Published Saturday, August 24, 2013 at 1:01 am / Updated at 1:00 am
FOOTBALL
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.

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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

tom.shatel@owh.com    |   402-444-1025    |  

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

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