Bo Pelini was chosen by Dr. Tom Osborne to resurrect the Husker football program that Bill Callahan had driven into the lowest levels since before Bob Devaney in 1962 and started the most successful period in Husker football. Bobfather and Dr. Tom combined for 350 victories while maintaining a strong winning tradition that had become dormant in Lincoln.
What is Husker football and how is it different than any other University program in the USA? Simply put the population in Nebraska has stayed near 1.5 million people since I can remember. That indicates that the Nebraska loyalty has ranged far outside the Nebraska boundary. Yet the standards that each of us had ingrained while growing and learning within those boundaries remain. We value integrity, hard work and success. Dr. Tom provided those magical elements in major doses. His teams developed weight training and brought standards to the University level programs that are duplicated throughout the country today. Dr. Tom’s teams were bruisers and powered over other teams by being bigger, stronger and overwhelming each opponent except Oklahoma until late in Dr. Tom’s time as a head coach. Then he dominated them as well.
When I was elected to the Southern Arizonans for Nebraska at the Founder’s Day banquet Dr. Tom talked about three essential elements for a Husker football player to be successful at the Bowl Championship Level: intelligent enough to complete a University degree, physically talented enough to play football at the BCS level and spiritually able to play at a level to be a champion. He stated that it was easy to find the intelligent kids that had the talent to play at the BCS level. The spirit that each kid had to have to take himself and his team to that BCS Championship level was the most difficult element to measure and recruit.
Whenever I talk to players that have played for Dr. Tom they are still very loyal and strongly defend the impact that Dr. Tom had on their lives in an extremely positive manner. His teams displayed talent in the large number of wins they accumulated in the twenty five years Dr. Tom was the head coach. The number of academic All-Americans is legendary and the only university that comes close is Notre Dame. And in the last five years the spirit that Dr. Tom learned to develop in the recruits that he was able to bring into the state of Nebraska that joined the strong work effort of the Nebraskans that were the “Walk-On” program at Nebraska. The results of Dr. Tom’s teams are legendary and are only approached by the likes of coaches that would love to have his success. Nick Saban is coming close and we are seeing what he may be able to do with his Alabama team for an unheard three National Titles in three years.
Yet, the Nebraska legend that was initiated by the Bobfather, Dr. Tom, Frank Solich, Bill Callahan and now Bo Pelini marches onward. Frank Solich earned his mention as a coach that was successful and only had one non-winning season in his tenure. He was pushed out by a native Nebraskan that had strayed away from the Nebraska path decided that his version of Husker football was to be better than what the Bobfather and Dr. Tom built. Callahan came to Lincoln thinking he knew Husker football better than anyone in the state. He changed many elements and minimized the vaunted “Walk-On” program. He failed to utilize what spirit built Husker football. His talent was great and the NFL still has his former Husker players in their midst. He failed because he did not understand the Husker spirit that was built by his predecessors.
When Dr. Tom came home to resurrect the Husker football programs he was able to study what was needed and how the team would need to be rebuilt. Then Dr. Tom proceeded to find a man that he felt brought those three elements into the Husker legend.
Looking back on the years that Dr. Tom was building his teams and his understanding of the game his teams were very good at overpowering teams and not known for come from behind wins. It took Dr. Tom many years to learn how to get his teams to do what they had to do to win the games. That spirit that every Husker fan loves and feels is their right to Husker football.
In the time that Bo Pelini has coached our beloved Huskers we have never won less than nine games a year. It is a standard that Solich and Callahan did not obtain. Callahan disgraced the State by enduring a losing season.
In the last five years we have seen many Huskers leave college as graduates. There are many players that Bo has coached that have gone on to NFL careers. We have seen Academic All-Americans that have graduated and accomplished academically as medical doctors and dentists. We have seen Nebraska football players contribute to society in many positive ways as citizens. The Spring Game in 2013 accomplished at a national level what we as Nebraskans have seen for many years with Jack’s single touchdown run. The Huskers that have come to Lincoln to play football for Nebraska has been model citizens contributing to society more than any previous teams accomplished.
On the football field we have seen teams learn how to win in 2012 coming from behind five times winning games that we would have given up on Dr. Tom’s team in his early years. The 2011 Ohio State come from behind was the largest come from behind win point spread in Husker history. The Husker teams are accomplishing feats enabling them to look back with pride and say they were there at that time. And as adults they will be able to look back with pride at what they have accomplished year-in and year-out.
The team is very bonded to each other and their coaches. They know that the coaches and especially Bo have their backs they can study, earn their degrees and play football at levels higher than their parents expected when they were younger hoping to be Husker football players. Bo has reached the 50 win level at Nebraska that only has been accomplished by Frank Solich and notable coaching legends Dana Bible, Bob Devaney and Tom Osborne. He has accomplished this status in five years with a winning percentage currently at .718, the only other coaches at Nebraska to accomplish the 50 level in five years were Devaney and Osborne. He has accomplished a tremendous amount toward the turn-around that was needed to recover from Bill Callahan’s tenure. Yet the “Husker Boo Birds” are not happy with Bo.
Why are the “Husker Boo Birds” not happy? It is simply that the Boo Birds expect to win each and every game and be the National Champions each and every year and any accomplishment less than that are extreme disappointments. The fans in Husker Land live their fantasy lives in Husker Football. Is this realistic? As I consider what type of person is capable of bringing a National Championship that is an extremely rare event in that many teams cannot accomplish that feat and rarely repeat and accomplishing a three-peat an even more rare event.
Often the difference between winning a football game and losing by more than you should have is a very few mistakes that the players on the field make. We often forget that the players are all aged 18 to 22 years old. Yet those same kids take on their shoulders the hopes and dreams of each and every Husker fan in the Husker Nation.
In short the Husker Nation has a Husker football team they can be extremely proud.