Bo Pelini, Josh Mitchell

Nebraska coach Bo Pelini talks to his defense during the Huskers' victory against McNeese State on Sept. 6. Following a loss to Michigan State, Pelini and the Huskers have had two weeks to prepare for their next test.

Things I know, and things I think I know:

We don't often hear from Nebraska athletic director Shawn Eichorst.

By "we," I mean the media.

I'm guessing we'll hear from him Saturday. There's enough speculation about Bo Pelini's future as Nebraska football coach that Eichorst probably will have to address the matter this weekend. Last season, he issued a statement in support of Pelini on the Saturday following the regular-season finale against Iowa.

For the time being, Eichorst's silence regarding Pelini makes perfect sense. Nobody asked, but I generally appreciate his policy of remaining mum on coaches until the season is finished because it helps maintain a sense of order.

What good would it do at this point for Eichorst to comment on Pelini? In fact, doing so would be irresponsible considering Nebraska (8-3, 4-3 Big Ten) is in the midst of preparations to play Friday at Iowa (7-4, 4-3).

Maybe, just maybe, Eichorst remains mum on such matters during the season largely out of respect for the student-athletes. Imagine that. An athletic director who thinks first of the student-athletes. I applaud Eichorst in that regard.

By commenting on Pelini, Eichorst would likely only further fan the flames of speculation, which would take the attention from where it belongs — the playing field and the student-athletes.

Eichorst sat down in August with a group of reporters and explained his quiet, behind-the-scenes approach.

"I know folks want to kind of play this, 'I'm not visible, I'm not accessible' type thing, but I don't think there's truth to that," he said, mentioning he had made about 270 appearances since taking over at NU in the fall of 2012.

Asked why he doesn't do many interviews, he said, "It keeps the awareness and focus on what matters, and that's providing an exceptional academic experience for our students. And it also provides our coaches with authority and autonomy to run their programs the way they see fit."

That may sound like boilerplate administrative jargon to some of you. But when speculation is running wild about the head football coach in a high-profile program, the last person who needs to be fueling fires is the AD — especially as the team prepares for the next game.

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It's common sense, really.

* Remember when Eichorst was hired? He said his goal was in five years for hardly anyone to know his name. That goal would go out the window if he fires a head coach who's 66-27 at the school and has won or shared four divisional titles in seven seasons. Eichorst would move to the forefront. His profile would escalate considerably. His hire would be widely scrutinized, locally and nationally.

He would be making a hire that could ultimately shape the way folks regard his career. Is he ready for all that?

* Pelini's last two weekly news conferences had the feel of Senate hearings. Stern looks and probing questions (between bites of free pizza). We take our football very, very seriously around here.

Pelini was pressed to lay out changes he's made in the program during his tenure to help "get over the hump." He didn't want to get into those changes in that setting — completely understandable.

One oft-discussed change he made this season was increasing the tempo of practices and shortening them from two hours to 90 minutes. The plan generally doesn't allow for do-overs if mistakes are made. Considering NU's lack of execution on both sides of the ball, that might be an issue.

* Pelini sounded a bit Bill Callahanesque when he said many changes he's made "would be over the heads of a lot of people." Don't go there, Bo.

* There are many questions that Pelini likely wouldn't answer in a news conference setting that nevertheless are valid. For one: How much does he miss having brother Carl Pelini and Marvin Sanders on his defensive staff? Bo put a lot of trust in those two. Enough trust that he could devote a lot of energy elsewhere — say, to the offense.

In my discussions Monday with former Huskers, the offense's lack of identity was generally the biggest concern. Wisconsin and Minnesota aren't the greatest teams out there, but they know exactly who they are.

* A cold, raw fact to chew on: Nebraska is third in the Big Ten's West Division (tied with Iowa). The Huskers were picked to finish third in the division in a preseason poll of 29 Big Ten writers organized by cleveland.com.

* "It's a basketball state, baby," a smiling Husker men's coach Tim Miles told reporters Monday. "Let's talk about it."

Sounds good. Anything to lighten the mood.

Reach the writer at 402-473-7440 or ssipple@journalstar.com.​


Husker columnist

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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