H U S K E R D A N
ATTENTION, SPACE TRAVELERS:
Unless you've been off the planet the past few days, you are aware of the turmoil in Huskerland caused by Sunday's Lincoln Journal article about Nebraska AD Steve Pederson and his "plans" to ask for Solich's resignation after the Colorado game this Friday in Boulder. The Journal's sources for the column were several anonymous boosters. You have to wonder how much credence should have been given to anonymous sources.
But the story had a life of its own. I had heard the rumor last Thursday from a friend. I heard it again at wedding reception Saturday night. I heard it Sunday morning on the radio. I heard it Sunday afternoon in the grocery store. I heard it again on ESPN Sunday afternoon. If there's smoke, there must be fire, right?
Well, not exactly.
Last night during KFOR's "Talk To Steve Pederson" show, Pederson denied he's had any contact with boosters or anyone else regarding the status of head coach Frank Solich. Steve said, as he's said many times, he never discusses coaching issues until after the season has ended. So somebody's obviously lying. Time will tell who is.
Should Pederson have come out earlier with a vote of confidence in the coach? Yes. Why did he wait three days to do so? I don't know.
RECRUITING, RECRUITING, RECRUITING
The biggest concern anyone should have is the effect the Journal's story might have on recruiting and second, how the news will effect the Huskers game at Boulder this Friday. My guess is that there will be little damage done to either...unless another rumor gets started.
Make no mistake about it, the future of the Husker football program as we know it, rests in the recruiting classes of the next 2 or 3 years. The Huskers are on the verge of having a top 15 recruiting class. Anything that disrupts our recruiting efforts may sink us further into football mediocrity.
Steve Pederson is well aware of how critical recruiting is. He is a football person. He's smart, he will not do anything to jeopardize the success of the Husker program. You can rest assured that whatever moves he makes, will be for the good of Huskerland.
All this brings us to the question of Frank Solich and his status as head coach. There are many Husker fans who are calling for his head. "He's taken the best college football program in the country and run it into the ground." "He can't coach, recruit, he looks lost, he sticks with Lord, won't play Joe Dailey, his offense is predictable, we are getting stomped by teams we used to dominate etc."
We've all heard those chants; many of us have agreed with them. How can you defend the fall of a once proud and dominate football program? Couldn't something have been done to prevent this from happening?
Maybe we should all take a deep breath and look at some issues from a different perspective. Here are the issues I hear from Husker fans:
1.) Solich needs to go.
Okay, so Solich goes-then what? Get a new head coach? Okay, let's try that. Any head coach will want to bring is assistants with him. The Huskers have 6 new assistants (some re-assigned) since the off-season last year. Do you really think it would be wise to bring in a new bunch again this year? The results would be potentially disastrous to NU's recruiting efforts. It ain't gonna happen.
2.) Promote somebody from within.
Okay, let's do that. Who is the likely candidate? Turner Gill? Perhaps? Ron Brown? We know that Bo Pelini took a lateral move from his assistant coaching job with the Packers to come to Lincoln to be defensive coordinator. We also know that some day Pelini wants to be a head coach. Right? So move Gill or Brown in that role and see how fast Pelini bolts for another school. You say he wouldn't do that? How about joining his ol' buddy Mike Stoops at Arizona (assuming Stoops takes the position). Stoops would take Bo in a heartbeat.
3.) Promote Bo to head coach.
Is Bo ready for a head coaching position after just one year as an assistant? Maybe, maybe not. My sense is, that when Frank Solich is ready to retire in a couple of years, Bo will be the guy. My guess is that Marv Sanders will be the new defensive coordinator, and Bo will promote his little brother to assistant.
4.) Solich has driven the Husker program into the ground.
It's true, our recruiting has not been good the past several years. Our offense is predictable-53 yards rushing against Texas? We're getting punked by any team that is good. Losing is one thing, but getting stomped is another.
Okay, so what should Solich have done? His team went 11-2 in 2001, played for the national championship and had a Heisman winner to boot. So whom should have Solich fired at the end of that year?
When the Huskers slipped to 7-7 last year, the worst record since 1961, Frank Solich did what any CEO in his position would do-he made some tough executive decisions he thought would give the Huskers the best chance of winning in succeeding years. He fired two coaches, asked some others to retire, re-assigned some coaches, hired a new defensive coordinator and a new weight training coach.
Have these changes turned the program around this year? No-at least not to the Husker standards of old. Have Husker fans had reason to get upset about this year's performance? Absolutely. But cowboys, help is on the way.
This program is not going to turn around in one year-or even two years. Not with the lack of talent and depth the Huskers have suffered from the past two years. We have a quarterback who likely would be ranked last in the Big 12. He has not developed as many expected he would or should. Meanwhile, Joe Dailey is getting blisters sitting on the bench. Husker fans demand patience and they want it now.
To be sure, there are many issues that need to be addressed before the Huskers return to dominance. We need an I-back-not just ANY I-back. We need a difference maker. We desperately need offensive linemen. And we need a quarterback who can throw.
I think the best recruiting tool the coaches can use to attract some great quarterback prospects, is to show them game films of how wide open our receivers have been all year. That should make any quarterback salivate.
Now, some of you will say, "Husker Dan, you've been critical of those same issues, so why are you now defending Solich? Did someone get to you? Did you lose your marbles?" No. I keep reading and discussing issues with friends, ex-players and the many people who write me. I am always open to people who challenge my beliefs. Do I get angry at the way the season's gone? You bet. But sometimes it helps to look at the big picture before any of us yell for coaching changes in Lincoln.
HUSKER DAN SEZ:
THE SLIDE SHOW:
Two years ago, lest we forget, began the slide of the Husker program from its once proud level of dominance. The Huskers were shelled in 2001, 62-36, didn't win the Big 12 North Division; didn't play in the Big 12 championship game, but somehow qualified to meet Miami for all the marbles in the Rose Bowl.
The rest is history. Nebraska was pummeled by the Hurry-canes. Including the CU loss of 2001, Nebraska is:
*14-12 against D 1-A opponents.
*Only 3 of the 14 wins were over teams that finished with winning records or have them this year (Arizona State, Oklahoma State, Southern Mississippi).
*1-8 against ranked opponents, with an average defeat of 22 points.
*3-9 on the road or at neutral sites with an average margin of defeat of 21 points.
(The above statistics taken from Lee Barfnecht's column in the Omaha World Herald, 11-18-03)
WHAT'S AT STAKE:
Husker Pride (Worldwide).
CU wants to have a winning season.
NU wants a 9 or a 10 win season.
CU wants to go to a bowl game-any bowl game.
NU wants a trip to the Holiday Bowl.
CU hates NU.
NU hates CU.
CU wants to beat the Huskers 3 years in a row.
Huskers want revenge from the butt-kicking they endured 2 years ago in Boulder.
Garry Barnett wants to save his job.
Frank Solich wants to save his job.
Barnett wants a home win.
Solich wants a road win.
Something's gotta give. Make no mistake about it, this is a game the Huskers can and should win. The Buffs have a one dimensional quarterback who should be easy pickin's for the NU secondary. The Buff running attack is not good. The offensive line is not the one we faced the last two years. In short, if the Huskers play their best and CU doesn't, the Huskers will come out with a win.
But something about this series makes the Buffs play much tougher when the red-letter Huskers come to Boulder. Even when we've had the likes of Frazier, Crouch and Frost, the games have been very close. We don't have that type of quarterback and we don't have the supporting cast those quarterbacks had. This is a road game in a mile high stadium. The Huskers road successes have not been good and that's why this year, the Huskers will likely lose.
It pains me to pick against the Huskers. But rest assured, I've done this once before. The result? A Husker win on the road against the Aggies last year. Let's hope I'm wrong. Let's hope the Huskers rally in a close one. Let's hope the Journal's story rallies the troops. The Huskers usually struggle in Boulder. Sorry Husker fans:
You can write Husker Dan at