With the criticism of his coaching rising in decibels, Bill Callahan came out firing at Tuesday’s weekly football press conference.
The Husker coach was asked silly questions: Why hasn’t he worn his Husker gear the past two press conferences?
And questions of worth: Are you going to resign before this season’s over?
He scoffed at both. Here was a man ready to make his case as to why he should continue to be the football coach at Nebraska.
About resigning, he said: “No, I’m committed. I said I want to be here. I want to be here. I signed an extension to be here … No, (resigning is) not an option.”
Surely, one broadcaster questioned — with the season’s results, the firing of Steve Pederson, and a book coming out that alleges Callahan said unkind things about Tom Osborne — the coach must wonder if he’s the right man for the job.
“I don’t acknowledge that book at all. All I would tell you is … I’ve done an excellent job in every area. It’s hard for the media to know, but what we’ve done off the field, and what we’ve done on the field. I think it’s well-documented,” Callahan said.
“We did some positive things. We have. We haven’t sustained it this year. But you’re in a (Big 12) championship game, in a three-year period of time you come in and implement a whole new offensive system, and in two years time you’re in a championship ballgame.”
Within minutes, his words were being batted around in cyberspace.
Can the words “I’ve done an excellent job in every area” be uttered by a man leading a 4-4 football team?
The people wondered.
“There’s a lot of work being done, to put together these recruiting classes, I think it bodes well for what we represent and how hard this staff has worked,” he said. “I got enough confidence in myself and our staff and our players to know we can win. We’re going to win. We’re just going through a tough stretch.”
The Huskers have lost their last three games by a combined 88 points, giving up an average of 40.6 in each of those games.
During the time, fan criticism has reached a level rarely seen around here.
Some positive energy returned last week with the announcement of Tom Osborne as interim athletic director, but then came a 36-14 loss to Texas A&M.
Sour moods returned.
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Senior receiver Maurice Purify admitted Tuesday he was “kind of angry at the fans.”
He said they put on their red shirts and caps, then they come down behind the bench when Nebraska’s trailing and voice opinions of negativity.
Said Purify: “They'll say, ‘You guys suck.’ I’m like, if you’re going to support us when we’re winning, why can’t you support us when we’re losing?”
Callahan has bigger problems.
He said a few of his recruits have de-committed due to the instability in the program.
One of them is Jonas Gray, the gifted running back from suburban Detroit.
Because of Nebraska’s unstable coaching situation, he’s now taking looks at Notre Dame, Michigan and LSU. He said he doesn’t rule out Nebraska.
“It’s a lot of work to climb up to that seven hole in the country in recruiting. That’s the disappointment when you don’t have success, you see some of that slipping,” Callahan said.
The coach said parents are expressing a lot of uncertainty to him.
“When your son’s looking at an institution, they want stability and they want continuity, and I think that’s why, with (my) contract extension in September, that made everyone feel assured that there was going to be those traits for their son.
“And so with everything up in the air, parents are concerned, they’re looking for other options. That’s the tough part, because our coaches have worked exceedingly hard to build that. And let’s be honest, it takes time to build that. It takes years to get into a position where you can have a great class.”
Callahan said he’s tried hard to get the talented prep players while also plugging in JUCO players to a team that did not have a lot of depth when he arrived.
He said when he got here, he had to simply get recruits to “plug a dike” at certain positions.
“I got to tell you what, this is the hardest recruiting staff you’ve seen, getting kids to camp and getting kids here on campus, and locking up a class the way they did,” Callahan said. “That’s what hurts. That’s what’s disappointing when you’re right at the position you can get a top class of talent like that and then let it slip away, that’s really tough.”
Yeah, but what do high-ranking recruiting classes matter if you can’t produce on the field?
Callahan’s answer: “I think it takes time. Those classes take time. We’re playing a lot of young guys. I think it takes time. I really do. I think it’s a circumstance where you just try to keep growing with the players that you have. And I love our kids. They’re trying hard. They’re working hard.”
Reach Brian Christopherson at 473-7439 or firstname.lastname@example.org.