Bo Pelini is the current head football coach at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. I say “current” because I do not believe his tenure there will last much longer. In the long history of the football school, the head coach of the team has always been a major center of attention and a major campus star.
Bo Pelini never really fit in at Nebraska. He was proud of being Northeast crass and rude in the middle of the mild Midwest. He didn’t respect the fans, tradition, or the media. He loved to throw embarrassing fits of purple rage on the sidelines during nationally televised games. His teams have played unevenly and unpredictably. He is incapable of getting his coaching staff to make in-game changes in response to how the other team is adjusting. Pelini has always appeared lost, and adrift — and furiously angry about being stuck in Nebraska.
Now we have even more hard, historical, evidence of just how much Pelini loathes the State of Nebraska and its people and its prairie university. He decided to mouth-off after a 2011 win over Ohio State in a room he knew had potential for live microphones. Here’s the Deadspin report that broke yesterday:
In the recording, Pelini is talking to Sharpe and to a woman whose identity we’ve been unable to determine. Pelini initially seems upset with an unknown person who works at the Omaha World-Herald, whom he calls “a piece of shit.” [Update (5:31 p.m.): As another reader has since noted, Pelini wasn't happy with the World-Herald's Dirk Chatelain during his presser after the Ohio State game. Pelini had been angry about this Chatelain column.] Pelini then begins venting about World-Herald columnist Tom Shatel: “Fuck him, too. Fuck him. That’s what I’m going to tell him. He wants to walk out after my press conference? I’m gonna say, ‘Get the fuck away from me. I’m done with you, motherfucker.’ I’m done with him.”
All of that is just the prelude to Pelini’s message for the Huskers’ fans: “It took everything in my power to not say, ‘Fuck you, fans. Fuck all of you.’ Fuck ‘em.” After Sharpe says a lot of students had left at halftime, the woman starts to say that people did return to their seats. Pelini interjects: “Our crowd. What a bunch of fucking fair-weather fucking—they can all kiss my ass out the fucking door. ‘Cause the day is fucking coming now. We’ll see what they can do when I’m fucking gone. I’m so fucking pissed off.”
I grew up in Nebraska and I graduated from UNL. I was raised with the core morals and values of a university that tried to be something more than just a football team — but never really quite made it out of the shadows of Bob Devaney and Tom Osborne. Tom Osborne led his teams with dignity and quiet strength.
When the game was on the line, or when he was winning in a blowout, Osborne always wore the same, neutral, cool expression on his face. He was teaching us, and his team, through the living example of his life that, no matter what, it is our moral duty to always remain calm, and calculating, and ready to strike — and that sort of core conditioning meant no purple-faced screaming in despair, and no red-faced yelling in joy was ever necessary. If you want to remain sane and calm and — “Midwestern” — you leave the theatrics at home, and in public, you are proper and kind and in control of your whole being in situ.
That sort of being in admirable control is a values hallmark of those who have lived in the Midwest. We are taught to not get too excited because the fall into despair can be twice as deep as the high — and that’s why it’s always confounded me why Tom Osborne, as the Athletic Director at UNL — chose to hire such a boor like Pelini to lead his grand program and to protect the good legacy of the players and coaches who served to sublimate their individual wishes for the greater good in the name of Big Red Football.
Nebraska football has not always been about winning — there were lean years in the history of the program — but the one thing we were brought up to never leave behind was our dignity. If we win, we win with grace – and if we lose, we learn from the loss, and we continue to share our grace with others in our defeat.
Bo Pelini belies that tradition of grace in every instant of his being. He’s a sore loser and, as Deadspin has now rightly demonstrated, and even sorer winner. UNL needs to get its football act back together and get rid of Bo Pelini and move forward with a proper, moral man, who appreciates his opportunities for greatness, and who values the support of a university and its fans.
Nebraskans have always chosen hard-won wisdom over the fleeting feel-good instant, and starting over with a new head football coach will lead us back into a hard humility without hubris; but that’s okay, as long as we have the right coach, with the right moral character to lead us, once again, by example — and not by the fury of a mean little man who has proven he is not a leader of men.