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Black Friday, Bloody Sunday - A New BHF Editorial by Mark Solomon


  • Black Friday, Bloody Sunday - A New BHF Editorial by Mark Solomon

    Click image for larger version  Name:	msolomon60x80.jpg Views:	52 Size:	7.6 KB ID:	151487On a cold, gray Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, the University of Nebraska football team, clad in their traditional road uniforms – white shirt over red pants – marched onto their opponents’ home field. The black-and-gold clad faithful were loud, piling on a program whose Head Coach was under fire, despite having won north of seventy percent of his games and entering this final regular season game at 8-3.

    The television commentators talked about the hot seat currently smoldering under the Coach, though more in shock than in understanding. This wasn’t a “big” game so much as a contrived, manufactured “rivalry” that Nebraska had dominated overall through the years. But the Conference had slotted the contest for the day after Thanksgiving, and the controversy and uncertainty surrounding the program made for a brighter spotlight than would otherwise have focused on this game.

    Nebraska stumbled about a bit, playing a sloppy, if enthusiastic, game, seemingly focused on helping their Head Coach keep his job. They’d only lost three games, but they weren’t the “right” kind of losses, either the margins were too large, or they came against teams Nebraska was “supposed” to beat. There had been rumblings the prior season, too, but the media, both local and national voiced confidence that a ninth win here, with a shot at a tenth in a Bowl game, would probably allow the Coach’s tenure to continue.

    Nebraska’s Director of Athletics, in his second year at the school, was present, though he hadn’t shared the plane ride with the team, and didn’t take a place near the bench to watch the game. There had been tension between the Athletics Director and the Head Coach, and by many reports they seldom even spoke to one another.

    Finally – mercifully – the ugly victory was in-hand, and the players took a joyous, high-fiving attitude into the locker room to celebrate a little bit of redemption for themselves, and – they hoped – salvation for their beloved Head Coach.

    The Athletics Director didn’t join in the post-game revelries; he didn’t enter the locker room, or even congratulate the players or coaches as they left the field. He didn’t speak to the press or to the Head Coach prior to boarding a plane and heading back to Lincoln – again, separate of the team.

    Less than two days later, the Director of Athletics called a press conference to announce that the Head Coach of the University of Nebraska was fired. He spoke of the quality of victories and the inadequacies of both victories and losses. He decried a lack of Conference or National titles, and spoke of his decision to move the program “in a new direction”. He announced that there would be no search committee; he would research and find the replacement himself.

    That was 2003.

    It was also 2014.

    There are differences in the respective situations, of course, but the similarities are undeniable.

    The repercussions of the first purging rippled through the program, and the reign of that Head Coach’s successor and the machinations of the Athletics Director did untold damage, forever altering the landscape of the University of Nebraska football program.

    The most agonizing alteration was that the program was rendered ordinary. What had been a reliable source of pride and a cultural touchstone for the entire State was shown to be just another business, impersonal and devoid of any intrinsic loyalty, with everyone expendable and replaceable, and patience for “results” – however nebulously-defined - extending roughly to the end of the Sunday sports news cycle following gameday.

    Ordinary things are passed over by the attentive eye of history. Other elite college programs had descended into obscurity and irrelevance, only to be resurrected through a combination of substantial monetary investment, a willing and supportive Administration, and a fan base that understood the process being undertaken, with that understanding being fostered by that supportive Administration.

    Nebraska’s program was burned almost to the ground by the time reclamation was even attempted in late 2007, and even then, it was a grudging attempt. The only saving grace was the availability and willingness of a revered legend to take the helm and right the ship. It was a blessing that Tom Osborne was around to take up the cause, because at that point, no one else could have credibly assumed control of the situation and impart a sense of calm and instill confidence that Nebraska would rise to prominence again.

    He tried to reinstate a sense of normalcy and an air of specialness to the program again. He returned acknowledgement and celebration of the program’s past glories to the public eye. He brought back key personnel who had fled the Athletics Department and Foundation in disgust over what they saw being consciously done to the program. He met with current players, and let them know that he understood their disquiet, and that he would do all he could to set things right.

    He selected a Head Coach to correct matters on the field on Saturdays and in the classroom during the week.

    His selection was Mark “Bo” Pelini, who had served as the Huskers’ Defensive Coordinator and Interim Head Coach during the last upheaval.

    It was a selection that was controversial. Many fans had wanted Turner Gill, former All-American quarterback and longtime Quarterbacks Coach under Osborne and Frank Solich. Others wanted an experienced Head Coach. Some fans were enthusiastic in their support of the choice; some were just all right with it, largely trusting in Osborne’s judgment. A small segment was opposed almost to the point of hostility, never particularly accepting or supporting of the choice.

    Overlooked in both of the transition was the man ultimately in charge of them: Chancellor Harvey Perlman. Many have noted the chilly atmosphere between Osborne and Perlman whenever they appeared together over the years. The fact of the matter is that the two only interacted out of necessity, with cold professionalism in the public eye.

    Several on BHF know and have known people intimately involved in the program, as well as the Administration; if you’ve been here any length of time, you’ve seen the value of the information provided by these sources validated dozens of times. One point on which the majority of these sources have always agreed is the resentment Harvey Perlman has always harbored toward Tom Osborne and the prominence of the football program.

    In virtually any setting, if you were to ask who the post prominent and powerful man at the University of Nebraska was, the answer would be “Tom Osborne”, and that didn’t change, even when he’d been away from the University and the program for many years. (And make no mistake, it was true then, and remains true today. If Osborne would ever have made a play for the Chancellor’s office, he would have had it). From Regents, to boosters, to other University Chancellors and Presidents, this was the perception.

    It didn’t matter that Osborne never fostered the perception, or that he never exploited the potential it entailed. The rift existed, and rendered practically anything attached to Osborne or his legacy – other than the cachet of his win-loss record – practically poisonous, and eminently expendable to Chancellor Perlman.

    If he hadn’t allowed – or indeed, tacitly orchestrated – the meteoric decline of the program, and hadn’t received immense pressure from nearly every Regent and substantive donor of the University, Perlman never would have hired Osborne as NU’s Director of Athletics in 2007, (The “Interim” title was never going to persist, as the extent and severity of the damage done to the program became apparent).

    But for whatever his many shortcomings, Harvey Perlman is no fool; he knew that the program had to be resurrected, and that Osborne was the only man who could simultaneously attend to that task while appeasing a fanbase that was hungry for blood.

    Had he selected anyone else, there would have been enough attention focused on what had been going on in the Athletics Department, and the extent of his knowledge of those activities that many embarrassing, potentially illegal, and certainly Conference and NCAA rules-violating matters would have seen the light of day. (The recent “revelations” regarding Marlon Lucky and Steve Octavian, conveniently made public just after the NCAA’s usual “statute of limitations” ran out, and well after Osborne’s exit as A.D., were not even the barest tip of the iceberg).

    Many of these points were raised here on BHF by me, and by several other consistently-reliable “insiders” clear back in 2007 and early 2008. It’s no epiphany to note that they’re still factors in 2014.

    Bo Pelini has endured a level of scrutiny and an atmosphere of electronic information dissemination beyond any ever encountered by a Head Football Coach at the University of Nebraska. Some of it is just a matter of the timing of the technology’s widespread usage. The same is true for the players that have played under him and the assistant Coaches that have served on his staff. These are simple facts, and not particularly arguable.

    Pelini is a rough-hewn, old-school football coach. Nebraska was his first head-coaching job, and his learning curve was under the unprecedented microscope described above. Tom Osborne has said on many occasions in public statements that he doubts he could have made it as Nebraska’s Head Coach had his early career occurred in the present “information age”.

    The University of Nebraska football program is more closely scrutinized by its fans than any other program in the country. Some have tried to deny this, but they are simply incorrect or patently dishonest in the assertion, seeking to further justify their animus toward Pelini and support his ultimate ouster.

    This program is more closely scrutinized for many reasons. There is no football program in the country that represents such a universal cultural touchstone to its State and for its fans than the Huskers. Talk with any fan or coach or Administrative official from other schools who encounter NU regularly, or with any experienced Conference or Bowl representative, and you’ll get a better sense of how uniquely, sometimes wonderfully, other times horribly, over-the-top is the fervor with which Nebraska fans demand access and information regarding “their” program, and how incredibly emotionally invested those fans are in its success or failure. It’s a blessing and a curse, and it’s unlike any other program.

    It’s probably an area worthy of a little introspection by NU fans. It’s well and good that we are so invested in this program, and that we so fervently want it to be successful, to the point of being a perennial “Elite” team, as had been the case for many years. But we also need to be cognizant of the vast difference between coffee shop chatter and a handful of letters published locally in the World Herald’s “Voices from the Grandstand” and the immediate and world-wide visibility of Twittered snark and message board rants. It’s sadly ironic that many who espouse the value of garish alternative uniforms in recruiting simultaneously discount the impact of instantaneous and incessant negative commentary on social media.

    It’s one thing to critique a gameplan, or the fundamental technique – or lack thereof – being displayed by players. It’s quite another to criticize the character or value of coaches and players, or to question their level of dedication.

    For years, Nebraska fans have happily eaten breakfast, but they only really saw the sausage from the point where it had reached the butcher’s shop or appeared at the meat counter. Again, thanks to the “advancement” of technology, we finally saw the sausage being made. Twice, surreptitiously-recorded conversations between Bo Pelini and a sportscaster and then between him and his former team, were leaked to the public for the sole purpose of damaging Pelini.

    In the case of the first leak, the content of the recorded comments was distorted to include all Husker fans, despite it being quite clear that Pelini was upset and fed up with two specific groups, one of which had booed his players as they left the field at halftime, and another that had left the game early, then complained to the Event Staff when they were not allowed to re-enter Memorial Stadium in the fourth quarter, as the Huskers mounted the largest home comeback in school history to defeat Ohio State. But myth worked better than reality, and it made little difference that this recording was made two years prior to its release, that it was obtained under the most dubious of circumstances, (in clear violation of both the University’s contract with the broadcaster, and arguably several attendant laws, as well), or that the Athletics Director, Tom Osborne had already heard it and dealt with it the week it had occurred.

    To one degree or another, “Bo Pelini hates Nebraska Fans” became and accepted truth to far too many fans, and a veritable mantra to others. It’s ridiculous on its face, and counter to the details of the recording used as its substantiation.

    And again, many of the same people who declared that Pelini hated NU’s fans also criticized him – without evidence, and generally with publicized denial from both ends – that Pelini had sought other Head Coaching positions. Well, if he so hated the University of Nebraska’s fans, why didn’t he accept another position? Why did he sign a contract extension, not once, but twice? Consistency isn’t necessary to a mob mentality.

    Many fans are under the impression that Nebraska’s program was once practically unassailable and invincible on the field, pointing to several “blowout” losses under Bo Pelini. There is no denying that there have been several ugly losses over the last seven years – over the last seventeen, if we’re being honest. But many deny, ignore, or discount the changes in the college football landscape in which NU operates, from scholarship limitations, to widespread television broadcasts of practically every team’s games, to rules changes that favor offenses and limit aggression, to one complete reshuffle of a Conference, (The Big 8 to the Big 12, in which Osborne only competed for two seasons), to a complete change of Conference in 2011. Few bother to check whether or not other “big name” teams ever get blown out (they do).

    These aren’t excuses, and I don’t seek to excuse the ugly losses NU endured under Pelini, any more than I did under Callahan or Solich, or even Osborne back in 1990. But Nebraska football doesn’t exist in a vacuum, any more than it can persist in that rarified air of 60-3 and 3 National Championships. The Top Ten didn’t used to include Baylor or TCU or Oregon. Times have changed, and relative parity has arrived. USC managed a great run early in this century, but it came to light that they did a good deal of cheating to do so. Alabama is currently living large, and it will be interesting to see what improprieties come to light in their case in a few years (I have no doubt they will, as it’s always happened with the Crimson Tide after a long run of success).

    Perhaps Nebraska simply hasn’t been nimble enough in adjusting to the changes. Perhaps it’s been a bad sequence of hires.

    Perhaps the fanbase has yet to adjust to the football-as-a-business perspective that’s become the norm across the sport in relatively-recent years. For whatever the reasons, Nebraska’s football program has been slow in making a course correction effective enough to propel it back into the nation’s “Elite”.

    And it’s been costly. It’s been costly in terms of money, of course, but also in prestige and solidity of the fanbase. Overall spending on the program as a percentage of Athletic Department revenues has degraded from consistent Top Ten status to barely the upper-third of FBS schools. Some have discounted this metric, but it’s been a remarkably accurate predictor in determining the relative rankings of the top teams for the past 40+ years. When Nebraska fell out of the Top Ten of football expenditures as percentage of AD revenues, it also fell out of the Top Ten rankings. As it’s meandered in the high teens to high twenties, and even as low as 39th overall, the team has struggled to even achieve and end-of-season slot in the Top 25.

    It’s not a coincidence.

    While it’s certainly possible that a change in coaching will improve things – this time – there are systemic factors at play that don’t favor a profound or immediate reascendance of the program, both financial and Administrative.

    Bo Pelini was a good Coach. You don’t win as many games – regardless of the style points or point spreads many seem fixated upon – if you aren’t. Your team doesn’t appear in three Conference Championships in seven years if you aren’t. Your players aren’t posting the highest cumulative GPA and graduation rate in program history if you aren’t.

    “Good” is a fair assessment. “Great” would have required perhaps as few as a half-dozen more wins, including one or two of those CCGs, and at least 4 or 5 fewer “ugly” losses.

    I don’t worry about the dreaded “sideline demeanor”, or the laughable outrage over the use of profanity by a college coach. (Charlie McBride makes Bo Pelini sound like a tonsured monk by comparison, and Bob Devaney could have made either of them blush at the drop of a hat). I don’t care about his “mistreatment” of the media, particularly in light of the sheer vapidity of so many of their questions following a disappointing loss. If it’s his job to answer questions, it’s also theirs to make those questions relevant or at least intelligent.

    More meaningful to me are the way his players so often gutted it out and staged all those improbable comebacks. No NU coach has overseen so many three-score comebacks in the modern era, (Reliable data isn’t available past Devaney). Argue about how they got down by three scores, or gripe about the three-score losses (11 in 7 seasons), but comebacks like those don’t happen if a Head Coach has “lost” his team.

    Armchair psychologists like to wax poetically about the detriment of the “Us Against The World” mentality they say Pelini fostered and nurtured among his team.

    That mentality worked pretty well during that 60-3 run in the 90s. It’s also pretty common among the nation’s Elite. If fans believe that they are a part of "the World” portion of the equation, they might consider shelving their outrage for a moment, and consider how their loose, fast, and often personal criticism looks to the players and staff, or how it is picked up by local media. If we’re being honest, the loud and negative portion of the fanbase did nothing to dissuade the perception of an adversarial posture toward the players and staff.

    Beyond all the hew and cry, under all the faux psychological evaluations, outside of all the largely manufactured angst over “which games” were won or the manner in which some were lost, the bottom line is that the University of Nebraska football didn’t win enough under Bo Pelini, with “enough” meaning Conference Championships and contention for National Titles. I have no doubt that had NU won at least a couple of CCGs and finished in the Top Ten two or three times over the past seven years, there would have been very little noise about a few blowout losses or Pelini’s demeanor on the sideline or toward the media.

    But NU didn’t win those games, and so nothing could be set on the “good” side of the scales that would offset the “bad” side, and the passion of the fanbase worked some emotional Judo on itself to create an atmosphere too toxic for redemption. Add to this an Administration that displayed and demonstrated a questionable degree of support for the program in general and for their Head Coach in particular, and the outcome was essentially inevitable.

    As I said earlier, Bo Pelini is a good Head Coach, and an exceptional defensive mind. I’m not going to waste my time explaining once again the dependency an assignment-based defensive scheme has on consistent execution by its players – you can tune into any NFL game and see how it works – and I’m not going to again point out NU’s offensive shortcomings in the “bad” losses. Those who wish to dispassionately assess the program’s successes and failures have already done so, and the discussion and education would be moot, anyway, because Pelini is no longer Nebraska’s Head Coach.

    Jim Tressel believes Pelini is a good enough Head Coach that he’s entrusting the fate of a college program that he himself led to four FCS National Titles at a University where he is now the chief Administrator. None of the attributes so many NU fans found so insufferable in Pelini were unknown to Tressel, and he is the only one who stands to suffer if the choice is wrong. Tom Osborne and Jim Tressel hired Bo Pelini, warts and all. Harvey Perlman and Shawn Eichorst fired him. I wonder, (not really), which pair knows more about what it takes to be a successful Head Football Coach.

    But as I said, any further conversation regarding Bo Pelini, his record at Nebraska, and the legitimacy of the reasons ostensibly behind his ouster are purely academic at this point. Nebraska has an interim Head Coach through December 27th in Barney Cotton, who’ll lead the Huskers into battle against USC in search of a 10th victory, and a new Head Coach for the 2015 season in Mike Riley, formerly the Head Coach at Oregon State University.

    Pelini was fired on Sunday, November 30th, after the situation had “crystallized” for Athletics Director Shawn Eichorst on Saturday evening. Mike Riley was introduced as Nebraska’s new Head Coach on Thursday, December 4th.

    The timeline is a lie, of course. The decision to fire Pelini was made months prior, and overtures to Riley’s intermediaries preceded the direct talks considerably. But that’s no indictment of Eichorst or Riley; it’s just business as usual in college football coaching transitions. Both sides can truthfully say they haven’t talked, but few in the press bother to ask whether their agents, assistant ADs, et. al., have communicated.

    It’s all part of the dance. Nothing nefarious about it, but it’s just another stark reminder that college sports is indeed a business, and that style and boardroom-level contortions are de rigueur in this brave new world. It makes me nostalgic for the days of “Dollar” Bill Byrne, who despite being as shrewd a business man as any who has ever served as the Athletics Director for a major University could still make you feel as though a handshake and a smile still meant something substantive.

    Riley has been the Head Coach of the Oregon State Beavers for the last 12 seasons, and 14 years overall (1997-98, then 2003-13). He was also the Head Coach of the NFL’s San Diego Chargers from 1999 through 2001, of the San Antonio Riders of the World League of American Football from 1991-1992, and of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the Canadian Football League from 1987 through 1990. He’s been a position Coach and/or Coordinator in the NFL and CFL, and at Northern Colorado and USC in college.

    He also played as a Defensive Back for Bear Bryant at Alabama 1971-74.

    It’s an extensive football résumé, completely unbroken from the time he was a freshman for the Crimson Tide to his current position as the Head Coach of the University of Nebraska. That’s 44 consecutive seasons, folks, as player, Graduate Assistant, Assistant Coach, Coordinator, or Head Coach.

    You don’t stay in the game – at ANY level – for that long if you don’t have a talent for the game. For perspective, Tom Osborne was in college or professional football for 41 straight years. To say that Mike Riley has dedicated his life to the game is an understatement.

    But let’s just take a quick overview of his career as a Head Coach, since that’s the role at which we all hope he will excel at NU.

    His stint with Winnipeg in the CFL was odd, but solid. He coached for four years, making it to the Division Finals all four years, winning twice, and winning the Grey Cup twice, all with a winning percentage of only 55.6%. It’s hard to gauge the implications fairly, because it is a slightly different game in Canada, and the league only had eight teams in it, playing 18-game regular seasons. But he led the Blue Bombers to at least the semi-finals every year, and won the whole thing twice. You have to think that’s worth something.

    This three-year run with the Chargers in the NFL was disastrous, with a winning percentage of 29.2%. His best team was his first, and 8-8 season in 1999 that landed the Chargers a third-place finish in the AFC West. They were dead last the next two seasons. But not many people get a Head Coaching gig in the NFL at all if they don’t have some chops, even the then-lowly Chargers.

    At Oregon State, Riley had a horrible two-season stint in 1997 (3-8, 10th in the Pac-10) and 1998 (5-6, 8th). His successor, Denis Erickson, had one of the best 4-year runs ever at OSU, tying for the Conference crown in 2000, and leading the Beavers to victory in the Fiesta Bowl – the program’s first and only appearance in a BCS Bowl game. Some give Mike Riley considerable credit for recruiting many of the players Erickson won with, but that’s not an easy sell or a straight line, given Erickson’s overall exceptional record as a college Head Coach to that point.

    In his second act at OSU, Riley was 85-66, (56.3%). Again, there are a lot of moving parts when assessing his success. The Pac-10 wasn’t a particularly good conference throughout the first half of his second tenure, pretty much USC and nine other teams, then Oregon took the mantel from the Trojans. The Beavers had one season where they reached 10-4 and three of 9-4. But there were also two 5-7 seasons, a 5-6 season, and a cringe-worthy 3-9. Many of these losses were of the “embarrassing” variety that have proven so unsettling to many. Disturbingly for Husker fans, the 3-9 was in 2011, and the 5-7s were 2010 and 2014. That’s a troubling recent history for fans of a program seeking a return to greatness.

    The bottom line for me is this: I believe Mike Riley is a principled, all-around good man, of high integrity and impeccable comportment. He’s a man of faith, and will always try to do right by his players and staff. He’ll walk a narrow path, and demand the same of those he’s leading. The coaching fraternity as a whole has thought enough of his prowess to keep him employed continuously since he graduated college. He’s worked both sides of the ball, and has led teams at pretty much every major level of football. He’s had impressive success in the CFL, solid, if unspectacular success in college, and experienced rock bottom in the NFL and WLAF.

    There is no denying that Mike Riley is a “football guy”. The same could be said for Bill Callahan or Frank Solich or Bo Pelini. The fact that his laid back public persona and overall sterling reputation are comforting to a fanbase that is deathly afraid that his hiring could be a monumental mistake, (whether they’ll admit it or not), will only serve as such until his teams succeed on the field.

    No matter how you objectively break down Riley’s performance as a college Head Coach, any confidence in his prospects at leading Nebraska’s resurgence is riddled with a LOT of “if” and “but”. There is more Hope than evidence that he’s up to the task. People try to put the disparity of facilities and resources into the equation to varying degrees. Some, including a couple of irresponsible local journalists, go so far as to try to equate “X” number of victories in Corvallis equals “Y” number of victories in Lincoln. This is ridiculous, and grossly unfair to Coach Riley.

    Simply stated, fairly or unfairly, 9 wins must be the minimal target in 2015. Why? Because the University of Nebraska and the Nebraska Foundation are on the hook for up to $11 million simply for blitzing out the former staff. If the point of the exercise is to improve the program, then simply equaling the preceding staff’s success should be barely palatable, and thus the baseline for the team’s performance.

    Coach Riley has a few things working in his favor.

    First, the program is not the smoldering ruin it was in 2007. Nebraska is returning many talented starters on both sides of the ball and on special teams, with an impressive array of talent coming off of a redshirt season in 2014.

    Second, though some might deny it, people will be watching Perlman and Eichorst in the wake of the most recently-leaked audio recording, which means that the support Riley would have received by simply being “their guy” will likely be even more pronounced. That can hardly be a bad thing, and he deserves it.

    Third, Nebraska will start receiving its full percentage of Conference television monies in 2017, only three years onto Riley’s contract. With Nebraska already toward the front of the Conference in terms of facilities, this new influx should help them either make up a little ground or make a push toward the top. They’re currently 4th in overall sports revenues, while only receiving a partial payout of television money. (They’re only 8th in terms of the percentage of overall revenues dedicated to football, a disparity that must be addressed very soon).

    Fourth, Riley has a huge reservoir of good will. Whether a fan was in favor of Pelini’s firing or not, they do want the program to succeed. Although I firmly doubt there will be a lingering honeymoon, (this fanbase has displayed no particular patience for over a decade), Riley will be able to ride a robust wave out of the gate in 2015. Riley and the Athletics Department need to exploit this good will, and seek to parlay it into increased donations in support of the program, as well as to shore up any cracks in the integrity of the home sellout streak.

    There are challenges, of course, and several milestones that need to be successfully passed. Riley must fill out a coaching staff that to this point, is somewhat lackluster, almost to the point of disappointing. He needs to solidify as many of the existing prime recruits and verbal commitments as he can and add a few “home run” commits that NU would otherwise not have landed in order to put his own stamp on the class. He’ll have to stay good to his word, (which I believe he will), and tailor his schemes on both sides of the ball to best showcase the talents of the players he has in the fold, rather than attempt to force square pegs into round holes, which NU fans know all too well is a fool’s errand.

    Lastly, and most importantly, in my opinion, is that Mike Riley and his staff need to bring a sense of Joy back to Nebraska football. I want to see players taking the full measure of enjoyment out of the privilege to play a game in exchange for a college education. I want to see fans give unconditional support to these young men. I want to see fans take the time to try to actually understand the game itself before taking to the internet to vent and spew. I want to see the Administration fulfill its various roles, with the Athletics Director overseeing the Athletics Department essentially autonomously, and the Chancellor seeing to the academic side and letting the A.D. do his job. I want to see Shawn Eichorst get involved. He needs to show up at practices, and show support for the team, from getting to know the players to acknowledging the fact that football is the golden goose for all Athletics at NU through his presence, involvement, and actions.

    It’s time to heal, and it doesn’t all fall to the coaches, or players, or Administration. It’s also the responsibility of Nebraska fans.

    It’s long past time to admit that our attitudes do have a cumulative effect on the team, and that the internet amplifies that effect. It’s time to admit that booing players or coaches at games isn’t a privilege of holding a ticket; it’s just poor sportsmanship – always has been, and always will be. It’s time to admit that the inner workings of a college football team is an environment very, very, very few of us understand, and that projecting our sensibilities onto it is as foolish as it is futile, and will only serve to create rifts and perpetuate memes.

    Fans being “right” is less important than the program getting it right on the field and in the classroom. The coaches are human. The players are humans still largely under construction. Do yourself a favor sometime if you get the chance. The next time you attend a game, make it a point to go down near the locker room after the game, and look at the players when they take their helmets off. Take note of their faces and how young they are. Keep those images in mind as you start Tweeting or typing or dialing a radio call-in show, and adjust accordingly.

    We all talk about “The Nebraska Way”. Part of that way is to give the program everything it needs to excel. It doesn’t all start and end with money, and part of giving it what it needs is to give it ONLY what it needs. The negativity, the ignorant ad-hoc criticism, the anger, the overblown emotional investment in a GAME that we neither coached nor played in are not useful contributions.

    We have one more game to watch in 2014, one last chance to cheer on these young men and this staff. You can be disappointed in the final records, but you cannot credibly deny the magnitude and depth of their investment in the program.

    Appreciate and celebrate it tomorrow, regardless of outcome, then set your sights on the future, and start to give before you take. Give these players, the new recruits, and this staff an open mind and an open heart, and allow them to earn the rest. If they owe us their best effort, we owe them ours.

    Keep the faith, and give them reason to have faith in you.

    Nebraska will be Nebraska again…and it starts with you and me.

    Merry Christmas, and GO BIG RED!

    (I’ll have a review of the Iowa game and a preview of the Holiday Bowl sometime between late tonight and noon tomorrow)
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    • Husker316
      Husker316 commented
      Editing a comment
      Very well done, my hats off to you "sir"

    • RED ED
      RED ED commented
      Editing a comment
      I think this should be a must read for all husker fans before the start of every season, as a reminder of what we should strive to be as a fan base.

    • DrThunder
      DrThunder commented
      Editing a comment
      Just fantastic Solly. Your best work I've read. Thanks for your work and time on this.
    Posting comments is disabled.





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    “The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.” – Mark Twain, 1906

    Twain sent this characteristically-pithy retort via cable from London to the press in the United States after he’d caught wind of his obituary having been erroneously published in several newspapers back home.

    He’d persist for several more years, passing away in 1910. He’d quipped that he’d arrived with Halley’s Comet in 1835, and that he’d be both surprised and disappointed if he didn’t depart with it, as well.

    Sure enough, he died the day after the Comet’s closest approach to the Earth, April 21st, 1910. Talk about calling your shot! The point is that the press is far from infallible, and what makes for a sensational lede in a newspaper isn’t worth much if the underlying facts are incorrect or incomplete. (2016 has been quite a year for demonstrating the truth of that assertion). For the last week, following Nebraska’s blue-collar dispatching of Maryland in Lincoln, most of the media has been declaring the Huskers’ impen...
    11-24-2016, 11:59 PM
  • Closing Ranks - New BHF Editorial by Mark Solomon

    “Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more; Or close the wall up with our English dead.”
    1. Henry V, Act III, by William Shakespeare
    The battle rages all around, and comrades and foes alike fall all about you. But the line must hold, or all will be lost, so you do the only thing you can; you fill the hole with the next available able bodies, and as they fall, the next. And the next. At some point, the bodies aren’t so able, but they still step forward, some grimly, some with an odd serenity, some even with a smile…because it’s duty. It’s dedication to something larger than themselves. Something worth the risk, the pain, the sacrifice. Oftentimes, the sacrifice of the fallen themselves creates the motivation for the living to fill the breach and fight on, so that their sacrifice will not have been in vain. With few exceptions, history richly rewards the peoples or countries whose best shone through when things were at their worst, those who fought on from battle to battle until the greater war was won, be ...
    11-18-2016, 09:56 PM
  • Burn the Film…Burn the Boats. New BHF Editorial by Mark Solomon
    Well…that didn’t go very well. Ohio State Head Coach Urban Meyer, after striding off the field following a 62-3 shellacking of Nebraska, stated flatly during his postgame press conference, “I didn’t see this coming.”, and “That’s not what we saw on film.”. He wasn’t referring to the outstanding athleticism and very sound execution from his own Buckeyes, which had been on display all evening long, as they laid ruin to a heart-wrenchingly-hapless Husker squad. He was talking about the sheer ineptitude, incompetence, and, sadly, hopelessness that bled from every pore of the NU team, as they stood like a deer in the headlights while OSU went up and down the field at will…all…night…long. 11 of 15 on third down conversions, plus 1 for 1 on fourth down – that’s 12 of 15 drives where NU’s defense couldn’t seal the deal – ZERO punts, 37:18 time of possession, 86 plays, 590 yards of total offense, 6 trips into the red zone, six scores, one long, debilitating “explosive” play after another, and, again, SIXTY-TWO POINTS. And that was just the offense. Two pick-sixes by the Buckeye defense – one on the very first NU offensive series of the game, adde...
    11-12-2016, 01:01 AM