Taking over for a legend is bad enough, but taking over for him after he coached a team to a third national title in four years, well, that's just insanity. One would have to question the mental stability of coach Frank Solich for even taking the job at a time where he was doomed to failure. I mean, if you didn't win a national title, you failed. That's just not right.
And, over the years, when you look at the stats, people have often said that he compares favorably with the two greatest coaches in Husker history, Osborne and Devaney. Numbers alone vindicated his presence and Osbornes' confidence in him.
The thing is, people didn't give those numbers any credence, because they still had an Osborne hangover, or should I say, "buzz". It was a buzz that was going to stay that way until Solich's fifth year, a year when almost none of Osborne's players existed anymore. It would have truly been Solich's team.
That fifth year has been one I am sure everyone would like to forget, least of all, NU's head of state, Frank Solich. A year that could be dubbed "the year of the streaks.........lost" has been tumultuous, most of the time, pressure-packed, all the time and a year where NU got some breaks, almost never. The planets seemed to align, the stars went into place for the sole purpose of derailing Solich and his team. Not in forty years has everything gone so wrong in such a short span of time.
And it's Solich's fault..............or is it?
If there would be one question I would want to ask coach Solich, it would be this. "When do you stop blaming yourself?" As the head coach, you ultimately bear all the responsibility for anything and everything that goes even the slightest awry. You take the blame even if it's not all yours to take. I wonder when something does go wrong, does he automatically blame himself or can he sit down, analyze the problem for what it is and most importantly, the symptom and then, deal with the problem accordingly?
Or, does he still blame himself after that?
It's easy to blame him. He's the head coach. Everything that went wrong has done so under his watch. He's finally got a team with mostly "his" guys and this is what happens. And, if other coaches aren't doing their jobs, well, that's his fault to. He's supposed to be responsible for their performance as well, on and off the field.
And if he fires those coaches, heck, that's just shoving the blame onto someone else, not taking it all himself, where it rightly belongs.
Though the players were not eager to say anything bad about the coaches before, after coaches have left, a little here and a little there trickles out as to some of the thoughts that were festering behind closed doors. What they wouldn't say, what they felt they couldn't, it's not coming out in a "tell all" book, but indications are that some of these players are actually a little relieved.
I asked defensive tackle, LeKevin Smith about his feelings on this being a scary time for NU in that they didn't have certain coaches to talk to certain positional players when they came here on their official visits. This is what he had to say. "I don't think they should look at it as a bad thing, because if they knew the coaches that were here, they might think that's a good thing."
That would be considered your "case in point".
It's a common saying that the truth always comes out after the situation is done. Once they are broke up, once they are fired or once a person is no longer "in the scene", the expressions always come to the forefront as to what was really felt and all of a sudden, things look entirely different.
Maybe it wasn't all his fault. Maybe he wasn't the only one to blame and maybe, just maybe his decisions have had some merit to them after all.
And as for his prowess on the offensive side of the ball, let me use this analogy and picture it if you can. Frank Solich as a blacksmith. Well, there he is heating up one iron for a blade, one iron that will be a chisel, one iron that will be, let's say....a pry bar. He's trying to pound all of these into their projected shapes and he's trying to do it all at the same time. Oh yeah, plus, he's the one squeezing the bellows every other minute to try and keep the coals burning hot.
It's too much. It is literally and figuratively too many "irons in the fire".
The best coaching decision Frank Solich might have made was this past season. Yes, I know what you are saying, but you know what I am talking about. It wasn't just the removal of some as we can only use hindsight to indicate just how much good that will do, but removing himself from allocating his attention to be in so many places all at the same time.
The team needs attention, the defensive staff would like you to sit in on film. Players keep asking for your attention during meetings. There are recruits that would be far more convinced if the head coach who had a reputation for being quite personable was doing at least some of their recruiting. Oh, and you have to prepare the offense and call all the plays for the game to. Sound similar to something just above?
What coach Solich did was take not the burden of responsibility off of his shoulders, but the burden of not only taking it all, but trying to do it all at the same time. Yes, it was relinquishing control to an extent, something coach Solich is not accustomed to doing, but he did what all good managers do, they delegate.
And, in so doing, Frank Solich has set a new course of events into motion. Hiring new coaches is just a part of those events and if Solich goes at that with the resolve it took to step down from at least some of his self-appointed duties, Nebraska should have a new direction to take.
A lot of comments from fans at this sensitive juncture in Husker history stem towards the time delay in putting coaches into place. "It's terrible for recruiting", "It's detrimental to the team" and "He just doesn't know what he's doing". Okay, that's one side, but look at the obvious one was well. Better to take a long time and be right than to do it fast and be wrong, because one bad class of recruits hurts, one bad coach hurts more.
Do I really need to give you an example of that?
This weekend could be the start to a new beginning and if that wasn't melodramatic enough, it could be the beginning of a new era. When you have hit rock bottom, there's no place to go but up, you only have to ascertain what that bottom is. Most Husker fans think it's now. Fans of most other schools around the country would chuckle at that idea. But, it's true. In Nebraska, this is as bad as it gets, or at least as it has gotten in the last forty years. This is as close to bad as anyone wants to get.
Emotions are running high in Nebraska right now. Some with angst, some with anxiousness and some with a form of psychotic neurosis, stemming from not leaving the TV, computer or radio, just waiting for word that something has been done.
Frank Solich is not a psychologist, but he might as well be and should his choices bear fruit, his success will be Freudian in scope. With just the uttering of "your fired" or now, "your hired", the entire thought process of almost an entire state swings to and fro.
If he succeeds you will love him and if he fails, you will hate him, but I am betting that you wouldn't want to be him no matter what.
It's rough being the captain of the ship. Especially if all the passengers expect nothing but calm waters for the length of the trip. Will you find relief when someone says "Land Ho!", only hoping for the moment to get off or will you take a big deep breathe, realizing the trip wasn't as bad as you thought and say, "Turn this thing around, I'm ready for another ride."
Besides, you never know. The trip going back could be better.
Steve Ryan can be reached at email@example.com or 402-730-5619