H U S K E R D A N
Husker fans, learning of the firing of Frank Solich, fall into one of the following camps:
You think Steve Pederson should be burned at the stake for firing a loyal, great coach who was getting the program back on track. You are for boycotting Pederson, turning in your season tickets you've had since the Truman Administration. You are outraged by anyone who would think otherwise.
This group says, that although you think the program has suffered the past several years, you think Solich should have been given at least another year to see what he could do with his new assistants.
This bunch thinks Solich should have been fired long ago, before he had a chance to run the program into the ground. "Good riddance, you say and take that %$#!* lame quarterback with you."
Q & O (QUESTIONS AND OPINIONS)
Question: Where were you when you heard the news of Frank Solich's dismissal?.
Husker Dan: I was watching the news at home.
Q: What was your reaction?
HD. I was a bit shocked.
Q. Did you think Frank should have been fired, in view of a win at Boulder and a 9-3 record?
HD. I guess that's the part that surprised me. Most coaches who go 9-3 get contract extensions rather than get fired. I thought Frank had bought himself another year. I mean, who ever heard of a coach getting fired with a 9-3 record?
Q. Wasn't the way he was fired a little brutal? I mean the Husker Nation is a family. We don't cut coaches off at the knees, right?
HD. There is no easy way to fire someone. It's always tough. According to Pederson, the timing of his decision was moved up due to the LJS article that appeared the week before that quoted three anonymous boosters who said Steve Pederson was going to axe Solich after the Colorado game. Pederson claims he had to make the announcement sooner than he wanted, because all the assistant coaches were scheduled to leave on recruiting trips.
Q: So who's lying, Steve or the Lincoln Journal?
HD: Good question, but it's a moot point. We're going to have a new head coach and that's that.
Q: What do you say to those who want to boycott the football program?
HD: People can do what they want, but after the dust settles, it will still be the Huskers playing in front of 78,000 screaming Husker fans who are cheering for the Big Red. I have no patience with those who say they plan to root against the Huskers to protest Solich's firing. That's just insane. I can't believe any true Husker fan would, under any circumstances, hope for a Husker loss. I've heard from people earlier in the year who hoped the Huskers would lose down the stretch this year because they didn't want to be embarrassed by the Sooners in the Big 12 championship game. They also wanted us to lose so that Solich would get fired. That kind of thinking is absolutely astonishing to me.
Getting back to the Husker "family" issue. Let's not forget what happened last year. Solich fired defensive coordinator and former Husker linebacker, Craig Bohl and long time "family" member, assistant coach George Darlington. Frank also forced the retirement last year of two more loyal "family" members, Milt Tenopir and Dan Young.
Husker fans should also not forget that after the '82 season, long time "family" member and running backs coach, Mike "Iron Mike" Corrigan, was forced to retire. Mike wanted to stay on at least another year so he could have a chance to coach Mike Rozier, who he though would have a great chance to win the Heisman. Rozier won the trophy it in '83, but Corrigan was not his coach. Who was Corrigan's replacement? Frank Solich.
Last year, Solich also bypassed (never say "bypass" to an old person) long time "family" member assistant head coach Turner Gill for the role of offensive coordinator. The job went instead to Barney Cotton.
And in '93, despite the urging of head football coach Tom Osborne, former Husker head coach and then athletic director and "family" member, Bob Devaney, was forced out as AD to make way for "Dollar Bill" Byrne. We all need to understand that college football, especially, Husker football, is big business. Very big business. The Husker athletic department is self-sustaining. It doesn't get any state money. It must support all the other sports. Steve was hired to restore the football program (make that "cash cow") back to its level of dominance.
Steve also has to raise a buttload of money ($49 million, to be exact) for the new athletic facilities. He wants people in place who he feels give him the best chance of winning the game of football and the game of fund raising.
It should come as no surprise that Solich didn't fit into Pederson's long range plans. When Steve held a press conference last month announcing the new expansion plans, Solich was nowhere to be found. Had Tom Osborne been the head coach at that time, do you think there would have been any way that TO wouldn't have been there?
Q. When do you think Pederson made up his mind to fire Solich?
A. My guess is he knew for quite awhile, maybe even before the season started. Steve is no dummy. He's been a recruiting coordinator at Nebraska, Tennessee and Ohio State. He knows football talent and he know we don't have the athletes who can compete for national championships.
Aaron Taylor, former Husker All-American offensive guard who won the Outland trophy in 1997 said earlier this week on "Big Red Wrap-Up" that the best Husker lineman this year, Richie Incognito, would not have been good enough to start on any of the Husker national championship teams of the 90s. The only All-American on this year's entire Husker team, will likely be Kyle Larson, our walk-on punter from Funk, Nebraska. Think of that-a PUNTER is our only All American! My how things have changed.
Q: So you think recruiting was the main issue?
HD: As Frank would say, "without question" that was the reason. In sports, the name of the game is recruiting. We haven't done a very good job of that.
Q. Do you think he should have been let go?
A. I thought he would have been given another year. His assistants didn't have much time to recruit the kind of kids they wanted. But Steve Pederson is a football guy. We have to trust him and his decisions. Let's hope he's done the right thing.
Q. Can you believe a coach would lose his job after winning 9 games?
A. It's not unprecedented. Ask Earl Bruce at Ohio State. Barry Switzer was also let go. Of course in Barry's case, the Sooner program was out of control off the field.
Q: What impact will Solich's firing have on this year's recruiting class?
HD: I hope it will be minimal, but the longer this thing drags on, the greater the impact will be.
A: When do you think a decision will be made?
HD: I said last week to some friends, that I thought a new coach will be introduced in a week to 10 days. If Pederson waits any longer, our top 15 recruiting class will fade rapidly.
Q: Okay, the $64,000 question. Who is going to be the new head coach?
HD: It's really interesting that all the perceived candidates for the position, Monte Kiffin, Norm Chow, Walt Harris etc. insist they haven't been contacted by Steve Pederson for the job. And this is a so-called "immediate" search!
Q: So what are you saying?
HD: I think Steve Pederson would not fire a coach without already knowing who his successor was going to be.
Q: So who's the new head coach?
HD: Here's how I think this will go. Steve will call a press conference, possibly early next week and will say something like this:
"Thank you all for being here this afternoon. As you know, the search for a new head football coach for the Nebraska Cornhuskers began November 30th. The search was nationwide. The search was thorough and comprehensive. We were looking for someone to take this program to the next level. I interviewed many, excellent candidates, but the more I looked, it became apparent that the man who can best lead our team to greatness is already on our staff. Won't you join me in welcoming Bo Pelini as our new head football coach".
Q: So Bo's your guy?
HD: I've maintained all along that Bo would be Frank's successor. Pederson "encouraged" Frank to hire Bo last year to run the defense. Pederson has known Pelini for over 15 years dating back when both were at Ohio State-Pederson as the recruiting coordinator and Bo as a player. I think Bo will make an excellent head football coach. Hiring Bo will make the best sense for recruiting purposes and will save the already cash-strapped athletic department a bunch of money.
Q: There are rumors that Tom Rathman would join Pelini's staff. What do you make of that?
HD: I'd be shocked if that wasn't the case. He and Bo were assistant coaches for the '49ers.
Q: What will happen to the Husker assistants?
HD: My guess is that most, if not all the assistants will stay through the bowl game. There may be some defections prior to that, but I think most will stay. There are rumors that Solich will be the head coach at Illinois and will take Turner Gill, Barney Cotton, Ron Brown and Tim Albin with him. But who knows, anything could happen.
Q: What do you want to say in closing?
HD: First of all, I would like to urge all Husker fans who want to boycott Steve Pederson and the football program, to get through the grieving process, throw your support to the program and embrace the new head coach and his staff. The Husker program is bigger than any coach, athletic director, booster, player or any fan.
Secondly, I think years from now when I'm playing Trivial Pursuit with my grandkids, I will get this question:
"Who was the Division 1 college football coach who coached for 6 years, won 75% of his games, went to a bowl game every year he coached, had a career record of 58-19, played for a national championship, won a conference championship, produced a Heisman winner, graduated over 70% of his players, ran a clean program and was fired after a 9-3 season?"
You can email Husker Dan at: firstname.lastname@example.org