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Pelini recording reveals brutal honesty

Full disclosure: I like Bo Pelini.

There’s never been an interview, media day, postgame presser or conference call with the former Nebraska coach that I wasn’t eager to cover. He was must-watch, must-listen and must-write for any media member who covers the Big Ten.

His brutal honesty might be a nightmare for PR folks, but was refreshing for any media member. It is now being questioned after Pelini’s final address to his Nebraska players—a Dec. 2 address that came two days after he was fired—was tape-recorded, one in which he makes comparisons between Huskers athletic director Shawn Eichorst and, to put it extremely lightly, the female anatomy.

Maybe not so coincidentally but definitely suspiciously, this was the second time Pelini was unknowingly recorded. The first was a recording of Pelini ripping Huskers fans after a 2011 game. That recording was revealed in September 2013.

And I’ll maintain the same stance I did a little more than a year ago: Pelini is entitled to the privacy he believed to be getting under both circumstances.

Listen to the latest recording, which lasts some 30 minutes, and Pelini asks that the conversation be kept in the room. Sure, the moment doesn’t reveal Pelini’s classiest moment. But get past that and the recording isn’t nearly as much an indictment on Pelini as it is on Eichorst.

Pelini reveals that he received little support from Eichorst since he was hired as Nebraksa’s athletic director. Pelini alleges to only to have had two conversations with Eichorst and also said he didn’t know if they had a plan for his replacement.

Essentially the point is that Eichorst is out of touch. It’s a one-sided comment, sure. But it gives validity to a question many should be asking: Is Eichorst detrimental to the football program?

Start with the hiring of Pelini’s replacement, Mike Riley, which is more celebrated for his likability and less for his ability to win football games. A program that thinks it should be a national championship contender went and hired a coach who had average success at Oregon State?

Oregon offensive coordinator Scott Frost, a former Huskers quarterback, would have been a much better choice. Or Wyoming coach Craig Bohl who was a Nebraska assistant. The program needed to hire someone with ties.

Out of touch began creeping toward clueless with the hiring of Riley.

Pelini was a victim of Eichorst’s misunderstanding of the Nebraska football program, which may have frustrated the coach more than anything. Eichorst seems be living in the 90’s when the school was actually talked about as a perennial national championship contender.

Times have changed, though, and college football in Lincoln has become much more difficult to sell.

It’s a struggle to convince top-tier players to come to Lincoln when warmer options in the Pac-12 and SEC exist. Every program enjoys the benefits of conference television networks and increased exposure. The Huskers don’t carry the same national cache anymore. Therefore it’s misinformed to believe they can recruit nationally.

On Wednesday Pelini was announced as the new coach at Youngstown State, an FCS school. Make no mistake: the man loves coaching.

He was willing to take a modest paying job by college coaching standards, granted in his hometown, to remain a coach. Money isn’t a worry for Pelini but other coaches of Pelini’s ilk might consider a job at an FCS school to be beneath them.

In the recording, Pelini avails himself to his players for any of their needs. Some may call it disingenuous. But his willingness to coach in the shadows of the FCS suggest otherwise.

He could have used more appropriate knowledge to express his disdain for Eichorst. On its face, it may appear to be a careless rant.

By now we should know better, though. It’s the same brutal honesty he always treated us to.


Twitter: @SethGruen