“You tell your players: Don’t read the blogs, don’t do this and that. But they’re human, they hear it, they see it … they ride the waves. You guys know. I’m not just saying with the media. I’m talking the fan base. Or in town. You play good and you’re the ’85 Bears. You lose and the sky is falling. Or you don’t play well and the world’s coming to an end. There’s not a lot of middle ground …
“LSU was into it. Oklahoma was into it. But the constant seven-days-a-week, 365-days-a-year, it’s different here than those places. It’s not a constant barrage of it at some of the other places. It’s compartmentalized a little bit where the players aren’t slammed over the head with it every day of the year. That is a challenge here. But it’s just the way it is. It’s not going away. The fans’ passion for it, and media, that’s a positive. But there are issues with that, too, that relate to our football team and how you keep them focused.”
Wow. Coming from a coach who’s typically conservative with his sound bites, that’s a mouthful. I read those quotes Saturday and this was my first thought:
What’s it gonna be like if/when Nebraska gets good again?
Last year, LSU and Alabama met in November. ESPN basically spent the week on Nick Saban’s lawn. Tom Rinaldi interviewed enough players to make a 30-for-30 documentary.
If Bo and his players are distracted now, wait until they make national news. Wait until they start playing like vintage Nebraska teams.
Pelini, as he’s done before, drew a connection between Nebraska’s inconsistency and fan fervor. That’s not only counter-productive, it’s wrong.
Great teams attract attention. Then they deal with that attention, even when it’s negative.
Auburn won the national title while Cam Newton was under NCAA investigation.
USC won a national title with Hollywood A-listers at practice every day.
In 1995, Nebraska won a national title as major news organizations — we’re talking CBS, not ESPN — sent their investigative reporters to Lincoln.
And yet we’re to believe that Nebraska players are under a “constant barrage?” That they’re “slammed over the head?” After beating Michigan State?
I think Pelini — who also referenced vague terms, “subliminal messages” and “contradictory aura,” in describing the attention — has an idealized vision for fan behavior. Show up on Saturdays, be as loud as possible, encourage the team win or lose.
And anything beyond that — including positive attention — is interference.
Frankly, it’s not realistic, especially in the information age. You can’t have a $3 million salary without people calling talk shows to criticize play-calling. You can’t have 85,000 people in your stadium without a few of them patting players on the back at Chipotle.
Bo sounds like the parent who tries to protect his child from ever hearing an expletive. You can block TV channels and Internet sites, even force your kid to wear ear plugs in public. Eventually, he’s gonna hear an F-bomb. You’re better off teaching him what it means and why it’s inappropriate, rather than locking him in a room and condemning a corrupt culture.
As Pelini trains his players to cope with the spotlight, he should seek the advice of his athletic director, whose even-keeled approach produced the most consistent program in the country — amid a fan base that lived and died with Saturday scores.
Passion and expectations haven’t changed much since Osborne took over 39 years ago. The Sea of Red hasn’t parted. Bo should stop wishing Nebraskans didn’t care so much and realize how good he has it.
Do you know how many coaches would trade places with him?
* * *
>> Great to see Jordan Larson doing so well at the Olympics. The quantity of quality female athletes from small-town Nebraska over the years is nothing short of astonishing.
>> Hey, NBC, it’s not 1976. Tape delays don’t work. I want to watch the Olympics. But I don’t want lock myself in a room for six hours until the prime-time coverage starts. My Internet stream didn’t work Saturday. Many people had the same problem. Which meant I couldn’t watch the world’s best swimming event, Phelps v. Lochte in the 400 IM. In my view, NBC should show as much live coverage as possible, then use prime-time to show a condensed, edited version of the day’s best stuff. You’ll still hook the casual fan, but you won’t neglect somebody like me who wants to watch live.
>> Pat Forde’s excellent column on the 400 freestyle relay Sunday, which Lochte lost on the final lap.
>> Joe Posnanski says the Dream Team is back.
>> I’m sure everyone will be writing more about this in September, but I love the second wild card in Major League Baseball. Finally, winning a division means something.
On Feb. 2, OSU director of player personnel Mark Pantoni forwarded Meyer the Sporting News story headlined, “Urban’s ‘illegal’ recruiting tactics a big issue for Bielema, Big Ten.” Bielema indirectly accused Meyer of unethically recruiting prospects committed to other Big Ten schools, though he declined to specify an NCAA violation.
“I can tell you this,” Bielema told The Sporting News. “We in the Big Ten don’t want to be like the SEC — in any way, shape or form.”
Meyer sent Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany an email about an hour after the story appeared online.
“Jim, just received copy of Sporting News article where Wisc coach took serious shot at SEC and myself and our staff,” Meyer wrote Delany in a message obtained through an open records request. “Not sure where or why this has become a National story. Obviously, there is no truth to his damaging comments. … I would expect that the Big Ten Conference take immediate action and ask Wisc coach to apologize to myself and our staff.
“There was a brief phone call made by me to Wisc coach in December. He said he heard something about one of our asst coaches. I checked it out and there was no truth (I think it was about a former player calling a recruit). Regardless, I will have to release a statement soon to make sure that this type of negativity is dealt with.”
>> One final thought on Pelini’s remarks: Is Nebraska more intense than LSU and Oklahoma? Maybe. I doubt it. But remember, it’s apples and oranges. Pelini wasn’t the head coach at LSU or Oklahoma. Tiger fans have tried to run Les Miles out of town a few times — and he rarely finishes outside the top 10. Moreover, when Bo was an assistant for Miles and Bob Stoops, neither were losing games by 30 points, like Nebraska did twice last year.
>> After all that ranting, you may be in need of a Husker pick-me-up. Check this out, from “Husker Historian” on YouTube. The 1988 Oklahoma State game. Nebraska had 328 rushing yards against a top-10 team — in the first quarter.
>> The Big Red Bracket will get very interesting this week. Look at these Sweet 16 match-ups:
Blackshirts v. In the Deed the Glory
The Option v. Frazier breaking Florida tackles
60-3 v. Sea of Red
Tunnel Walk v. Hail Varsity
Sellout Streak v. Osborne Going for 2
“N” on the helmet v. Miracle at Mizzou
Walk-on program v. Schlesinger up the middle in Miami
Game of the Century v. Go Big Red
Round 3 voting started this morning. Can’t wait to see what you think.
>> As for the (less-organized) Husker Infamy Bracket, here are your (not-so) Elite Eight match-ups. Voting was a little slower over the weekend. I’m guessing we’ll have more tallies this round.
#1- 62-36 (won in the 2nd round, 21 votes to 15)
#3- Texas A&M referees (32-4)
#1- “I refuse to let this program gravitate to mediocrity,” by Steve Pederson (35-1)
#2- Dan Beebe trophy presentation (19-17)
#1- One (extra) second in Dallas (36-0)
#6- Panico’s punt returns (20-16)
#4- Terrence Nunn’s fumble (24-12)
#2- 40-day coaching search, featuring Houston Nutt (23-13)
Vote in the comments section, or send me an email — email@example.com.