Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Pelini Brothers Need To Own Up To Saturday Night

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, 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.


Count Istvan said...

I'll say the same thing to you that I said in an email to Harvey Perelman. And keep in mind that I always enjoy your blog and normally agree with it, but I just don't get the blame the victim reaction to last night. Somehow even after the worst officiated game since the ending of the movie Friday Night Lights the fault has gone from the officials themselves to the victims of the crime.

For a state that talks so much about it's values I didn't realize that standing silently and even apologizing for being wronged was one of them.

Anonymous said...

You have to be kidding me! Bo needs time to learn the nuances!?
Give me a break!! If he was in any other organization he would have been fired! Bob Devaney never did this, Tom Osborne never did anything like this, Frank Solich....etc!
He has an anger issue and the loose cannon has finally backfired. Weld it shut and put it on the scrap pile where it belongs. This Woody Hayes coaching style has no place in Nebraska football. We have always been more classy then the Pelini's could ever be. There are plenty of great coaches past and present ( Landry, Dungy, Osborne, Vermeil,etc,etc) who coached not bullied.

Doc said...

I totally agree with the "anonymous" posting. Pelini must go. He has shown himself to be classless and NOT a true husker. I was born and raised in Nebraska and have been a husker fan for 50+ years. NEVER would this exhibit been displayed by any (except maybe Callahan and not a true husker either)Nebraska coach. Truly a sad day for husker fans everywhere. Dr. Tom and the chancellor need to give Mr. Pelini the pink slip!

Count Istvan said...

I see the trolls are coming out of the woodwork.

Brandon said...

I can't believe all the sensitive idiots who are calling for Bo's head. First we had Solich and he wasn't good enough. Then we had Callahan and he was too quiet and non-emotional. Now we have Pelini who has finally gotten the program up top 10 levels again and we say he has too much passion! People will never be satisfied.

I've also got a strong feeling that everyone posting around on news articles on blogs as "Anonymous" are rogue Big 12 (Texas) fans trying to stir up the fire and cause more controversy. Please. They lecture us about class while they troll on our comment sections.

And anyone who still backs Perlman can kiss my ass. He's the one who hired Callahan and Pedersen and gave them some hefty goodbye raises with our tax payer dollars. The guy doesn't even understand the basic concepts of football. If anyone wants to show Bo the light it has to be TO.

Robert said...

I think Husker Mike is right on. NU is obviously interested in getting rid of the “bath water” -- and if they manage that, it's probably in NU's best interest to keep the baby. Perhaps a silly metaphor (or too close to home... whatever), but the Pelinis have demonstrated commitment to the program. And they seem to be on the track to bring NU back to relevance. I like the passion, but not to the extent they exuded at the A&M game.

With a mild-tempered Colorado game behind us, it looks like whatever was said to Bo actually worked (though he wasn't tested much, for sure). If he survives the B12 Champ game with grace, I'm willing to give him a pass.

And to Count Istvan regarding "standing silently," I'm sure Coach Osborne never apologized for being wronged. He also had earned the respect of the refs and no one ever attributed any conspiracy theories about penalties against NU stemming from his silence. Pelini asked for those penalties at A&M by running his yap; obviously BS calls, but he has no one to blame for that loss but himself.

The key is how you handle adversity. "With grace" is the gold standard as far as I'm concerned. Osborne was a freak of stoicism -- but the beautiful thing about his last 5 years was when things were going right, there were no huge outbursts. He effectively was saying: "That's the way I drew it up. Of course we scored a touchdown."

I have an appreciation for a subdued end zone celebration. Hi-five? Fine. But since the goal is to score, just act like you were supposed to be there (because that's where you ARE supposed to be). Business as usual. The massive outward displays in the end zone make it look like it's your first trip there, and you really didn't expect it to happen. "Wild celebration! Woo hoo! This could be our last time here! Let's party!" No thanks. In any event….

Pelinis: please don't lose your edge. Just be more judicious in how you use it.