Ok, I'll admit it... I was happy when Steve Pederson's firing was confirmed this afternoon ... but mostly for the wrong reasons. Don't get me wrong, I think it was a desperately needed move for Nebraska athletics.
But is it really a day to celebrate? Only for selfish reasons. I called for his firing twice, most recently last week. Should I really be taking enjoyment out of someone else's misfortune? Certainly, Pederson wonders where he'll go from here, though is $2+ million dollar severance will cushion the blow to him personally. And it's not like he's an innocent victim; he earned his title of Nebraska's Enemy of the State.
And it's not like this suddenly solves all of the Huskers problems. It's not like Pederson's firing is going to suddenly mean that the Huskers are going to suddenly be able to tackle an opponent or score a touchdown while the game is still in doubt.
What this means is that very soon we can close the whole sorry chapter of the Steve Pederson Error. Next month, Nebraska will fire most, if not all, of the football coaching staff, who have lost just about all of the players on this squad. A new athletic director will once again select a new head coach. The future of Nebraska football looks very unclear at this point.
Change does not mean things will get better, it just means they will be different. Let's look at our rivals to the south, the Oklahoma Sooners.
When their legendary coach left, they handed their program to a long-time trusted assistant, who did an OK job, but never reached the success of their legendary coach. So their athletic director made a bold decision, and hired an outsider who had taken another team to surprising heights once.
Bill Callahan is very much like Howard Schnellenberger. He came in with grandiose plans to remake the Sooner programs ... and failed miserably. Schnellenberger "restored the order" briefly, even got the Sooners into the Top 10 before collapsing down the stretch. He never accepted Sooner history, and he resigned after one tumultuous season. Callahan's time is stretched over four seasons at Nebraska, but Callahan seems to be headed for the label "Nebraska's Schnellenberger".
A lot of Nebraska fans are calling for a "Nebraska man" to be named head coach. That could be a huge mistake if he's not the right coach. Barry Switzer thought John Blake was the right man, and pushed Oklahoma to hire him. Blake stumbled and bumbled his way through three seasons before he was gone as well.
No, Nebraska needs to find the RIGHT coach... a great coach that also recognizes and accepts Nebraska history. Oklahoma found that when they hired Joe Castiglione as athletic director, who turned around and hired Bob Stoops as head coach. Stoops was not a Sooner, but he embraced Sooner history. His first spring game, they lined up in the wishbone for the opening snap.
My point is that we don't necessarily need an athletic director or head coach with Nebraska ties...but rather an athletic director or coach that truly embraces Nebraska.
Would Tom Osborne be the right man to be athletic director, at least in the interim? Right now, he would seem to be the logical choice and he's earned the right to this position. Nobody is more qualified to analyze the Nebraska football program and select the next head coach.
That being said, the next football coach doesn't need to be a former Nebraskan. If he is, that's frosting on the cake.
On one hand, today is a sad day because of the last four years of turmoil in Husker Nation. Fans have been divided about the 2003 coaching change, and it's never healed. So far, Pederson's firing has seemed to do what Pederson himself couldn't do: unite the fan base. In recent days, nearly all Pederson supporters have either changed their mind or accepted that it wasn't working. But if today's changes result in a much more unified Husker fan base, we hopefully will look back at today as a great day in Husker history.
So is today a happy day or sad day? Or is it both? We'll know for sure in a few years. Perhaps the best way to describe today is that the Pederson Error is finally over.