It's not like you weren't expecting this day to come. The rumor mill in the media has been about nothing but for most of the last part of the season and especially since KSU and Colorado. There's no consistency, there's no defense, there's no offense and there's even no heart. Players have often taken the blame from some of the coaches and they were seemingly eager to do just that, but the media put the burden of success upon the coaches, because this was ultimately their responsibility. This time at least, the media got this one right.
Nelson Barnes, George Darlington and Craig Bohl were all relieved of duty yesterday . It was a decision that you can imagine didn't come easily for coach Frank Solich, but was deemed necessary. "The decisions were very difficult decisions across the board." ‘Solich stated. " The timing for those decisions are made are never good for everybody. What I felt I needed to do was to make those decisions and to make those decisions in a manner that was best going to serve this football team and also, best serve those coaches that are no longer going to be in this program."
Along with the firing of the three defensive coaches, coach Solich stepped down from his position as the offensive coordinator, turning those duties over to a coach to be named later. Frank Solich cited time as the major reason for this decision and the fact that he didn't have any. "There's no question on the time commitments that are very demanding and I want to make sure that in operating as the head coach, that I am doing everything I can in terms of communication with players, having time to meet with players, being able to step in on defensive meetings a little more often, to have a better general overview of operations from both the offensive and defensive end."
"As little as five years ago when I took over, things have changed somewhat in coaching. I think that there are more "brush fires" that you put out, rumors that you are dealing with, addressing the media. I found myself in terms of in offensive meetings, preparing with the coaches throughout the day and players would come up and visit about something and I would step out."
"The interruption was there. I didn't think that was very good on the continuity of what we were all about and at times, almost seemed like at times it was disruptive to our offensive coaches the way I operated in and out."
"The bottom line came to my feeling that as the head coach, I could operate administrative duties a little more thoroughly, could get involved in recruiting a little more thoroughly and would be available to my players a little more easily."
The timing behind this move would seem appropriate as it's between now and a bowl game, but if you look at the recruiting side of the issue, it might be dubious at best. During what is considered to be the beginning of the rush of recruiting where coaches make their most visits, this would almost seem to be a mistake.
Coach Solich said that this was taken into account and that all the coaches on the road this week were doing so with a plan in place for addressing the staff changes. One of the biggest changes for recruiting this weekend though that was directly effected by the changes was the fact that neither Darlington nor Barnes would be out on the road, their replacements being graduate assistants, Tim Albin and Jimmy Burrow. "We've gotten permission to use them on the road as recruiters, because of the situation." Solich stated. That of course stemming from the fact that the NCAA does not allow graduate assistants to visit recruits in their homes.
Many questions now though are posed as to who will take the places of those coaches relieved of their positions and what will NU do until then. Coach Solich stated that things are already in the works. "I have made some contact." Solich stated about his contact with potential defensive coordinators. " I would like to have it work as quickly as possible, but I feel that it will take a little time and I want to be certain that the person that gets that position is the guy that we want in that position, so we will take the time necessary to get the right person."
One of the candidates that seems to surface over and over is the former linebacker's coach and now, former head coach at Baylor, Kevin Steele. Since his firing from the Bears, his name has been on the tips of everyone's tongue as to a probable for the DC position. Solich in no certain terms, squashed that particular rumor, at least for now. "Kevin and I have had quite a few conversations through the course of the season and also, since he is no longer the head coach at Baylor and with those conversations, none of those have led directly to anything that would involve coach Steele at this point being here."
With the Nebraska defense in such a state of flux, the preparations for the up-coming Bowl game seem to be on very shaky ground. Solich stated that coach Jeff Jamrog would be in charge of the linebackers and rush ends along with his usual duties of interior D-line and special teams and graduate assistant, Jimmy Burrow would be in charge of the secondary.
Also, Frank Solich indicated that though an offensive coordinator had not been named, he appeared fairly confident that one would be before the bowl game, but said that if need be, he could still take on the duties as primary play caller. He also indicated that the origin of the new offensive coordinator could be fairly close in proximity.
"There are some internal candidates that are excellent coaches in terms of being able to accept the coordinator role. We will also look outside, but if a decision is not made in terms of preparations for the bowl game, there is a chance I would remain as the coordinator through the bowl game depending on the timing of someone else coming in."
"But, I do want to emphasize that there are quality coaches and guys that are really viable candidates right from here."
You could say that the table is set for a rebound. You could also say that it's set for a year where rebuilding will actually start from the staff instead of the players. There's a variety of ways to speculate about as to how this change will effect the attitudes of the players to the interests of the recruits. What isn't speculation though is the dramatic change that will soon take place, especially on the defensive side.
Some will call it "scapegoating" and some will call it decisions that should have been made sooner. I would prefer to call it another page in Nebraska history and a move to ensure that Nebraska's place amongst the elite teams in the country is anything but history.
Now, you just turn the page.
Steve Ryan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 402-730-5619