LINCOLN — Nebraska's football team appears to be returning to normalcy after support from its athletic director on Saturday quieted speculation that coach Bo Pelini's job had been in jeopardy.
The Husker assistants are planning to leave campus on various recruiting trips starting Sunday. The NU players are off all weekend, but they'll soon reconvene to resume workouts and the eventual bowl-prep practices.
Pelini was unavailable for further comment beyond a statement released Saturday night, but Nebraska's sixth-year head coach indicated that the Huskers will be getting back to work as soon as possible.
“Our football staff is hitting recruiting full throttle and looking forward to the upcoming bowl game,” Pelini said in the statement.
Pelini also conveyed gratitude for the support of Athletic Director Shawn Eichorst, who issued his own statement Saturday morning. Eichorst said he was looking forward to “Pelini continuing to lead our program in the future.”
Eichorst had repeatedly said he would not discuss Pelini's job status during the season, but he said in his statement Saturday that “the volume of unfounded speculation and conjecture” regarding Pelini warranted a response.
The wild theories were multiplying following Friday's 38-17 loss to Iowa.
Pelini's conduct during the game and his comments afterward led many to believe that his fate had been decided.
Audio of a recorded off-air conversation between Husker Sports Network play-by-play announcer Greg Sharpe and former Nebraska quarterback Steve Taylor somehow merged into a Huskers.com video of Ron Kellogg answering postgame questions Friday.
Sharpe alluded in his conversation with Taylor that Pelini initially didn't intend to record his weekly TV show because it wasn't yet clear if Eichorst was planning to make a change. Pelini ended up recording the show later Friday night, Sharpe said. The program is set to air Sunday.
When reached Saturday, Sharpe declined to elaborate on his conversation with Taylor.
An athletic department spokeswoman said the video containing the private conversation was removed from the Nebraska website as soon as the NU officials became aware of the mistake. “We will thoroughly review the matter and take necessary steps to ensure it will not happen again,” Associate Athletic Director Chris Anderson wrote in an email.
NU appears ready to move on. That was the general vibe in the statements by Eichorst and Pelini on Saturday.
It was just two days ago that the team left Memorial Stadium wondering how Eichorst would evaluate a season that ended with a blowout.
Pelini said after the game he thought the speculation had a negative impact on the team as it finished the year.
Redshirt freshman Vincent Valentine said it was difficult to tune out the outside chatter.
“I don't think it affected us too much,” Valentine said. “But you know, people listen to those things. Consciously, it still affects everybody. You don't know what your future is. You don't know who's going to be coaching you. But we try to keep our heads on straight.”
Nebraska has a tight-knit group of players, according to defensive coordinator John Papuchis. But a fall full of highs and lows has been emotionally taxing for everyone involved. The season included an early season loss to UCLA, a Hail Mary win, a five-turnover game against Michigan State and gutsy road victories at Michigan and Penn State.
“It's been a lot,” Papuchis said after Friday's loss to Iowa.
Speculation about the coaches' futures presumably made it more difficult on the Huskers, according to Papuchis.
“If they were affected in any way, it would be hard to blame them,” Papuchis said.
The Huskers' postseason plans will be announced in a week.
In the meantime, Pelini said he'll be working to mold NU into a championship-caliber team.
“I am honored to represent this university and its great fans and I'm proud to lead this program into the future,” Pelini said.
* * *
Video: Nebraska coach Bo Pelini at the postgame press conference:
Video: NU's Jeremiah Sirles at the postgame press conference:
Video: NU's Kenny Bell at the postgame press conference:
Video: Husker seniors honored before the Nebraska-Iowa game:
Video: Sam McKewon's postgame analysis: