Published Saturday, August 24, 2013 at 1:01 am / Updated at 1:00 am
Shatel: Bo's clock should be set to Husker standard time

Does anybody know Bo Pelini's 40 speed? I saw the Nebraska football coach out jogging a couple of weeks ago. He still goes at a pretty good clip. But foot speed is not the issue. It's winning speed.

When it comes to quickness, fans and media members want to know how fast their coaches can recruit, build and win. Win big.

The standard used to be four years. Most coaches were given at least four years, one recruiting cycle, to figure things out.

College football, mirroring our microwave society, gradually changed. Notre Dame, which cares about football, fired Tyrone Willingham after three years. Kansas, which cares less about football, jettisoned Turner Gill after only two autumns.

On the home front, the speed has varied.

Bob Devaney was a Big Eight champion and made a major bowl in his second year. That's good speed. He played for a national title in year four and won it in year nine.

Tom Osborne made a New Year's Day bowl in his first season, but didn't win the league (and beat Oklahoma) until his sixth year. He played for a national title in his ninth year and won it in his 22nd.

Frank Solich won the Big 12 and made a major bowl in his second season, played for the national title in his fourth season and was fired after his sixth year.

Entering his sixth fall in Lincoln, Pelini's teams have played in three conference championship games in five years. There's no shortage of Husker fans who want Pelini to speed things up.

How much time has he got? How much time should he get? Some folks like to use history as their guide. This can be a useful measuring stick, but not always.

The Osborne Era is typically the benchmark that most Husker fans use to compare their coaches. It took Tom six years to beat Barry Switzer and almost a decade to become a factor in the national title picture. Give Bo time, they say.

Bo's detractors will tell you that Osborne's teams were rarely blown out or embarrassed, and so on and so forth.

What Tom had was a strong ally in the athletic director's chair. Bob Devaney gave Osborne all the time he needed.

Solich did not have an ally. Steve Pederson fired him after one season as A.D.

Join the daily conversation on the Tom Shatel Facebook page.

Ultimately, it's the athletic director who has the stopwatch and the gavel. Osborne had his standard, born of old-school patience.

Shawn Eichorst will have his own, too.

And that's really what judging coaches' speed comes down to: standards. Every school, every A.D., has 'em. They're all different.

What are Nebraska's standards? What should they be?

I think it's time to stop comparing Nebraska football — and Pelini — to the Osborne era. Certainly, the '90s. Mostly, the numbers.

College football was so, so different. The landscape was smaller. Parity? There was no Boise State or Oregon. There were a small fraternity of big boys who played on TV each Saturday and only on Saturday.

There were no overall scholarship limits until 1973, when it was 105. And at places like Nebraska, there were walk-ons who pushed the roster up near 200 players. NU had a long list of assistant coaches, and freshman or JV teams that ran the program's system and played games.

Most years, the Big Eight was weak. But NU usually played a salty nonconference schedule. Because home games didn't bring in the revenue they do today, it was not unusual to see Nebraska play two nonconference road games in the same month. The Huskers played at Penn State and at Auburn on consecutive Saturdays in 1982. Think about that.

Osborne's nine wins per year is a standard people use. But that was in 11 games. I'd argue that the new “nine” is 10 wins, out of 12 games.

Recruiting was different back then, certainly. Some would say it's easier now for Nebraska, with the Internet bringing everyone closer together, but some would say harder, because now kids can go most anywhere and be on TV. Boise, Oregon, K-State, etc.

Tougher. Easier. For Pelini, it's just different. You can't compare the eras and what it takes to win. Exactly why it's time to stop using the Osborne years and numbers.

What we should be focusing on are the Osborne — and Devaney — standards.

Husker fans want to win. But they want to do it a certain way.

Don't cheat. Work hard. Coach hard. Be innovative. Squeeze every little drop out of the ketchup bottle.

They like to see their coaches find any little edge and exploit it. One trademark of Osborne's era was special teams. Remember when NU would block a punt or return a punt for a touchdown seemingly every Saturday?

Fans want a team that plays hard and shows discipline. They like to see a coaching staff that has a well-conceived plan and adjusts accordingly during a game. The only times Osborne ever looked helpless on the sideline were when Oklahoma or Miami speed was rushing past him.

To that end, Husker fans can stomach a loss, if it has to do with talent. What they can't ever tolerate, and shouldn't, is getting blown out with their team and staff looking incompetent. Certainly not by a 6-6 team.

Pelini needs to win championships. That's his charge as Nebraska football coach. That should be the expectation.

Is Bo on the clock? Every football coach is on the clock until he wins big — and then of course until he does it again.

Some clocks run faster and some are slower. Eichorst has the stopwatch now. But if he needs advice, he should pay attention to the Osborne standards, not necessarily the numbers.

Contact the writer: Tom Shatel    |   402-444-1025    |  

Tom Shatel is a sports columnist who covers the city, regional and state scene.



< >
2013 college football preview
View our 2013 college football preview, a 26-page, three-part section filled with coverage of the Huskers, Big Ten conference and more.
Big Red Bowl Retrospective
See complete historical results, game recaps and photo coverage from the Nebraska Cornhuskers college football bowl game appearances, from the 1941 Rose Bowl up to today.
Big Ten football recruits
The World-Herald's Big Ten recruiting database contains every football recruit that signed with a Big Ten school from 2002 to 2011, complete with color-coded interactive map representations, player information, high-concentrations recruiting clusters and more.
Devaney Center timeline
Check out a World-Herald timeline to see the evolution of memorable moments at the Devaney Center, complete with photos, videos, memorable quotes and more.
Follow OWHbigred on Twitter
Looking for the latest Husker sports news from The Omaha World-Herald and Follow us on Twitter!
Husker scholarship distribution chart
Want to see how many scholarships NU has invested at each position? Wondering how the Huskers have appropriated their offers by class? Check out our handy chart to look further into how Bo Pelini has built his team.
Husker Signing Day 2013
The World-Herald's top-notch coverage of the Nebraska football's class of 2013, complete with videos, photos, articles, live recruit interviews, interactive components and more.
Husker turnovers: A slippery slope
Bo Pelini has coached 68 games at Nebraska. When NUís turnover margin is positive or even, the Huskers are 35-2. When they lose the turnover battle, theyíre 13-18. Why hasnít Nebraska joined the nationís elite? More than anything, itís turnovers.
Interactive: Bo Pelini's contract
View an interactive PDF of Pelini's revised contract signed by the NU football coach, complete with brief summaries of the legalese and insight into the document's finer points.
Interactive: Darin Erstad's contract (2012)
View an interactive PDF of NU baseball coach Darin Erstad's contract released in August 2012, complete with brief summaries of the legalese and insight into the document's finer points.
Interactive: Tim Miles' contract
View an interactive PDF of Tim Miles' contract signed by the Nebraska men's basketball coach on May 4, 2012, complete with brief legal explanations, comparisons to other Big Ten coaches and more.'s Big Ten coverage
Delivering the best news coverage and analysis of the Big Ten Conference, from and other top news outlets from around country.
Husker Recruiting: Changes shrink NU's sphere of influence
For decades, the Great Plains represented fertile recruiting ground for Tom Osborne's football program. Restoring that lost tradition won't be easy.
Deadline Deal thumbnail
7M Grill
Half Off Delicious Comfort Fusion Food & Drinks!
Buy Now
< >