From 1962 to 1997, Nebraska only had two head football coaches, winning 21 conference titles and five national championships under the direction of Bob Devaney and Tom Osborne.
Fast-forward to 2015 and the Mike Riley era is beginning. Riley is the fourth coach in the last 17 years to lead the program. Things obviously have changed from when Devaney and Osborne were roaming the sidelines in Memorial Stadium.
Frank Solich tried to keep the Huskers in the mix with the nation’s elite after Osborne’s departure. It was a slow death - even though many felt the program was taken off life support too quick.
So who has or had the toughest job in the last 17 years?
We pondered the question and asked a panel of media members to kickoff the summer roundtable, which will be hitting the site frequently over the next few weeks.
Ralph Brown - A former Blackshirt All-American and NFL starter , Brown now lives in California and works for FOX Sports West. He makes it back to Lincoln often for games and still follows the team very closely, doing guest work in Lincoln from time-to-time.
Brandon Vogel - Vogel is the managing editor of Hail Varsity and has been with the magazine since its first season on the scene. He's spent more than a decade writing about sports and everything in between, from the Kentucky Derby to the television debut of Friday Night Lights, for such outlets as Fox Sports, MSN.com and CBS Sports.
And Josh Harvey….you know him as the publisher of Big Red Report. He will be jumping in from time-to-time on these roundtables. Don't like his answer. Tell him about it on the Red Zone.
Who had or has more pressure on him when he took over? Solich, Callahan, Pelini or Riley?
Brown: “It’s a good question. I would go with Solich. I think he followed one of the greatest coaches of all-time in college football history. Not only in Nebraska, but Tom Osborne is a figurehead and staple for one of the greatest coaches in college football history. With Solich, the standard was so high, he didn’t even have a chance. When we look back on it, it was somewhat unfair for him at the time to get fired.”
Vogel: “Solich had the pressure of continuing a dynasty. Callahan had to restore relevancy, at least according to his AD, and avoid mediocrity. Pelini came in off the worst four-year stretch at Nebraska in nearly 50 years and now Riley's primary challenge is to win "bigger" than 9-4. I'll choose Callahan and I'll use the fact that he had the shortest tenure as evidence.”
Handley: “Personally I would say Bo. Well, no I’m going to with Frank. The reason I wouldn’t say Bo is you got the feeling it couldn’t get any worse out of the Callahan era. I felt that was an easier situation for Bo to walk into. For Frank though, not only did Coach Osborne pick you, but he left on a national championship and left you a lot of talent. That was when the program was at it best. The expectations were through the roof and probably to some point unrealistic. People thought because this was the guy Coach Osborne picked, there was no way Nebraska was going to fall off the map.”
Harvey: “My head tells me Solich, but I’m going to go with Riley. I can’t imagine what Solich’s life would have been like with social media and stronger message boards in his era. With Riley, the fan base is so far removed from conference titles, lose a couple games and things could get pretty toxic in social media land. It’s everywhere. The fact that a portion of the fan base questions the hire after Riley’s record at Oregon State will only fuel doubters if Nebraska is slow out of the gates. While Solich did have a 12-1 and 11-2 mark on his resume, he also had a 7-7. Bo Pelini was 66-27 over seven seasons. Riley has to win more than nine games a year and in a hurry. ”