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Bo Pelini draws support from Nebraska athletic director

Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press
Bo Pelini's Cornhuskers ended the regular season with a loss to Iowa.

Nebraska athletic director Shawn Eichorst released a statement Saturday morning backing Huskers coach Bo Pelini.

"My approach has always been to not comment publicly about our coaches until their full seasons are complete, as I strongly believe it is unfair and counter to best practices," Eichorst said in the statement. "However, given the volume of unfounded speculation and conjecture about our head football coach, I want to reaffirm what I have said many times since I have arrived at the University of Nebraska -- that I positively respect, appreciate and support our football student-athletes, coaches and staff.

"We very much look forward to our upcoming bowl game and Coach Pelini continuing to lead our program in the future."

Nebraska ended its regular season Friday by falling to Iowa and finishing 8-4. Pelini is in his sixth season as coach and the Huskers have lost four games in each season. At his postgame news conference, Pelini was asked if rumors about his future at the school had been detrimental.

"It's hurt our football team. ... If they want to fire me, go ahead," Pelini said.

Eichorst has been on the job for a little more than a year, and he did not hire Pelini.

If you take Eichorst's statement at face value, Pelini will return but go into the 2014 season coaching for his job. Frankly, it makes sense to take Eichorst's statement at face value: Firing a coach after a bowl game unnecessarily limits the field of candidates. And why would Eichorst feel the need to release a statement in support of Pelini if he wasn't going to follow through on it?

Then again, Pelini sometimes can't help himself, and it's not that difficult to see him embroiled in some kind of controversy in the next month. If that happens, Eichorst could change his mind. But, right now, it does seem as if Pelini will return next season.

UPDATE: Pelini issued a statement Saturday afternoon thanking Eichorst for his support and apologizing for his behavior toward officials and the media Friday.

"I regret any and all actions or words which may have shed a negative light on our program and university," Pelini's statement said. "Our football staff is hitting recruiting full throttle and looking forward to the upcoming bowl game. We are committed to working with Shawn and our entire department staff to continue to build this program and bring championships back to Nebraska."

Mike Huguenin can be reached at mike.huguenin@nfl.com. You also can follow him on Twitter @MikeHuguenin.

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