Bo Pelini Can Join an Elite List with Bowl Win

Bo Pelini Can Join an Elite List with Bowl Win

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By Randy York

To coincide with the most wonderful time of the year, The N-Sider offers up some interesting little twists that make watching the Nebraska-Georgia Taxslayer.com Gator Bowl more historically relevant and, by its very nature, more fun. Let’s start with a bit of a stunner: In the history of college football, only seven BCS conference coaches have posted at least nine wins in each of their first six seasons as a head coach at that school. The last time something like that happened dates back four decades ago when Tom Osborne won at least nine games from 1973 to the 1978 season and, of course, went on to keep that streak for all 25 of his years as a head coach. Barry Switzer launched his head coaching career at Oklahoma the same year Osborne began at Nebraska. Switzer kept his minimum 9-win streak alive for his first eight years at OU before his Sooner teams finished 7-4-1 in 1981 and 8-4 in both ’82 and ’83. The list of coaches who have launched each of the first six years at a BCS school with at least nine wins includes:

Dr. Henry L. Williams (Minnesota) 1900-05, 65 wins

Dennis Erickson (Miami) 1989-93, 63 wins

Barry Switzer (Oklahoma) 1973-78, 62 wins

Steve Spurrier (Florida) 1990-95, 61 wins

Mack Brown (Texas) 1998-2003, 59 wins

Earl Bruce (Ohio State), 1979-84, 56 wins

Tom Osborne (Nebraska) 1973-78, 55 wins

That’s our trivial pursuit version of something that might expand from a Magnificent Seven to an Elite Eight list on New Year’s Day. If Bo Pelini can lead Nebraska to an upset win over Georgia in their Jacksonville rematch of last year’s Capital One Bowl, he can add his name to the “first six-seasons list” and increase his win total to 57, one more than Bruce and two more than Osborne, the man who hired him.

Osborne and Switzer Shared National Excellence

How rare is it for two coaches like Osborne and Switzer to rank so high on the same list? For three decades, they battled for seasonal supremacy in late November. Let the record show that Osborne lost to Switzer the first five of those six years (‘73-74-75-76-77) until the Huskers upset the top-ranked Sooners, 17-14 in 1978. Years later, Osborne made a substantive observation: “Our fans used to think Oklahoma was the enemy, but they actually made us better,” he said. Osborne and Switzer were longtime rivals who had great respect for each other. They are the only two coaches on the list who started their head coaching careers at that school during those designated years. With a win, Pelini, would be the third to achieve that milestone in his first head coaching stop. Erickson, Spurrier, Brown and Bruce had previously been head coaches at another BCS school.

Williams had previously been a head coach, but not at a BCS school. Big Ten history buffs know that Williams was Minnesota’s head football coach from 1900 to 1921. What some might not know is that Williams Arena, the home for Gopher basketball, is named after the legendary football coach.     

If Pelini joins Switzer and Osborne as history-makers in their respective first six seasons, he also would become the first BCS conference coach in college football history to take over a losing team and lead it to at least nine wins for each of his first six seasons. Pelini’s win total in comparative charts does not reflect his serving as Nebraska’s interim head coach when the Huskers beat Michigan State, 19-3, in the 2003 Alamo Bowl. The NCAA, however, recognizes Pelini’s Alamo Bowl win over the Spartans, giving the Youngstown, Ohio, native a 3-3 overall bowl game record as a head coach.

Bo Ranks 10th Among Active Division I Coaches

We finish this blog sharing the list of active college football Division I coaches who have the most wins since 2008, the year that Pelini first became an NCAA head coach. Here’s the elite company he’s in:

1) Nick Saban, Alabama, 72

2) Chris Peterson, Boise State, 68

3) Bob Stoops, Oklahoma, 62

4) Gary Patterson, TCU, 58

5) Les Miles, LSU, 60

6-7) Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State, 59

6-7) Brian Kelly, Cincinnati, Notre Dame, 59

8) Urban Meyer, Florida, Ohio State, 58

9) Frank Beamer, Virginia Tech, 57

10) Bo Pelini, Nebraska, 56

Numbers don’t lie. They frame historical perspective. Hope you enjoyed this little history lesson. It heightens my interest in the bowl rematch. How about yours?

Send a comment to ryork@huskers.com (Include city, state)

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