Let's exit the sports realm for a moment.

Nebraska chancellor Harvey Perlman essentially has orchestrated a campus renaissance since taking the job in 2000.

We've seen it in various forms, including massive increases in federal research grants and more and more of the state's brightest students heading to Lincoln instead of to out-of-state universities. In short, we've seen UNL's national academic stature on the rise -- which, by the way, made the Huskers more attractive to the Big Ten.

Perlman, of course, played a critical role in that move.

Elsewhere in the sporting realm, Perlman has endured his share of misfires. Costly misfires. We broach the subject because once again he is deeply involved in helping determine the fate of a Nebraska football coach, in this case Bo Pelini.

This factoid raises eyebrows: If Pelini is terminated, Perlman would have the unprecedented distinction of presiding over the firing of three head football coaches. Frank Solich in 2003 and Bill Callahan in 2007 were the other casualties.

Perlman's involvement in those situations isn't exactly a government secret. Which raises a big-picture question: If a president/chancellor involves himself in high-profile football hires, and those hires fail to pass muster, shouldn't the president/chancellor be held accountable, especially when several million dollars are paid out in buyouts and such?

Since 2002, tumult in the Husker football program has been steady to a degree that once seemed unfathomable, Perlman presiding all the while.

He was alongside Tom Osborne in late 2007 when they interviewed coaches for the Nebraska job that Pelini ultimately landed.

In late 2002, Perlman ignored a formal search process and hired athletic director Steve Pederson with the understanding Pederson would fire Solich. Frank's crew felt doomed from the start of Pederson's tenure, according to a former staff member.

By 2007, more tumult. In mid-October of that year, Perlman fired Pederson days after Nebraska's 45-14 home loss to Oklahoma State, and only months after Pederson signed a $2 million contract extension.

Nebraska paid $3 million to buy out Callahan. Neither Callahan nor Pederson had contracts with mitigation clauses, which require employees to pay back severance if they get jobs within the time of their contracts. Consequently, dear ol' NU was on the hook for $5 million only four years after buying out Solich for $800,000.

In the wake of the Callahan/Pederson debacle, Perlman endured scathing criticism, and rightfully so, but in the end received a mulligan.

In fact, Perlman -- who chose Eichorst without consulting Osborne -- has received more mulligans than a granny golfer.

Now, Perlman is back in the football fray, apparently weighing what easily could become a $20 million-plus gamble when buyouts and contractual obligations for the current staff (Pelini alone would be owed a total of $8 million if fired) and contracts for a new staff are factored.

So, add it up: $20 million plus $5.8 million for previous buyouts.

That seems like an awful lot of money in exchange for instability, with perhaps more to come.


These games are key

The obvious: No. 16 Wisconsin (8-2, 5-1 Big Ten) at Minnesota (8-2, 4-2): Perhaps it's just me, but Wisconsin doesn't seem to get the respect it deserves. The Badgers were robbed by the refs in a loss at Arizona State and pushed Ohio State to the limit before falling at the Horseshoe, despite not playing all that well. Meanwhile, this is the oldest rivalry game in the FBS, with Paul Bunyan's Axe on the line. Wisconsin will enter a hornets' nest at gorgeous TCF Bank Stadium. The Gophers are a wonderful feel-good story. But the Badgers clearly are the better team, and will prove it Saturday, by 10-plus points.

The not-so-obvious: Coastal Carolina (10-1, 4-1 Big South) at No. 12 South Carolina (8-2, 5-2 SEC): Remember Joe Moglia, Husker fans? From 2009-10, Moglia served as executive adviser to Bo Pelini in preparation for achieving his original lifelong pursuit, being a collegiate head coach. The one-time CEO of TD Ameritrade, whose net worth has been conservatively estimated at $150 million, seems to have a bit of a golden touch on the gridiron as well. The second-year head coach is set to take the Chanticleers to their second straight FCS Playoff appearance.

Heisman watch

QB Jameis Winston, Florida State

QB Bryce Petty, Baylor

QB Marcus Mariota, Oregon

QB AJ McCarron, Alabama

QB Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M

Keep an eye on: Winston. Facing sexual-battery charges from an alleged incident in December -- charges that came to light only last week -- the Seminoles' freshman sensation suddenly is in an awkward situation. A chatty prosecutor conducting media interviews during an ongoing investigation has only complicated matters. Nice work, counselor. But maybe Winston isn't overly concerned. He was as sharp as ever last week against Syracuse, completing 19 of 21 passes for 277 yards and two touchdowns in just one half of play.

Crunching numbers -- 0. Warning. Don't try this at home: Zero is the number of substitute defensive linemen used by USC during Saturday's 20-17 upset of Stanford. It's especially amazing considering the Cardinal has arguably the nation's best offensive line. All told, only 13 Trojan defenders saw the field.

Thumbs up -- To Ed Orgeron. He's 5-1 as USC's interim head coach. Trojans quarterback Cody Kessler has said the players would die for Orgeron. I'm sure Orgeron would settle for a win this week at Colorado. Is Orgeron the full-time solution at USC? Don't get me wrong, I loved Orgeron in "The Blind Side." But USC is a national top-five program that deserves a national top-five name. Orgeron doesn't occupy that realm.

Thumbs down -- To the notion that being a sports fan gives folks license to eschew any form of decency. Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner has endured a brutal beating on Twitter this season. Here are two of the many hateful tweets he's received: wow you f---in' suck. Hang up the cleats you goof. And: why you so garbage bro?! Yeah, I know, I know. Get over it. Goes with the territory. Whatever. I will never get used to it. Refuse to do so. Kudos to Gardner. He takes it in stride.

Five to go

Nebraska has been on the plus side in turnover margin only one season in Bo Pelini's tenure as head coach. NU currently ranks 106th nationally in turnover margin (-0.8). Rankings during the past five seasons:

2012 -- 105th (-.86).

2011 -- 67th (-.08).

2010 -- 62nd (-.07).

2009 -- 33rd (+.36).

2008 -- 107th (-.85).

Reach Steven M. Sipple at 402-473-7440 or ssipple@journalstar.com.