The Nebraska Cornhuskers fired coach Bo Pelini on Sunday, making the beleaguered Pelini the third coach hired and fired by the once-dominant NCAA football program since legendary coach Tom Osborne, who guided the Cornhuskers to three national championships, retired from coaching in 1997.
In fact, it was Osborne himself who hired Pelini in 2007, shortly after returning to Nebraska to take over as the university’s athletic director. Osborne stepped down from that job last year, making Pelini his first and only head coaching hire for the storied football program.
Pelini, now 46, had served as Cornhuskers’ defensive coordinator in 2003, but while the coach managed to put up solid results with Nebraska, he fell far short of living up to the standard set by Osborne.
Osborne’s successor in the AD’s chair gave Pelini just a single season to right the ship before his patience ran out.
Director of Athletics Shawn Eichorst has dismissed Head Football Coach Bo Pelini effective immediately. Press conference 1pm.
— Nebraska Huskers (@Huskers) November 30, 2014
The firing of the Cornhuskers coach came as a shock, with Nebraska almost certainly headed for a bowl game this season — most likely the Holiday Bowl to be played December 27 at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego.
The pink slip for Pelini also surprised college football experts. Despite the team’s failure to win a national title under Pelini, his record was a more-than-respectable 67-27, with a 39-17 mark in Big Ten conference games.
In fact, Pelini becomes the first major conference college football head coach in 50 years to get the axe despite never posting a season with fewer than eight wins, with the exception of coaches who have been fired for non-football related reasons.
Has anyone been fired for football reasons with a better winning percentage than Bo Pelini (67-27)?
— Bill Barnwell (@billbarnwell) November 30, 2014
But Pelini could be hot-tempered and disagreeable, given to frequent fits of rage on the sidelines. He did not endear himself to Cornhusker fans by unleashing a profanity-laced tirade against the Nebraska fan base in 2011 — in a recording that surfaced last year.
Pelini apologized for the incendiary remarks, saying that he was “venting” after some “emotional events,” and declaring his “love” for Nebraska at the time.
Cameras caught Pelini lighting into players and referees on the sidelines on several other occasions, at one point prompting university chancellor Harvey Perlman to plead with fans to “accept (Pelini) for who he is.”
Several high-profile, lopsided losses under Pelini also embarrassed the Cornhuskers program, such as a 70-31 humiliation to an unranked Wisconsin team in the 2012 Big Ten Conference championship game. And on November 15 of this year, Nebraska took another drubbing from Wisconsin, 59-24.
The Cornhuskers followed that loss a week later by blowing a 14-point home halftime lead to then-unranked Minnesota, and eight days later, they saw their athletic director fire the coach.