There are parts of Husker Nation ticked off about Bo Pelini’s firing, an understandable offshoot of ousting a coach with a .713 winning percentage.
However, that is done, and the message being sent by Nebraska athletic director Shawn Eichorst is, at its core, what every fan base in every sport wants.
Winning is only important if it includes championships, which is a cavalier approach, but also one that will make any non-Ivy League fan base salivate.
There are obstacles in so brazenly demanding so much of a program – winning nine games doesn’t mean squat if you get blown out in the marquee ones – but in any championship the path of the roads traversed are difficult and challenging.
So, Eichorst is in the crosshairs of Cornhuskers fans, and he will be there for at least another year, because the 2015 Big Ten championship game is still more than a year away, and with a mandate to win championships, that is the stage where the next coach will judged.
Admittedly, it is also a tall order in today’s super conference climate, which is markedly different than the 1970s and 1980s wishbone-running, college-football dominating time when Nebraska became a national brand under Tom Osborne.
Pelini won games, but not the right ones. He was 67-27, including nine wins in his worst season, and that wasn’t enough.
“The people of Nebraska deserve not only high standards and expectations, but they deserve seeing our people and our teams reach them,” Eichorst said in announcing the firing. “I indicated during my introductory press conference that we will compete for Big Ten and national championships, and we will do so with class, integrity, sportsmanship and with a commitment to our student-athletes. I believe the action taken today is in line with that vision.”
“At the end of the day, I think we have kids in our program that are capable of winning championships.”
So, Pelini and his staff can recruit. They just can’t coach in big games.
According to Eichorst, this current team was good enough to win this season, so the talent is there for 2015 and into 2016. So Eichorst will be go out and not only pitch the Nebraska brand and flash the Nebraska funds, but also show off a roster he believes can challenge immediately to be in the playoff -- that is what winning a Big Ten title should mean -- in 2015 and 2016.
So Dan Mullen, Mark Richt, Jim Tressel and any other big-name, big-talent coach, know the Nebraska athletic director will come armed with some big-time package, and even bigger aspirations.
However, there will be a challenge because of how much the climate of college football changed in the last two decades. Heck, Northern Illinois is building a $100 million football facility, the latest example of the money being spent by many …it’s just not the type of money Nebraska can spend.
Mississippi State, where Mullen is employed, is now relevant and a winning program. He has job security at Mississippi State, where winning 10 games gets you a parade and a sandwich named for you at the local café.
Richt, who is from Omaha, last won a conference title in 2005, and while there are periodic rumblings about that in Athens, his job status isn’t in question. He has beaten Florida and Georgia Tech and a few other marquee teams, but he has job security.
There is also Tressel, who was absolutely ridiculous in winning games at Youngstown State and Ohio State. He won a national championship at both programs, and before there was an Urban Meyer with the Buckeyes, there was a Jim Tressel.
He is the president at Youngstown State, and while colleges keep calling despite a need to show cause in hiring him because of NCAA sanctions, he is yet to jump back into coaching. Can Eichorst sell his vision and make a believer out of Tressel?
Also, the Cornhuskers fired nine-win coach Frank Solich, which coaching candidates will know as well because, again, coaches love job security in a business that holds very little of it.
So we get back to the Pelini decision, and clearly the inability to win a conference title, and to lose consistently to the top teams on the schedule, infuriated Eichorst. So did Nebraska being out-schemes and out-played.
When looking at what is expected at Nebraska, and more importantly what is realistic, each coaching prospect will know the three coaches who followed the legendary Osbourne were fired. To the right man, the challenge of not becoming the fourth is one to embrace when the rich payday at the end is returning the program to national championship status.
But programs across the nation win by hiring up-and-comers, or guys one would not think would be a good fit. Chip Kelly, the one-time New Hampshire offensive coordinator, running the high-octane Oregon offense? Or Gus Malzahn with one year of college head coaching experience making the move from Arkansas State to Auburn?
There are plenty of other names being bandied about for the Cornhuskers, beginning with former standout Scott Frost and Michigan State defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi. Maybe even former Rutgers and NFL coach Greg Schiano.
They may not be the home run type of hires that has Nebraska fans running to renew season tickets and put a few more goodies under the Christmas Tree, but that is the crazy thing about coaching hires. You never know.
But for Nebraska fans, at least you know the athletic director, and the administration, is trying its hardest to bring a championship back to Lincoln, and that is something many people easily miss about this situation.