Monday, September 16, 2013

Bo Pelini Haunted By the Ghost of 2011's Ohio State Game

On Saturday, Bo Pelini thought his players "had seen a ghost" when Brett Hundley went nuts in the third quarter, enroute to a 41-21 victory. Today, Pelini was haunted by some comments he thought he had made privately just prior to his postgame radio interview - two years ago.  Somebody sent the audio to Deadspin, who posted it on their web site today.  The money quote was "F*** the fans"...and that has many people in an uproar. Chancellor Harvey Perlman and "Director of Athletics" Shawn Eichorst (isn't the traditional title "Athletic Director"?) had to issue statements of concern, while Bo Pelini issued an apology.

In all of the reporting, much of the context of that quote seems to be lost.  So let's review what happened.  After Nebraska lost to Wisconsin badly in the Huskers' first game in the Big Ten, a lot of criticism fell onto Taylor Martinez.  Omaha World-Herald commentator Dirk Chatelain wrote a scathing article afterwards, suggesting that Martinez should be benched if he had just one more bad performance. Nevermind that due to injuries and transfers, the best available alternative was struggling freshman Brion Carnes, who has since transferred and is a backup at 1-AA Northern Iowa.  Considering the fact that Nebraska didn't really have a viable alternative to Martinez (a point that Chatelain even admitted), I felt that Chatelain's piece was a "muddled mess".  Steve Sipple of the Lincoln Journal-Star called it "unfair".

In the rain against Ohio State, Nebraska fell behind 27-6 early in the third quarter.  Fans start leaving the stadium; some even boo. Martinez was actually playing pretty well at that point, compared to his teammates.  Lavonte David strips Braxton Miller of the ball, and then Miller has to leave the game.  Joe Bauserman can't hit the broad side of a barn, and Martinez led the school record comeback to win 34-27.  It was an extremely emotional post-game celebration as Pelini gave his embattled quarterback a game ball.
Next, Pelini heads to his post-game press conference where none other than Chatelain proceeds to ask a bunch of Taylor Martinez questions. Considering the source of the questions, Pelini gives Chatelain a piece of his mind, drawing applause from athletic department people looking on and outrage from Chatelain's friends in the media.

Fresh off of that, Pelini heads to the offices for his post-game radio interview with Greg Sharpe of the Husker Sports Network.  Prior to the interview, Pelini lets loose with his opinions, thinking that he's finally in private and can vent a little about Chatelain, Tom Shatel, and the fans who left early and booed.

But apparently Pelini wasn't in private.  Someone recorded Pelini's comments, and has held onto them for nearly two years.  Who isn't clear; obviously, it's someone with an axe to grind who also had access to the inner sanctum of Nebraska athletics that night.  Whether that's the athletic department or the network can't be determined, though.  I believe many members of the media knew of the existence of these comments for quite some time, as I've heard veiled references to it in the past.

Was Bo wrong to drop a bunch of "f-bombs"? Yes, but I understand why he felt that way.  It was an emotional win.  He felt wronged by Chatelain, and even more importantly, he felt that his quarterback was wronged. Pelini is immensely loyal to his players and assistant coaches, and he'll stand up for them whenever possible.  And he likely felt miffed by the fans who left early and booed.

But he wasn't alone.  I'm in absolute agreement with Pelini's comments that night; I nominated both Chatelain and the fans who left for the CornNation "Cobs of the Week" as the worst of the weekend.  I wasn't alone.  Chatelain won the "Cob" with 36% of the vote; the fans who left got 26%.

So are Pelini's comments all that bad?  Not to me. The language, yes...but we already knew Pelini liked to swear. How can I criticize Pelini for saying essentially the same thing I said at the time, albeit more colorfully.  If I criticize him now, that makes me a hypocrite. That being said, it's part of a larger environment of Husker football.  Pelini first and foremost has to fix the defense.  I think he's making some progress, others disagree.  I see progress when I see talented first-year defensive players being disruptive in the first half; that's more than we've seen as of late.  But the issues have emboldened Pelini's critics.  Tommie Frazier called for him to be fired on Saturday, and many media members took to Twitter to take Pelini out of context at his press conference while it was underway.

It's clear that many people have an axe to grind and are getting more dirty laundry to air.  This is what came out today; who knows what comes out in future days.  Could this lead to Pelini's dismissal?  Earlier today, I thought not.  But after tonight, I'm not so sure.  After all, who really knows what Perlman and Eichorst are really thinking.


James Leroy Wilson said...

If you haven't seen it, Dan Wetzel has a heckuva column about Pelini.

jeff725 said...


Did you read this from Dirk Chatelain?

Are you buying what he's selling?

Husker Mike said...

Not completely. I don't think Dirk "hates" Pelini, per se. But I do think that Dirk tries to provoke Pelini. It's not personal. I think he thinks it's being an aggressive reporter, ala Sam Donaldson.

I do believe, though, that Dirk wishes he has that article back, in hindsight.

jeff725 said...

Well, that didn't last long:

Dirk Chatelain ‏@dirkchatelain7m
Interesting question: Had the audio been released a year ago (around the time Osborne first heard it), would Harvey have fired Bo?

Dirk Chatelain ‏@dirkchatelain1m
Point is, the date of the audio is a wild card. What's the statue of limitations? If it's released in Dec '11, for example, it's a huge deal