Today's news that former Nebraska running backs assistant coach Ron Brown is following Bo Pelini to Youngstown State is eliciting strong reactions from folks at both extremes of the opinions regarding Pelini.
Folks who still believe in Bo bemoan that Brown not only wasn't retained, he wasn't really even considered.
Folks who want Bo buried in the past bemoan that the topic even came up.
Both are wrong.
Ron Brown's legacy with Nebraska football makes this newsworthy. We had stories about Urban Meyer hiring Tim Beck, so why not stories about Ron Brown, who was hired in 1987 by Tom Osborne?
So should Brown have been retained by Mike Riley?
My answer is: not unless Mike Riley really wanted to.
Coaches should build their staffs with the people they want to work with. There shouldn't be any restrictions from outsiders (fans, former players, or administrators) as to who they hire. If Mike Riley wants his first hire to be a guy he promoted from being a graduate assistant barely one year earlier, that's his call. (It did make it fun to watch the people who criticized the experience level on Bo Pelini's staff squirm when that happened.)
Mike Riley wants to go a different direction? Let's go then. Ron Brown is owed our thanks for his longevity and his contributions to championships over the years. He's not owed another job in Lincoln. He's been compensated very fairly for his contributions to Nebraska football, and he isn't owed anything other than what is spelled out by the terms of his contract.
Should Brown's fervent religious beliefs be an issue? Absolutely not. In this country, we have the freedom to believe what we want to believe, and as long as Brown is simply sharing, not enforcing, his beliefs on others, that should never be an issue. From my perspective, Ron Brown's relationship with Ameer Abdullah, a devout Muslim, is proof enough to me that Brown knows - and practices - the distinction.
In fact, telling Brown that he can't share his beliefs is more offensive than Brown's proselytizing. It's freedom "of" religion that is protected, not freedom "from" religion. Ron Brown is welcome to share his beliefs, and we're all better for him doing that. We learned that in the wake of the revelation of the horrors that Jerry Sandusky inflicted on young kids at Penn State in 2011. That doesn't mean that Brown has always toed that line properly. He admits as such; he knows he's sinner.
So why did he decide to work again for Bo Pelini, especially after the release of that secretly taped final meeting with his players? Critics point to the negative things he said: the vulgarities and the claims that many people around Nebraska wanted him to fail.
But that's only part of the story. National media types picked up on a theme in that meeting that the local media pretty much missed, and that is how much Pelini cares for his players. And his coaches as well. The local media missed it because, well, the World-Herald released the juiciest quotes first (tainting the discussion without context), then falling back on the prickly relationship many have with Pelini.
So Ron Brown is off to Youngstown State. I hope it all works out for Youngstown State, just like I hope this all works out for Nebraska.
Ron Brown is a good man, just like Bo Pelini is and I hope Mike Riley is.