Cummings: Husker coach not out of line


Jonathan Krueger/Iowa State Daily

Bo Pelini’s antics have been questioned by many sports fans and have been scrutinized in the media. Pelini has said that if his antics are what people want to fire him for then to go ahead.

Kelsey Cummings

Few football fans missed Nebraska’s 38-17 loss to Iowa on Friday, and even fewer missed Cornhusker head coach Bo Pelini’s explosive sideline antics and the controversial repercussions that followed.

After a pass-interference call on Husker linebacker Zaire Anderson, Pelini, using a few choice expletives, challenged a referee for a bad call. Bo’s apparent “hat throwing” seemed to be the last straw for the ref, who penalized him for unsportsmanlike conduct.

Questions have been raised by the sports community about whether or not Pelini will be allowed to return to finish out the rest of the season. Fans are concerned that Pelini’s behavior has reached a new height.

Pelini stated in Friday’s post-game press conference that “[The press has] chosen to make a story of [my behavior] all year. It’s impacted our football team. It’s hurt our football team … If they want to fire me, go ahead. I believe in what I’ve done. I don’t apologize for what I’ve done. I don’t apologize for anybody, myself or this staff.”

Though Nebraska athletic director Shawn Eichorst prefers not to comment on Pelini’s job status until the completion of the season, fans must wonder if keeping Pelini would be the right decision.

Former Nebraska coach and athletic director Tom Osborne believes it would be, stating Saturday that “You just don’t make a decision to get rid of a coach after an 8-4 season, and five straight 9- or 10-win seasons and three division championships. Bo has had a good record.”

However, fan reactions have not been so positive. With many fans pushing for Pelini’s speedy leave, they seem to be in disagreement with Osborne’s opinion. The question now is: are they right to be?

Since the record-breaking legacy left behind by former head coach Osborne, it might be fair to say that Nebraskans have been spoiled by success and are unwilling to accept anything less than Osborne’s nonabrasive coaching style.

With a 255-49-3 record and reputation as a soft-spoken man, his legacy seems completely in opposition to Pelini’s. And though not as ground-breaking as Osborne’s career, Pelini’s record hasn’t been completely without success, as Osborne himself said. Could it be that Nebraska fans are simply holding the bar too high for Pelini?

Because although many of Pelini’s antics may in fact be considered unsportsmanlike, the reality is that football is an aggressive sport. Though it may be the players’ jobs to be aggressive, it makes sense that a little bit of that testosterone-fueled rage might rub off on a coach once and a while.

Now, that’s not to say that Pelini’s constant bouts with anger are acceptable. A coach is supposed to be the head of the team. He is the brains of the organization. If the coach is unable to keep a level head, who is to say that he still has the capacity to properly lead?

But a coach should possess some level of aggression. If he feels that his team was unfairly flagged or an improper call was made, he should stand up and defend his team to the refs. And while referees may be less likely to take Pelini and other aggressive coaches seriously because of their anger, Pelini must be commended for his willingness to fight for his team.

While aggression may not be a good motivator for some, it’s difficult to say whether or not college football players would not receive similar strict treatment from NFL coaches. In fact, some of the players don’t seem to be bothered by Pelini’s style at all.

Junior receiver Kenny Bell was quoted at the press conference as having said “Bo Pelini is a father figure to me … I would play for Bo Pelini against Satan himself and a team of demons at the gates of the underworld … I can say that in confidence for everybody in that locker room.”

If the Husker football team is ready to stand by their coach and trust his decisions, should not the Husker Nation possess that same confidence?

Pelini was right in stating that the media has focused too much on him lately and not enough on the players and the game itself. Coaches might be the planners behind the maneuvers, but they’re not the ones who execute them. Being aggressive and fighting for the team is what coaches are hired for, and to be fired for that would be nonsensical. Pelini was just doing his job.