Nebraska's Bo Pelini: 'If they want to fire me, go ahead'

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The last time Nebraska lost three home games in a season was 2007. Coach Bill Callahan was fired after that season.

The Huskers (8-4) lost at home for the third time this season Friday, to Iowa, putting even more heat on already embattled coach Bo Pelini.

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," Pelini said. "If they want to fire me, go ahead.

"I believe in what I've done," he said. "I don't apologize to you. I don't apologize to anybody, myself or this staff. My record, our record since I've been here, speaks for itself. And this program is heading in a good direction.

"You choose not to think so, that's your prerogative. All I know is myself, this staff, the people who have been associated with this program since I've been here can look themselves in the mirror and feel good about what they've done."

Nebraska junior wide receiver Kenny Bell said afterward he was on Pelini's side: "I would play for Bo Pelini against Satan himself and a team of demons at the gates of the underworld."

This is Pelini's sixth season as coach, and the Huskers have lost four games in each of those seasons. Nebraska hasn't won a conference title since 1999, in the Big 12. The Huskers won the Big Ten Legends Division title last season but were blasted by Wisconsin, 70-31, in the league championship game.

Nebraska's athletic director, Shawn Eichorst, has been on the job for a little more than a year, and he did not hire Pelini. Former AD Tom Osborne at times was bothered by Pelini's sideline antics, and earlier this season, Eichorst had to deal with a year-old recording of Pelini profanely dismissing Huskers fans.

Nebraska hasn't enjoyed sustained success since Osborne stepped down as coach after the 1997 season. His successor, Frank Solich, took the Huskers to the BCS national championship game after the 2001 season, but the Huskers lost seven games in 2002 and three in 2003, and Solich was fired. Bill Callahan lasted four seasons, losing 22 times before being fired and replaced by Pelini.

The Huskers had some key injuries on offense, and the defense did get better as the season has progressed. But this was not a title-winning team even if everyone had been healthy.

Nebraska's decision to leave the Big 12 for the Big Ten in time for the 2011 decision was shrewd from a financial standpoint, but in terms of long-term football success, it may have been a mistake.

It's much tougher for the Huskers to recruit in Texas now. When the Huskers were in the Big 12, chances were they would play in Texas three or four times in a player's career. Now, Nebraska doesn't play any games in Texas. The Huskers have had to change their recruiting base and are going up against more established programs in those areas.

In short, coaching Nebraska today isn't like coaching Nebraska in the 1980s or 1990s. It's a tougher job now. It's also less appealing. That is something Eichorst will have to keep in mind as he tries to determine whether he should retain Pelini.

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

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