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Bo Pelini's Legacy Is No Longer About Likability

I had the opportunity to sit down and read a very popular piece written by J.P. Scott of entitled Can Nebraska’s Bo Pelini Become America’s Favorite College Football Coach?

I read it a total of three times as I truly wanted to absorb what Scott felt the masses were missing in regards to Nebraska’s head coach. Unfortunately, the piece would eventually also become a critique of his fans and detractors. Throughout what is a vigious defense of Pelini, there are some not-so-thinly-veiled shots at those who don’t agree with the author’s beliefs.

Winning over the rest of you hasn’t really been Pelini’s forte since he took over at Nebraska. I hear a lot of comments about how disrespectful he is. I hear people say he has no class. I hear people say he shouldn’t treat his players and coaches the way he does.

Most of the people that I hear say those things didn’t play football. Many of them are mothers who couldn’t imagine a man like Pelini spitting hot fire into the face of their little boy.

The emphasized portion caused my eyebrows to rise. I’m curious if Scott took a poll and if so, what were the sample demographics? If the majority were mothers, I’d say the chances of him getting such responses are high considering lack of opportunity for them to actually play.

He also mentions that there’s a segment of the population that will never like Pelini because he’s not like Tom Osborne. However, not two paragraphs later Scott mentions Pelini’s recent escapade with Anya the cat.

Everyone who got the joke loved it. If you didn’t get the joke, you did research to figure out why what he did was so awesome, and then, you loved it.

How a man can go from having grudges religiously held against him to being enjoyed at least to an extent thanks to a cat is somewhat confusing.

Here’s where we’re going to break away from Scott’s piece and discuss who Pelini truly “needs” to be.

So here Bo Pelini sits — at the helm of one of the most nationally respected and admired programs in the country — on the cusp of turning the page on his national image. In the eyes of the people who matter, he’s both the old-school fire-breathing coach who won’t tolerate failure and the lovable dad-like figure who plays along and trolls a Twitter account that trolls him.

I’m not sure who Scott’s referring to when it comes to “people who matter”, but Pelini’s paychecks aren’t being signed to be a “fire-breathing coach” alone. Nick Saban is cut from the same cloth. While he’s not the most loved coach in college football, he’s most certainly respected, even if begrudgingly.

Why? Because he wins and wins often. Bad calls upset him, but losing is an insult to his very existence. Not four times per season, but once. Heaven help the West Virginia Mountaineers come kickoff of the 2014 season considering his Tide lost twice in 2013.

The main problem with Bo Pelini isn’t whether or not he’s a nice guy.

He’s proven that he cares for others in his work with Team Jack, during interviews and when recruiting prospects. The main problem that’s occurred over these past several years isn’t even something Pelini himself intended, or so I believe.

There’s now a sharp, deep rift in the Nebraska football fanbase. Many dig his style like Scott, see nine wins every year and that’s satisfying enough until everything clicks for Pelini, whenever that is. Others couldn’t care less about his approach at this point. They see nine wins and eight other ranked teams that have just as many sitting at No. 18 or lower in the final 2013 polls and ask, “When’s the payoff?”

I’m not going to speak from either camp, but rather from a business standpoint.

At the end of 2013, Saban’s salary is a reported $5,545,852. His resume and trophy case speaks for itself.

Pelini’s salary sat at $2,975,000 annually. In comparison, Auburn’s Gus Malzahn pulled down $2,440,000, Baylor’s Art Briles took home $2,426,360 and Michigan State’s Mark Dantonio made $1,959,744.

What do those three men have on Pelini as head coaches? Four major FBS conference titles, three BCS bowl appearances, a BCS bowl win and a BCS national championship appearance.

Dantonio, who’s been at Michigan State one year longer than his Big Red colleague’s been at Nebraska, made $1,015,256 less last season. He also won the Big Ten championship (his second in four years) and the Rose Bowl. This is not pro or anti-Pelini sentiment. This is fact.

I’m genuinely curious when the man atop North Stadium himself feels he’s going to get over the hump, win the Huskers’ first conference crown since 1999 and now get into the College Football Playoff.

There’s a point where whether or not the fanbase as a majority feels that it could crack open a cold one with the head coach doesn’t matter anymore. It’s about when the brass looks at the return on their investment and can no longer justify it. (See: Sadler, Doc for you Nebrasketball fans)

Pelini can define what is written about his tenure at Nebraska years from now: only what Scott touts or why he deserved one of the highest salaries in college football.

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Tags: Nebraska Cornhuskers

  • Phony Balogna

    For the record the National Championship you listed was won when Malzahn (at least i assume that’s who you credit it to) was a coordinator at Auburn. In my opinion it should either be taken off the list or you should list Bo’s BCS title at LSU

    • Brandon Cavanaugh

      Gus Malzahn didn’t win a national championship as a head coach, he made an appearance as discussed above.

      • Phony Balogna

        I apologize if i missed it but i was sure yesterday when i read the article you had listed a national championship without the word “appearance” at the end while you were pointing out the accomplishments of those lesser paid coaches

        • Brandon Cavanaugh

          No sir. Made sure to have that distinction in there.

  • Phony Balogna

    Also a comparison to Doc Sadler outside of the fact that they both coached at UNL is ludicrous. Pelini has a won over 70% of his games as Husker coach. I dont know what Docs winning% was but i dont think it was over 50

    • Brandon Cavanaugh

      The winning percentage argument is flawed. What major teams has Pelini beaten? What is his record against ranked teams? How many of the worst defensive performances in Nebraska football history has he produced. Wins against Chatanooga, Louisiana (formerly known as Louisiana-Lafayette) and Southern Miss worth $3,000,000.

      • Phony Balogna

        How can winning percentage be flawed way to measure coaching success??

        You think that worst defensive performances are a better way to judge coaches? Id bet a weeks pay that nearly every school in the FBS has had at least 2 of their top 5 worst defensive performances in school history over the last 6 years Brandon. Thats just the way that offenses play today

        • Brandon Cavanaugh

          “How can winning percentage be flawed way to measure coaching success??”

          Let’s say I’m coaching at school A in a power conference. I have at least above average talent on my roster. Regardless of whether or not I’m playing non-conference games or not, I’m often taking on teams that have nowhere near the amount of talent that I do across the board.

          I win these games and usually large margins, because quite frankly, I should. Let’s say that happens eight times out of my 12 game regular season schedule.

          Now, two of the remaining four teams I meet match my talent level and overall, we’re evenly matched on paper. One game is at home, the other away. The X-factor is the strategic element (coaching). Let’s say I go 1-1, one being a two-plus score loss and one being a tight victory.

          The remaining two games are against two of the best teams in the nation. Both are at home. Both match my talent at the very least, if not better it by having elite talent and a stud coaching staff. I get beat by 28+ in both games.

          I still manage to go to a bowl, because there are what? 40? I’m matched up with an opponent slightly below my team’s level and we win by a field goal.

          I just had a 10-4 season which gives me a 71% winning percentage, but I got my butt handed to me when it counted. This happens for six years. This is not impressive, it’s stagnation.

          On to your second point. No, I don’t think that the elite teams in college football (Read: the ones who challenge for the national title every year) have had their worst defensive games in program history in the past six seasons.