Tuesday, December 16, 2014

So Why Is Bo Pelini Taking the Youngstown State Job?

It turns out FootballScoop.com was on the right track when they reported last week that Bo Pelini was headed to division 1-AA Youngstown State.  Last week's "complete fabrication of the truth" is now reality. But why Youngstown State? What does that say about Bo Pelini?

The step-down to 1-AA has certainly empowered Pelini critics to use the coaching market as justification for Nebraska's coaching change.
Comments like that, though, only reinforce in my mind that Pelini's detractors aren't terribly confident in their position.  The "nine wins for seven straight years"  line is one of those facts that's constantly misunderstood by his critics.  Let's make things exactly clear: nobody has ever... EVER ... suggested that Bo Pelini's record at Nebraska is exactly like Alabama's or Oregon's over the last seven years.  Those two teams are the exception.  The comparison is to the OTHER 120+ division 1-A football programs:  the ones that haven't won 9 or more games every year starting in 2008.

We also have the snide statements that this was the highest profile job Bo Pelini could find.  That may ... or may not be true.  I suspect it's not.  I think Bo was considered for the Wisconsin job, but the last two NU/Wisconsin games would have made Pelini a hard sell in Madison.  I'm sure there are plenty of other jobs Pelini would have been a candidate for, and may have been, in fact.

So why Youngstown State?  Everybody knows that Youngstown, Ohio is Bo's home town.  And that's the clincher for Pelini in my opinion.  It is home.  Nebraska is going to pay him nearly $8 million over the next five years, so barring a Power Five conference job coming open, he's not going to make more money elsewhere.  Every dime Pelini makes at another school is a dime that Nebraska doesn't have to pay, so there simply aren't going to be many opportunities to make more money at another school.

I think the biggest deal for Bo Pelini is bringing his family back to Youngstown, Ohio.  His kids can attend Cardinal Mooney, and family is a big deal to Bo Pelini.  A really big deal.  Back in 2007, Yahoo! Sports interviewed then-LSU defensive coordinator Bo Pelini and highlighted the man inside the gray sweatshirt.  This quote stands out to me today:

Across town, many of the 92,000 fans who will attend LSU's showdown against defending national champion Florida are already stirring gumbo and guzzling Miller Lite in the parking lot at Tiger Stadium.

But to Bo Pelini, that game is no more important than the one he's at now – mainly because his son, Patrick, is among the players trying to kick the ball into the net.

"It's fun watching your kids grow up," Pelini, who also has two daughters, says later. "Baseball, t-ball, gymnastics, ballet. I try not to miss anything."
LSU's defensive coordinator pauses for a moment and grins.
"But," Pelini says, "I do think a few people get freaked out when they see me standing on the soccer field the morning of such a big game."
Pelini's kids are now eight years older now, and last summer, he talked about driving his kids to summer camps across the state of Nebraska.  That's something most people wouldn't expect most coaches to do.  But that's not Bo Pelini.  Remember a couple of years ago when Pelini raised a stir by taking his son to a North Carolina/Duke basketball game?
That's Bo Pelini to me.  I think this is a family move for Bo Pelini, pure and simple. It's not so much that he's returning home as much as his family is.  And frankly, I'd actually be surprised if Pelini didn't spend a few years at Youngstown State.  At this point, it's not about the money.  Nebraska will be paying Pelini for the next five years, and he'll earn the same thing whether he's coaching at Youngstown State, Colorado State, Houston, or Memphis.  Only place he earns more money is if a Power Five job opens up.

Five years from now, the situation may be different.  His youngest daughter will be finishing up at Cardinal Mooney in all likelihood, and Pelini should have a solid resume at Youngstown State that would be enticing to other big name programs. In the meantime, Pelini will have had a chance to refine his coaching prowess.  He might be ready to jump back into the rat race of big-time football then.

But for now, Youngstown isn't the biggest place Bo Pelini could find.  For Bo Pelini, it's just the best place.


Joe Carver said...

Very well stated Mike.

I'm a life-long Bama fan who's lived among you Children of the Corn for almost 15 years, so I've had a front row seat for the unraveling of the Husker nation since that fateful day at Folsom Field in November 2001. I very clearly remember the "blasphemy" of those woeful Callahan years and I also remember the exuberance of Husker fans at the hiring of Pelini in December 2007. I thought it was an excellent hire and I'm very sad to have seen it end as it did.

I had the good fortune of sitting next to Bo on a flight from Omaha to Cincinnati a couple of weeks after his hire (yes, he flew coach, and everybody on the plane recognized him - he got a round of applause when he boarded). Bo was still employed by LSU at the time (BCS Championship Game pending), but he was already on a recruiting trip for Nebraska. I talked to him for about an hour during our flight and it was very obvious he was passionate about two things: His family and his players (i.e. his big extended family).

Youngstown is undoubtedly family home for Bo, and I agree he made the decision to coach there based on his family's needs. Money and prestige don't really matter when your priorities are properly aligned. Good on Bo for having the balls to do what's best for his kids.

Joe Carver said...

A follow-up to my previous post - I knew about this article but it took me a while to find it:


Be careful about what you wish for Husker fans... true honest coaching passion is very hard to find, and unrealistic expectations following a coaching legend can impact your program for many years, often with dire consequences (see Perkins-Curry before Stallings and Dubose-Franchione-Price-Shula before Saban).

Bama Joe