Nebraska is letting football Coach Bo Pelini off the hook for his two-year-old rant — leaked to Deadspin — verbally abusing the school’s “fair-weather” fans after a victory in Lincoln over Ohio State. The question is whether Pelini will let it go. He says he has “an idea” about who leaked the tape, so maybe not.
But ’Huskers fans are probably ready to let it go. Nebraska’s followers are literally that — they dress in red, jump in their RVs and follow the ’Huskers. “Fair-weather” is a very unfair characterization.
“Spoiled” may be more a little more accurate. Pelini’s bigger sin — bigger than a profanity-laced tirade against the people who support his team — is losing four games in each of his five seasons in Lincoln. Nebraskans remember fondly their five national titles, most recently in 1994, 1995 and 1997, and after years of appearances in Sugars, Oranges, Roses, Fiestas and Cottons, back-to-back losses in the Capital One the past two seasons are not what the ’Huskers faithful expect.
But they likely will forgive, if not forget. Pelini has a temper, and his remarks, while troubling and offensive, were known by the university and dealt with by none other than Tom Osborne. When Osborne issues a statement telling ’Huskers fans to take a deep breath, the Great Plains experience a temporary oxygen shortage. It’s hard to understate Osborne’s clout. Of course, Osborne also hired Pelini while he was athletic director.
Pelini isn’t the only coach of a storied program in trouble this week, although their problems are very different. Texas Coach Mack Brown is under fire, and he has no luminary with the clout of Osborne to take his side. The Longhorns are 23-18 the past four seasons despite having enormous financial resources and one of the biggest recruiting backyards in the country.
This season, the Longhorns have lost big to Brigham Young (40-21) and Mississippi (44-23), and Brown looks and sounds beleaguered. His plan is to beat Kansas State this weekend and go on to win the Big 12 title. That might work out, although the Wildcats have won the past five meetings dating from 2006.
But Brown likely is only fooling himself. There are four Big 12 teams in the top 25 — Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, Baylor and Texas Tech — and Texas obviously isn’t one of them. (That last school in particular has to bother Longhorns fans long accustomed to better than a 1-2 start and 84 points allowed in two games.)
Kansas State might get back in the top 25 if it can recover from its season-opening loss to North Dakota State, a Football Championship Subdivision school but no one’s patsy. In fact, the Bison are such a good story that ESPN’s “GameDay” will be live from Fargo — yes, Fargo — on Saturday. (Previous hosts this year: Clemson, Ann Arbor and College Station. Of course, there isn’t a critically acclaimed indie film called “Clemson,” either.)
Nebraska, however, dropped out of the rankings this week and Texas last week. The temperature has only gone up in recent years as the sport has become more and more money-centric. Both schools have large, strong and vocal fan bases who demand more.
And both schools also pay more. Pelini is making $2.875 million this season. As for Brown, in 2009, he was given a permanent salary of $5 million a season, excluding bonuses and incentives.
Don’t get me wrong: I’d love for my alma mater, Kansas, to have the football tradition, facilities and talent of Texas and Nebraska. Heck, I’d love for my alma mater to be able to beat Rice. I used to dream that my school, just once, would play for the national title. But the more I see of college football, the less I want any part of it. I couldn’t handle the expectations. If Texas and Nebraska can’t meet them, who can?
For more by Tracee Hamilton, visit washingtonpost.com/hamilton.