Steven M. Sipple: Perlman will have heavy hand if decision must be made

2013-11-01T13:10:00Z 2013-11-01T18:58:05Z Steven M. Sipple: Perlman will have heavy hand if decision must be madeBy STEVEN M. SIPPLE / Lincoln Journal Star JournalStar.com

You've probably heard the cautionary line about quitting a job.

Once you do it the first time, it becomes easier and easier.

The same might be said about the firing of Nebraska football coaches in the modern era.

Once it happened the first time ...

The conversation regarding Bo Pelini's job status seems a bit casual. Even the calls for Bo's head -- in many cases, the tone sounds casual. The discussion generally lacks the intensity, hand-wringing and thoughtfulness that accompanied Frank Solich's firing in 2003 (after a 9-3 regular season). 

Same goes for the Steve Pederson/Bill Callahan tumult in 2007. Back then, I sensed a feeling among Big Red fans that "this stuff happens at other places." I sense the feeling has diminished. Am I wrong?

The Pelini job-status discussion flows naturally in our parts. Nebraska, in fact, feels more and more like "other places." In a society that's become casually cruel, we shouldn't be surprised. It's just the way it is. At least that's my read. I hope I'm wrong.

A few noteworthy parts of the Pelini discussion:

* You would be remiss to overlook the importance of Nebraska chancellor Harvey Perlman's role if there ultimately is a decision to be made.

University presidents/chancellors all over America are using the Sandusky scandal at Penn State as leverage to gain more control of athletic departments. Perlman had little-to-no control over Nebraska athletics when Tom Osborne was athletic director (Perlman hired Osborne in 2007 to save his own bacon). The chancellor has much more control now.

Shawn Eichorst runs the Husker athletic department. But if there's a decision to be made regarding Pelini, Perlman would have a heavy hand, and perhaps the heaviest.

* In Nebraska's final three home games, attendance could become critical in the discussion. Few things get an athletic director's attention like empty seats.

Yes, Memorial Stadium will be sold out, technically speaking, as it was in 2007. But Osborne has said the rows and rows of empty seats late in the season was a leading factor in his decision to jettison Callahan.

Nebraska's sellout streak (331 games) is sacred. What's more, NU's self-sustaining athletic department relies on the stadium being full for every home game. In recent years, football provided more than 80 percent of athletic revenue among the school's 23 sports.

Bear in mind: The stadium's recent expansion depleted the waiting list for season tickets. Yes, that's become a concern. As far as the business element is concerned, this would be a particularly bad time for a mediocre season.

* Let's say Pelini is retained but is asked to make staff changes.

Based on previous conversations with Bo, I'd be very, very surprised if he would acquiesce to such a demand. In fact, I'd be shocked. He said recently he likes his staff. He told me he feels he has "the tightest staff in America."

* I'm told Perlman isn't especially fond of the notion of a revolving door to the Nebraska head coach's office. That's not to say Perlman's feeling in that regard would be the deciding factor -- just one of the factors in a discussion that should be anything but casual.

THE NO-HUDDLE

These games are key

The obvious: No. 23 Michigan (6-1, 2-1 Big Ten) at No. 24 Michigan State (7-1, 4-0): Look for Michigan's surprisingly ordinary offensive line to struggle mightily to get anything going against the nation's top defense. As a result, look for Michigan State to increase its lead in the Legends Division race. The Spartans' remaining games after this week: at Nebraska, at Northwestern, Minnesota. If things transpire as I expect down the stretch, I'll take Mark Dantonio as Big Ten coach of the year. His Spartans were picked in most preseason polls to finish third or fourth in the division.

The not-so-obvious: Minnesota (6-2, 2-2 Big Ten) at Indiana (3-4, 1-2): Yes, Minnesota's power running game will obliterate Indiana's embarrassingly shoddy defense. The Gophers may score 30-some points. Thing is, there's no way Minnesota's defense can keep up with the zoom-zoom Hoosiers, who average 42.4 points per game to rank eighth nationally. Indiana ultimately will prevail. That would be a lovely development for Nebraska and its fans. Yeah, just lovely. 

Heisman watch

QB Marcus Mariota, Oregon

QB Jameis Winston, Florida State

QB AJ McCarron, Alabama

QB Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M

QB Braxton Miller, Ohio State

Keep an eye on: Bryce Petty. Stop for a moment and ponder Baylor having two Heisman Trophy winners in a three-year span. Don't laugh. A 6-foot-3, 230-pound junior quarterback, Petty has been brilliant for the undefeated Bears, albeit against a weak schedule. He has a chance to shatter the NCAA passing-efficiency mark, but he would have to earn it. Baylor's remaining schedule includes games against Oklahoma, Texas Tech, Oklahoma State and Texas. As Heismanpundit.com points out, no other leading candidate has a schedule that offers so much reward and so much risk this late in the season.

Numbers game -- 76 percent.

Minnesota rushed the ball 54 times Saturday against Nebraska, or 76 percent of the Gophers' total plays. Minnesota entered the game running the ball on 69.2 percent of its plays this season, by far the highest rate in the Big Ten, according to BTN.com. This further illustrates the notion Nebraska couldn't stop what it knew was coming. 

Thumbs up -- To Scott Frost. The former Nebraska quarterback is calling plays for undefeated Oregon, which ranks second nationally behind Baylor in both points per game (55.6) and yards (632.1). His QB is the Heisman front-runner. His team is a prime threat to win the national crown. Yeah, you might say Frost is a rising star. A rising star with refreshing humility. "Just blind luck, I think," Frost said. "Most people, when they get an opportunity to be a coordinator, kind of have to build the thing from the ground up. I'm taking over with (Ducks head coach) Mark (Helfrich) right next to me helping me and the good product that Chip (Kelly) left."

Thumbs down -- To Tommie Frazier. The former Nebraska quarterback continues to take public swipes at Bo Pelini's program via his Twitter account. Frazier commands much respect, so his opinion gets people's attention. And let's face it, he needs Twitter followers as much as the rest of us, or even more. After all, he has a podcast to promote. No way Tommie would disparage the program to help promote his "X's & O's" show. Right?

Right?

Five to go

Upset alert. The coolest Big Ten football venue? I'll go with TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. It's the newest BCS stadium, as well as the first new Big Ten football stadium constructed since 1960. What I like:

* It's charming. It's classy. It's collegiate (despite being one of the few college stadiums with a corporate name attached).

* It is not ridiculously super-sized (capacity 50,720).

* The East end zone video board is ridiculously super-sized. At 48 feet high and 108 feet wide, it's the third-largest video display in college sports. 

* The stadium is laid out in an unorthodox east-west configuration, with the open west end facing campus. The view of downtown Minneapolis from the press box is fabulous.

* My friends are happy because beer is sold inside the stadium.

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

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About the writer

Steven M. Sipple | Lincoln Journal Star

Steven, a lifelong Nebraskan, newspaper enthusiast and UNL grad, joined the Journal Star in 1990 and has covered NU football since 1995.


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