Much has been written and tweeted about the conduct of Bo Pelini and his brother Carl during and after the Huskers 9-6 loss at Texas A&M. We've always known Bo Pelini was a fiery guy, and we've become used to seeing highlights of Pelini when things aren't going so well. Sometimes it's valid, like against Virginia Tech in 2008 when Pelini got an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. Sometimes it's not, when Pelini flipped his headset over his shoulder against Tech in 2009.
Last night, Bo Pelini went over the edge with his berating of the refs. Former Husker linebacker Blake Lawrence said on Twitter last night that Pelini's problems with this side judge dates back to 2008. In the end, Pelini's outbursts on the sideline didn't seem to help the Huskers, and considering the number of penalties called, probably hurt the Huskers more.
Then you've got the issue with Taylor Martinez on the sideline. For a couple of hours, the internet was full of rumors that Martinez was quitting the team. At this time, those rumors have been discredited. Even so, it was an ugly display on national television. In this day and age, television networks use more cameras than ever before, and I would be shocked if a dedicated "Pelini Cam" wasn't part of most network television broadcasts...just in case you get something juicy. Assign someone in the truck to keep an eye on Pelini and call out to the director if something happens, and boom, you've got instant highlights. I get that; that's what technology buys us today. So while we enjoyed those shots of Steve Spurrier in the 1996 Fiesta Bowl, now we cringe when the focus turns to the Husker head coach.
UNL Chancellor Harvey Perlman wasn't exactly pleased with what he saw, and he already discussed it with Tom Osborne this morning. I would be shocked if Osborne and Pelini hadn't already discussed this, and probably will discuss it further. While there will be discussions, I don't expect much to emerge from this officially, as long as the situation is addressed in some manner.
Here's what I'd suggest: We know that Pelini's outbursts will be one of the first couple of questions on tomorrow's Big XII teleconference. Pelini needs to be prepared to address the situation, and by address it, I mean he needs to be contrite and admit that his emotions got the better of him. Don't mention the calls, don't mention the specifics of the situation. That'll get him in even more trouble. Just admit that he's got to do a better job managing his temper. If he does this tomorrow as well as in Tuesday's press conference, Pelini will be just fine.
What he can't do is what Bill Callahan did five years ago after the throat slash. Everybody knew the question was coming, and Callahan denied even knowing anything about the controversy. He never accepted responsibility, and in the end, he got reprimanded by the Big XII for it. Callahan made the problem worse by not being upfront and contrite. Denial got him no where.
Sometime next month, or perhaps better after the season is over, I'd hope that Tom Osborne and Pelini would sit down and go over these situations, and hopefully bring in someone like former Husker quarterback Clete Blakeman, who's now an NFL referee, to help provide some perspective from the other side. Nebraska's move to the Big Ten may give Pelini a mulligan in his relationship with referees; a new conference means new crews, and while they likely have heard about Pelini, they won't have a personal experience to base it on.
I think Bo Pelini is still learning the nuances of being a head coach, but it's also easy for fans to confuse the manner with which he expresses himself on the sideline with the actual message that he's delivering. If Pelini was screaming and ranting with personal attacks on players, I don't think Pelini would have so much support from current and former players. Everything I've read and heard is that Pelini focuses on the mistake, not the individual who made them. If Pelini were to belittle a player in this manner, we'd have heard dissension from players by now. Lawrence confirmed this on Twitter this afternoon, saying that every player on the team is behind him.
So why does this approach work with players and not refs? My guess is that Pelini hasn't developed any personal relationship with referees...and shouldn't. So they get the full fury of Pelini; the "tough" without the "love."
I think Pelini knew that his approach didn't work by the time the team plane got back to Lincoln. I don't think Osborne and Perlman have to tell him or discipline Pelini; what they need to do is help Pelini find a way to grow and learn how to manage his actions on the sideline so it's not a distraction.
Brother Carl Pelini might have his own set of issues however, after his incident with the operator of TexAgs.com, who turned his camera on Carl Pelini after the game, then quickly panned up and away from Pelini before the camera angle sharply shifted towards the turf. Since the camera turned away from Carl, we don't know what, if anything, he did...though it doesn't take much to assume that Carl could have done something with the camera. Again, at this point, coming clean is probably the best defense at this point, rather than let the story fester.