LINCOLN — As rumor and speculation swirl about his job status, Nebraska football coach Bo Pelini said Monday that things are “business as usual” for him.
“It's a short week,” Pelini said at his weekly press conference as the Huskers prepare for Friday's final game of the regular season against Iowa at home. “I'm just concerned with football. That's all I'm worried about.”
As for his pending job review from his boss, Athletic Director Shawn Eichorst, who has remained silent regarding the future of the NU coach, Pelini said he respects Eichorst's process.
“I'm not coaching to save my job or anything,” Pelini said. “At the end of the day, I want to be here. I want to be here if they want me here. If they don't, if somebody doesn't want me here — and I'm not saying Shawn does, doesn't, whatever — if they don't want me here, I'll move on. I'll go on my way.
“Until that day happens, I'm going to do everything I can and everything in my power to make this football team the best football team I can.”
It is not clear when Eichorst plans to perform his review of Pelini and his program — after the regular season or after NU's bowl game.
Neither Eichorst nor his spokeswoman, Chris Anderson, immediately responded to World-Herald email and phone requests to clarify his timetable.
University of Nebraska-Lincoln Chancellor Harvey Perlman was asked via email about his role in the decision-making process. His response: “I do not prefer to speak about such matters at this point.”
Regarding Eichorst's timetable, Perlman wrote: “The athletic director has said a review will take place after the season, as it is with every sport and every coach, as it is with every person on the campus who is evaluated annually at the end of their season, whether it is calculated by a sport's season or the academic year.”
Perlman declined to clarify whether “after the season” meant after the Iowa game or after a bowl game. NU is bowl-eligible, and projected by most pundits to play in either the Outback Bowl on Jan. 1 or Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl on Dec. 28.
Does Pelini think he's made a compelling case for future progress under his leadership?
“That's not for me to decide,” said Pelini, whose contract runs through the 2017 season after receiving a one-year extension from then-Athletic Director Tom Osborne in December 2012. “I can say this: I can look myself in the mirror and feel good about what I've done for this program.”
Pelini repeatedly deflected temperature-taking questions about his job status or the Huskers' 8-3 season thus far. The standards — championships — haven't changed, he said, so the season isn't satisfactory. A glut of injuries to the offense won't be used as an excuse.
“That being said, I like our football team,” Pelini said. “I think we've overcome a lot. I'm proud of this group. It's not for lack of effort or lack of toughness. Am I happy with being 8-3? No. I'd be lying if I told you I was. If you ask anybody in our locker room, they'd tell you the same thing. We have high goals, and those goals will remain high and the standards will remain high as long as I'm the head football coach.”
Pelini told reporters of a meeting he had last week with his players to address a rumor — fueled by Facebook and Twitter — that he'd already signed resignation papers. Younger players on the team had questions. Older players told the younger players not to worry, but Pelini said a few of those players asked him to address it in front of the whole team.
“That was the most craziest thing I've ever seen,” Pelini said of the rumor. “Somebody decides to go out there, that's — I don't even want to give it — it's not even worth talking about it. That somebody would go down that road. A grown man who'd go down that road. And the way it came out — the way I saw it came out — they ought to be ashamed of themselves. It's just too bad, in this day and age, that you can't hold somebody accountable for acting like that and doing something like that.”
In theory, Pelini could reach out to the person who started the rumor on Facebook.
“Is it worth it?” Pelini said. “Consider the source, is the way I say it.”
Players appreciated Pelini addressing the rumor.
“If I see a notice on my house that says you're about to get evicted, I would like for my dad to come tell me what's going on,” linebacker Michael Rose said. “That's just the way Bo is. He's not going to let anything linger out there. He's definitely going to let it be known. That helped us out. We all heard it. We all have social media. It was something going into that Wednesday meeting that was like, 'I don't even know.' He just addressed it right at the top. He killed it there.”
Said senior guard Spencer Long: “There were some questions flying around. ... I never thought it was true. Guys that had been here, all the seniors, were like 'Oh, that's BS.' But some of the younger guys were (saying), 'Could it be?' I said, 'Wait until you hear from him. It's not true.' ”
Long, Rose and running back Ameer Abdullah all defended Pelini's tenure at NU when asked.
Long: “He's done so much for this program, not only for wins and losses or the team, but as a man developing boys to men. A lot of that stuff goes unseen. I just wish people knew all the stuff he really does.”
Abdullah: “We've been really consistent, and that's something we can hang our hats on that Coach Bo has done a really nice job of getting the most out of his players.”
Rose: “The way we've been playing — the way we've been showing our passion and giving great effort — that should definitely be more than enough. Always, actions are better than words. We're definitely playing for Coach Bo. But we're always playing for Coach Bo.”
One regular-season game remains for the Huskers. In 11 games, NU has lost three games by double digits, its four-year starting quarterback to a mysterious toe injury, its top offensive lineman, several wide receivers and 15 fumbles. Nebraska was a popular choice to win the Legends Division. So was Michigan, a team the Huskers beat in the Big House.
Toward the end of his press conference, Pelini was asked if the season had flown by.
“Maybe for you,” he said. “Seems like this season has been about 10 years old to me.”
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Video: Nebraska coach Bo Pelini at Monday's press conference
Video: Nebraska linebacker Michael Rose at Monday's press conference
Video: Nebraska quarterback Ron Kellogg at Monday's press conference
Video: Nebraska lineman Jeremiah Sirles at Monday's press conference
Video: Nebraska running back Ameer Abdullah at Monday's press conference