair-weather” is the right term to describe Nebraska fans, but if someone puts a whoopee cushion on our seat and we sit on it, we go and punch the person who did it rather than have a good laugh at ourselves. We sit in the stands and wait for something to go wrong, and the moment it does, we fall silent. I was sitting next fans at that very Ohio State game who didn't come back for the second half. And when our program gets embarrassed at home, someone leaks an audio recording of our coach blasting the fan base and reporters. So we're not perfect.
I'm not trying to justify what Pelini said in anger, by no means, but what I am saying is this: Nebraska fans live in open pessimism. I don't think we're fair-weather fans, but at times we may come across that way.
But the bottom line is, let's not start dragging Pelini through the mud. Kansas aired Mark Mangino's dirty laundry, and it did them no good. If this is part of a ploy to get Pelini fired, a good coach with options will not want to come here, just like no one wanted to come to the school that fired a 9-3, mostly successful Frank Solich.
Having said all that, I still think there are far-reaching issues inside the Pelini coaching staff and program. You don't lay down in two of your last three nationally televised games and not have internal issues. But however bad a leader Pelini may look like right now, in public or private, there's no reason to start airing the dirty laundry.
Derek Johnson is a Seward, Nebraska native who works for his family's organic farm seed company, Blue River Hybrids, and is a freelance writer and commission photographer. He has been a contributor to Husker Max since 2013, and is a former contributor to the website Husker Locker. Visit his blog, derekjohnsonmuses.com, and follow him on Twitter @derekjohnson05.