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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?

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Husker Nation–Fans

Husker Stadium during game

Husker fans are the best fans in the country.  They are also the most fickle fans that grow passionate with their team as it passes into the off-season and the players are spending time in conditioning and the weight room gaining strength and ability to play football better next season. They also claim to be the most football knowledgeable fans in college football. The same fans know and understand what each player’s responsibilities are in each and every formation whether they are on the offense or the beloved Blackshirts. Rulebook knowledge is touted to be near perfect if not better. Each play is taken emotionally and  disappointment is strong if the play does not give their Huskers an advantage at the end of the play. Each offensive play should be a gain of 10 yards or more and often that play is expected to be for a touchdown. The Blackshirts are expected to sack the QB, tackle the running back for a loss, create a fumble or intercept a pass. This is what we all think of as normal for our expectations of the Huskers. We all know what should be done for each play and are tremendously disappointed when the coaches don’t make the calls to get our results.  We are also very proud of our 318 consecutive sell out crowds and counting a NCAA record way beyond the next closest streak owned by Notre Dame at 208 and counting. ND just about lost their streak this past year when they played Washington in South Bend. That won’t happen in Lincoln even with the stadium expansion that is sold out with the construction completion for the 2013 season.

Fans have been known to call talk radio and complain about the coach’s decision to call a play that was not successful and make the claim that they knew the play that would have worked and were indignant that the coach did not call the correct play. This has happened with the last four coaches and will continue long into the future as long as the University of Nebraska has a football team playing.  The most wonderful aspect of this fan base is all they have to do is have lived in the State of Nebraska, become a fan of the Huskers and last but least of all be an alum. As a past president of an alumni club we were encouraged by the Nebraska Alumni Association to accept all Husker fans in the local chapter even if they did not attend the university ever. They did request that we have chapter board members be alumni but that was not mandatory.

Each fan knows someone close to the football program if not on the inside knowing exactly what is going on behind the scenes and will tell anyone that will listen to them talk. I could tell stories about people that have told me what they knew about players and coaches and what was going on with their personal lives in intimate detail and way more than I wanted to know, TMI and then some. They go to great lengths to let everyone they know who is interested what they know. Most of those inside informers, if they are inside refuse to tell anyone what is going on to avoid the rumor mill. But that does not stop the stories from starting anywhere we Huskers meet with the insider knowledge claim.

As Husker fans, we do meet. Throughout our country we have Huskers that have traveled beyond our state’s borders and want to gather wherever we are with other equally rabid Husker fans and cheer our Huskers to victory.  The Alumni Association has an active list of “Watch Sites” on their website just so we can meet our fellow Husker fans where we live.

We take so much pride in our beloved Huskers that when they don’t play as well as we expect we use derogatory words to describe the coaches, players and the program they represent. We do not tolerate anything less than perfection of our Husker program well.

This off-season we are boiling over with the loss to South Carolina in the Capital One Bowl game.  Some are calling Bo Pelini an idiot that does not have the intelligence to coach up to our expectations from Bob Devaney and Dr. Tom Osborne. We refuse to understand that Bo has accomplished what few coaches have in their first four years at a BCS level of competition. Including the before mentioned Husker coaches. We also forget that Bob Devaney did not win his two national championships until his last three years. That Dr. Tom did not win his three national championships until his 22nd, 23rd and 25th year of coaching all of those years at Nebraska. We also neglect to remember that Bob and Dr. Tom both were able to win at a nine victory level for a period of 35 years. That our beloved Huskers only slipped below that level with the two coaches that followed those legends and both those coaches were terminated for losing more than was the standard at Nebraska.

We often forget that Bo Pelini is accepted by the coaches at the BCS and NFL level as a very good football coach that is expected to be above the vast majority of his peers as he has already proven to be at the four year point in his head coaching career at that nine win level and twice surpassing that level with ten wins. We also forget that Dr. Tom interviewed at Colorado because he felt the fans did not appreciate him for winning more than any other coach in Husker History did. We also forget that our program is continuing to maintain its position among the top four football programs in NCAA BCS history. Bo is doing an above average job as compared to Bill Callahan, that brought the first losing season in over 35 years and Frank Solich, which brought the first non-winning season to Nebraska in over 35 years.

Perhaps we need to look at those with the insider connections and realize what we are doing to ourselves.

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