I want to preface this by saying that in no way should it be considered in anyway a statement of the worthiness of one, Bo Pelini. NFL experience, energetic, young and fiery, there's no reason to believe that Bo Pelini wouldn't be capable of leading this team as well as any other.
Is he the most qualified though?
That seems to be the on-going concern right now in that as many seemingly worthy names that have been floating around as candidates for the head job at Nebraska, the belief that continues to only increase is that Athletic Director, Steve Pederson isn't really looking, rather he's looking without looking at all.
Bo Pelini was named the interim head coach over the asst. head coach, Turner Gill. This all coming in the wake of firing Frank Solich, a coach that had just led his team to a 9-3 record, that while playing in the Big XII.
The appointing of Pelini to the position was seemingly a clear message as to who Pederson wanted as the next man to lead the Nebraska Cornhuskers. So, if that's the case, what's with this big dramatic search?
If Pelini is the guy, why waste everyone's time and hurt recruiting that much more by staging some sort of show to make it look like you were actually going after someone else?
You would think that a guy with as much experience in the area of recruiting as Steve Pederson wouldn't do all that if he knew that Bo was his guy no matter what.
Yet, the "search" continues, but maybe it's a facade if only to give the appearance that Pederson through diligent and comprehensive research came to the conclusion that it was indeed Nebraska's Defensive Coordinator who ended up being the obvious choice.
That might have backfired a bit, if only due to the fact that the firing of a 9-3 coach wasn't a big enough deterrent to any coaches out there that could be considered "serious" candidates. In that, I mean guys not only with coaching experience, but with experience and success at recruiting and it wouldn't hurt to be an offensive guy on top of that.
You see, a lot of this has to do with perception in that as you the Nebraska fan might view the Solich firing as necessary from your years of following the program, others that haven't been so intensive in their following of the Big Red might only see that the A.D. for Nebraska just fired some guy that could have had double-digit wins before the year was done.
When you look at it like that and they don't see the past recruiting-woes, they don't see the years of criticism that has followed NU's old leader, it's basically coming down to a belief that the A.D. had a plan from the outset and nothing was going to change that. The naming of Pelini as the interim might have only went to enforce that idea because NU already had an asst. head coach in place.
With an agenda so apparently present, why in the world would any decent coach even apply?
With agents doing most of the talking for coaches around the country, when you hear an Urban Meyer say that they have had no contact with NU or anyone associated with NU, that could technically be correct. That's not to say though that Urban Meyer hasn't been courted this entire time as a prospective head coach, because his agent is doing all the talking.
If that's the case, you might never know for a fact that ANY coach even applied for the job, but come on, we all know better than that.
Forget the firing of a 9-3 coach. This is Nebraska. The Nebraska Cornhuskers. Not so long ago, NU played for the national title. Not long before that, they won 3 national titles in 4 years. Amongst the winningest programs in division 1-A history, Heisman winners, Outland winners, Lombardi winners, All-Americans galore and conference titles too numerous to count, this is a pretty good name as far as college football programs go.
Who wouldn't want the job?
That's a problem or it would be if you had Pelini pegged as your guy from the get-go and this whole search was just something to make it look like you were doing what any responsible A.D. should do. So, now instead of having to explain why you chose Pelini right off the bat without doing a search, now you have to answer questions about how you did a search, so many seemingly qualified candidates applying and in the end, it was still Pelini.
I can almost see the interview:
Steve Pederson: "What are your qualifications for the job?"
Candidate: "Well, I was an offensive coordinator in Division 1-A football for 10 years, our offense ranking amongst the top twenty in the country 6 out of those 10 years and all on a team not in a "BCS" conference. I was also a head coach for five years, taking a team that had a combined record of 14-31 in the previous four years of my being there to a combined record during my tenure of 42-10. In that time, we have won our conference 4 years, the last three in a row and our offense ranks tops in the conference, amongst the top 15 in the country. I've also managed to secure recruiting classes that have had me competing with the likes of Notre Dame, Washington, UCLA and even Nebraska for players an in some cases, winning."
Steve Pederson: "Hmmm, ok....uhhh, what's your favorite color?"
Steve Pederson: "Oh, I'm sorry, the answer was red...........NEXT!"
You see what I mean?
To think that absolutely no coach that is currently applying for the head position at NU is not as qualified as one, Bo Pelini, well that's nonsense and that's not a knock on Bo. Not at all. Would it be a knock on him if I were to say that he's not the best coach in this division that currently isn't the head coach of a "major" football program? Of course not, so it shouldn't be taken as such.
If one of those coaches has applied though and maybe, more than one, what's Steve Pederson going to do?
Some believe that Pederson might not be set on Bo, but what he wants is someone he can ultimately control. While Pederson himself has been quoted as saying that he didn't want to run the football program, that's the reason why he was brought back to NU in the first place. Not to run it per say, but to get it back on track. I'm not saying that Pederson is a control-freak, but control is something he's used to having and not just some, but all.
Common-sense would indicate that Pelini doesn't fit that criteria, but Bo would probably be a lot more grateful for the position than say someone from the outside who had a ton of credentials saying there were indeed worthy of the job.
In the interest of public relations, Pederson was screwed no matter what he did. Stemming from the Lincoln Journal Star article that stated from some unnamed sources, that Pederson was trying to force Solich out, the Nebraska A.D. was the bad guy no matter which way he went.
Now, if he waits and chooses Pelini in the end, this was all some masquerade to try and make it at least appear as if he did a comprehensive search. And, if he hadn't waited, he didn't take the time to evaluate what his team needed and didn't make a search to find the candidate that was at least on paper, qualified for the job.
It's sad to say, but the way these things usually work out, the person that could end up getting the most flack for this is the person that deserves it the least and that is Bo Pelini himself. This is a guy that brings just about everything to the table you want, but if you compare him on paper to other candidates possibly vying for the job, it's no shame to say that his resume' might not be quite as attractive as theirs.
So, if he gets the job in the end, the PR fiasco runs it's course, it won't be because of his lack of ability to get the job done that makes this such a media backlash, but that increasingly evident personal agenda of Steve Pederson was obviously the deciding factor over the future of the team.
There will be a variety of "outs" for Pederson though, rebuttals for his reasons in naming Pelini in the end. Contract stipulations couldn't be agreed upon, a coach wanted too much money or coaches wouldn't agree to being dictated to as far as what staff had to remain even if they got the job. Steve Pederson said he wouldn't do that, but does anyone really want to lose Bo Pelini and the majority of his very capable defensive staff?
Of course not and oh, what a problem this is, but it's a problem that Pederson created the second he named Bo Pelini the interim head coach over the asst. head coach, Turner Gill.
Pederson created automatically the idea that there must indeed be an agenda by leap-frogging NU's supposed second in command. If the idea wasn't there as to a plan he had, Pelini getting the knod even if it's supposedly just for preparing his team for the Bowl game, it's an agenda and no amount of PR is going to make most people think otherwise.
The final naming of Pelini as head coach, well, that will just be the conclusion of this agenda, one of possibly many by the Nebraska A.D. And the ironic part about the whole deal, Pederson himself may think he's doing this for the fan.
A way to placate the Husker Nation so that they are assured in some way that the best coach was indeed chosen, the most qualified person was indeed at the helm and that every single factor was taken into account to make sure that we great fans of this so-dubbed nation are given the best product in the end.
You know what? As a fan and I can say with pride that I am most undoubtedly one of those, I would rather see a confident choice than one that was made via a process because the process itself seemed to be motivated for reasons of maintaining some image.
If Pelini is the guy and Pederson thought he was the best guy to begin with, as a fan, don't placate me, just pick the guy and get on with it, because all of this searching, so-called objective investigation for the best possible candidate, well, it's great for show, but little for substance in the end.
There is going to come a day, hopefully sooner rather than later when a head coach is chosen for Nebraska. On that day, if anyone other than Pelini is named the head coach for the program, the arguments as to any preconceived plans will quickly find an end and depending on what happens with the assistants, life will move on, people finally able to adjust to whoever is wherever and let the bowl game begin or next season, depending on just how long this thing takes.
If Pelini is chosen, well, everyone will wonder why Pederson couldn't have just done this all in the first place. Some will say that he's cost NU some recruits. Others will say that he's cost NU some money and others will say that he's basically wasted everyone's time if only to portray some image that he was simply doing what any good and responsible A.D. should do.
Tell ya what. Bo Pelini is a great choice. In comparison to every single candidate that has allegedly voiced interest or has supposedly been contacted about the job, he might not be the most qualified choice, but he's not a bad one to say the least. The players respect him, recruits seem to warm to his direct and honest philosophy and he's young enough to offer at least the potential of a guy that could be around for awhile.
What's wrong with just coming out right off the bat and saying he's the guy? What's with this political tap dance?
Can you honestly say as a fan that if Pelini is the final choice, you won't ask what all this stuff in between was all for? For what end did all this drama serve?
There's probably two answers to this.
First and the one that you could probably hear given after the choice is made being something like, "After a diligent and comprehensive search, many interviews done with a great number of quality candidates, through careful research, negotiations and deliberation on a subject that is no doubt going to send this program into a future I believe is a positive one, I have decided that Bo Pelini is the man to lead our great program into the future and will no doubt make this Husker Nation proud."
Someone was trying to maintain an image. An image of what you are supposed to do and not necessarily what you plan to do, because in order to keep the PR going in the right direction, there has to be a process even if you know you are wasting everyone's time.
You take your pick.
Steve Ryan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 402-730-5619