Bo Pelini, Nebraska fans: Irreconcilable differences?

September 17, 2013

Bo Pelini is taking heat for comments he made about Nebraska fans … two years ago. (Eric Francis / Getty Images)

Of all the things that might jeopardize Bo Pelini’s job as the Nebraska football coach, who knew that a 2011 audio recording that surfaced Monday might be the most lethal?

Pelini, coach at the school since 2008, has been the focus of increasing discontent over the lack of a conference title in a state that adores its Cornhuskers and, in the latest ignominy Saturday, Nebraska gacked an 18-point lead and lost, 41-21, to UCLA.

Related: Pelini says “I’m human like anyone else”

But, on Monday, Pelini was facing a firestorm over a Deadspin report about a recording in which can be heard cursing “fair-weather” Cornhuskers fans and reporters, dropping expletives right and left after a game — that occurred two years ago. Pelini found himself apologizing for audio in which he was speaking off the air with Greg Sharpe, the Husker Sports Network’s play-by-play caller, before a radio interview. (You can listen to the interview on Deadspin here; be warned that is extremely NSFW.)

“I want to sincerely apologize for my comments from two years ago which became public today,” Pelini said in a statement released by the school Monday night. “I take full responsibility for these comments. They were spoken in a private room following the Ohio State game. I was venting following a series of emotional events which led to this moment. That being said, these comments are in no way indicative of my true feelings. I love it here in Nebraska and feel fortunate to be associated with such a great University and fan base. I again apologize to anyone whom I have offended.”

In the recording, Pelini blasted a couple of reporters, then let ‘er rip about Cornhuskers fans. “It took everything in my power to not say, ‘[Expletive] you, fans. [Expletive] all of you.’ [Expletive] ‘em,” he said. “Our crowd. What a bunch of [expletive] fair-weather [expletive] — they can all kiss my [butt] out the [expletive] door. ‘Cause the day is [expletive] coming now. We’ll see what they can do when I’m [expletive] gone. I’m so [expletive] [ticked] off.”

You get the picture. That wasn’t Pelini’s only problem Monday with Nebraskans, either. He also stepped in it with his response to criticism of his 51-21 program from former Nebraska quarterback Tommie Frazier.

“I didn’t read what he had to say, I kind of heard about it,” Pelini said at his Monday press conference, before the tape surfaced. “I can say this, we have a staff of players, people, administration, everybody here who is busting their butt to do what they can and win football games and do everything they can for these student-athletes. Since I’ve came back here, I’ve embraced the former players. And if he feels like that, then so be it, we don’t need him. That’s a shame.

“Until you’ve sat in this seat and done it, anybody can have an opinion. Anybody can do that. But like I said, it’s easy to point fingers and stand outside and throw stones. I take it for what it is.”

On Monday evening, Nebraska officials weren’t saying whether Pelini might lose his job. “We are taking some time to consider it and what impact it would have on the university,” Chancellor Harvey Perlman said.

There may be plenty of reasons to fire Pelini, Yahoo’s Dan Wetzel writes, but this two-year-old bleepfest isn’t one of them. “What Pelini said is pretty much what every coach has said in some way at some time” Wetzel says. “It may be with less colorful language, but the sentiment is the same. If they haven’t, they probably aren’t particularly competitive.”

The bigger issue is winning and a fan base that is increasingly less supportive, particularly  after Saturday, when Nebraska suffered its most lopsided loss to a nonconference opponent at home since 1961. “When the bottom fell out on former coach Bill Callahan in 2007,” ESPN’s Mitch Sherman writes, “he had little equity upon which to stand with the fans. Their relationship disintegrated quickly. It helped seal his fate.”

Still, it isn’t as if Nebraska and Cornhusker fans didn’t know that they were getting a fiery coach Pelini was hired. “If you sell out for this guy,” CBS Sports.com’s Dennis Dodd writes, “you don’t get some of the Pelini. You get the Full Pelini.”

It’s just better when it’s turned full blast on opponents.

Follow @CindyBoren on Twitter and on Facebook.

Related: Pelini apologizes in 2010 for outburst at freshman, refs

After spending most of her career in traditional print sports journalism, Cindy began blogging and tweeting, first as NFL/Redskins editor, and, since August 2010, at The Early Lead. She also is the social media editor for Sports.
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Cindy Boren | September 17, 2013