On Friday, Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini looked like a man who knew his time had come.
He looked like a cornered badger rabidly trying to “remember the Alamo” and stage one last suicide charge up a Bunker hill of his own devising. On Friday he stomped and stormed and spat and heaved. He whipped his hat like a rodeo rider trying to make it the full eight seconds. He swore and shrugged and fumed like an active volcano ramping up for its cameo in Dante’s Peak.
On Friday, Bo Pelini lost at home to Iowa.
He lost by 21 points. He lost to a surging Iowa team that took full advantage of a decimated offensive line and a youthful defense. He lost for the fourth time in 2013 and Husker fans found themselves being tossed into the same whirling dervish of speculation and the same stone-on-stone rumor mill that grinds even the most fervent of fan bases into what seems to be a 50/50 split; a Grand Canyon chasm wide enough that perhaps calling it a 7-10 split would be more accurate.
The Huskers were doomed that Friday to another offseason of rampant debate and infighting amongst some of the most like-minded fans in the nation.
It’s a rare topic, that can split such a unified front into a shattered collection of differing shards. From here there are only a few people who possess the ability to reach down and scoop up that pile of fractured, schismatic pieces. There are only a few ways for that handful of jagged edges to be pieced back together.
Deftly, with disciplined precision. With winning.
Or by throwing the pile into the kiln and melting them down to start fresh.
On Saturday, Nebraska’s athletic director Shawn Eichorst opted to believe that Bo Pelini can do the former. That Bo Pelini can reconcile a half-mutinied, half devout fan base with one another and steer his ship away from the Titanic icebergs looming and towards one gigantic, steaming pile of “I fucking told you so!” that awaits all those doubters who naysayed so virulently on from the tops of their social media soapboxes. Sean Eichorst, by choice or by a pure lack of better options, backed Mark “Bo” Pelini the way he has done so much of his public comments: he issued a statement.
“My approach has always been to not comment publicly about our coaches until their full seasons are complete, as I strongly believe it is unfair and counter to best practices. However, given the volume of unfounded speculation and conjecture about our head football coach, I want to reaffirm what I have said many times since I have arrived at the University of Nebraska — that I positively respect, appreciate and support our football student-athletes, coaches and staff, as we do everyone in the Husker family. We very much look forward to our upcoming bowl game and Coach Pelini continuing to lead our program in the future.”
Done and done. Or was it more like: done and done?
Conspiracy theorists – and what is the internet for, if not a good recklessly speculative conspiracy theory? (*Author’s note: and I’m not even knocking this. Clearly, I love the internet and all the good/bad information that comes with it) – wondered about the seeming open-endedness of the statement. Why so ambiguous? Why no specific information in that pre-packed, aspartame-sweet, additive and preservative-laced statement? Did Eichorst not tell whomever writes these things for him to really hammer out any doubt? He used a chisel and we were hoping for a John Henry style sledgehammering. Was that carefully crafted statement from a carefully crafted man meant to leave a sliver of light peeking out from behind what some believe was a slammed-shut door?
Eichorst isn’t saying much. Because Eichorst doesn’t say much. But some people want a little clarification.
After all, there’s still a bowl game to be won. Or lost.
For the time being, the head coach so obsessed with the word “execution” got a stay on his own. In the 11th hour, as he truly looked to be a dead man walking — having eaten what many believed to be his final meal of bad officiating and Big Red gum — Bo Pelini showed that not only is he adept at getting nine wins, but he’s also adept at using all nine lives.
What happens next is part 140-character Choose Your Own Adventure guessing games, part tall tale, and all up for debate.
On Friday, Nebraska Head Coach Bo Pelini looked like a man who knew his time had come.
Turns out, he was wrong. Done and done. Or done and done?