Bo Pelini

Well, now it sets up to be handled on the field.

Now that Nebraska Athletic Director Shawn Eichorst and Chancellor Harvey Perlman have said they will not discipline football coach Bo Pelini for his F-bomb-spiked tirade following a game two years ago, it’s all on Pelini and his Huskers to make sure the current head coach stays on board next year.

Eichorst and Perlman issued a joint statement Wednesday:

“The comments made by Head Football Coach Bo Pelini in 2011, published Monday, are unfortunate and deeply concerning to us, as they would be to anyone who loves this university.

“Our coaches, staff and student-athletes must be held to a high standard and Coach Pelini’s remarks were unfair to the legions of Nebraska fans and not what we expect from a representative of this university.

“Former Director of Athletics Tom Osborne became aware of these comments and the existence of a recording more than a year ago, and addressed the matter with Coach Pelini.

“We have observed, and many others have commented, that Coach Pelini’s demeanor has significantly improved since the time of this incident. Coach Pelini has given us his assurance that he understands the seriousness and inappropriateness of his comments.

“We believe he is sincere in his apology and in his regret. We are prepared to put the matter to rest. Our football student-athletes, coaches and staff deserve all of our support and we know the Nebraska faithful will be there for them.”

As you probably have heard (and possibly read here), Pelini was a tad upset NU fans bolted for the exits before the Huskers went from wusses to worldbeaters in defeating Ohio State in 2011. And although he probably didn’t know he was being recorded at the time, he certainly didn’t mind unloading on the Husker “fair-weather” fans.

Fan reaction is all over the place. Some people think this is the straw that snaps the camel’s back just because of the foul language. On the other side of the spectrum, a lot of people think Pelini had every right to rip into the fan base because they didn’t want to see what was coming.

My concerns are as follows:

1. Which is Pelini’s true feeling about the Cornhusker fans? Was he merely worked up after what may well become his signature win at Nebraska? Or, given Pelini’s implication he was at least considering leaving the program, is there something more deep-seated?

2. Some players have said they were unhappy with the fans leaving. Deal with it and play better. You play well, fans cheer. You don’t, fans boo. Or leave. It’s all dependent on what you do. And you get what you deserve far more often than not in athletics.

3. Is foul language and a skewering of the fan base enough to get a coach fired? No. Can it be a tipping point or a last straw? Absolutely, depending on the circumstances.

And the circumstances do not favor Pelini. Or the Huskers, for that matter. Nebraska increasingly looks physically clueless and mentally fragile. That’s on everybody — players and coaches — to recognize (which I don’t think is a problem), address (which I’m pretty sure has been done repeatedly) and change.

Which hasn’t happened. Not in the games where Nebraska wants to — no, needs to — make a statement it’s back among the nation’s elite.

Now that the decision has been made not to discipline Pelini on his language, questions still remain about the Huskers;

1. Do they rally around their coach and finally play to their capability?

2. If not, who replaces Pelini? More losses in the UCLA-Wisconsin-Georgia mold will likely seal his fate, and based on what you saw Saturday, can you say this team won’t hack up a repeat before the season’s over?

3. Is Nebraska’s day as a national powerhouse officially over? Regardless of who follows in Pelini’s footsteps? And if not, who can reclaim the magic other than Tom Osborne?

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