Nebraska Cornhuskers football was once great, and on Sunday morning Huskers AD Shawn Eichorst recognized that with Bo Pelini as its head coach it wasn’t going to be great anytime soon. On Sunday, Eichorst fired Pelini after seven years on the job.
He gave the usual “time for a new direction” and thank you statement in a press release announcing the firing of Pelini.
Pelini finishes his seven-year Huskers tenure with a 67-27 overall record, four division championships (three Big 12 North & one Big Ten Legends) and zero conference titles. He also never finished higher than 14th in any of the final rankings.
More interestingly, Eichorst fired Pelini after two very public statements of support in as many years. Following the release of a taped conversation where Pelini went after the fans in 2012, Eichorst publicly stood behind his coach amidst calls for his job. He also reaffirmed his belief in Pelini just this past August, per ESPN.com.
To me that screams of an athletic director willing to be level-headed, but also realistic. He stuck with a head coach who was winning games, understood frustration from the fanbase, gathered all the facts and made a calculated decision.
He could’ve easily fired Pelini after those tapes emerged and he was new on the job, it would’ve been the easy thing to do. Instead, Eichorst took his time in figuring out the situation with the football program and ultimately made the choice not under immense public pressure, but because he felt it right for the future of the program.
It also speaks to an athletic director who wants this program to become what it once was, and is willing to make the big move to make it happen.
I’m sure names like former Huskers QB Scott Frost and a myriad of the nation’s best mid-major head coaches are going to be bandied about in the coming days and weeks. Only Eichorst knows the vision he has for the head coach coming in, but the reality is new blood and new energy were needed in the worst way.
Nearly losing to all three of the rest of the top of the Big Ten West was likely the final nail in the coffin for Pelini, and winning games against Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin will become the bare minimum standard of any coach coming in to replace Pelini.
So, while Eichorst begins the search process, he’ll at least have a clear vision of what doesn’t work and what he wants to have in place to get the Huskers closer to winning national titles. Ultimately, the goal is to get fans to stop talking about 1999 and start talking about the next championship they’re beloved Huskers are going to win.