Can Nebraska’s Bo Pelini Become America’s Favorite College Football Coach?


There are times when Bo Pelini reminds me of my dad.

My dad was a football coach. He helped found the Small Fry league in my tiny Upstate New York town. He coached kids between the ages of nine and 13. He taught the fundamentals. He taught trick plays. He taught you how to tackle the old fashioned way – hard and low – to make sure the runner didn’t go one more yard once you made contact with him.

He also yelled – a lot. He yelled at other coaches. He yelled at parents. He yelled at referees. Sometimes, he’d yell at the kids. He didn’t yell because he was an asshole. He yelled because he wanted to see the kids he coached win the way he taught them to win. He took ownership of the knowledge and style of play he passed on to his players.

If any coach, parent, referee or player attempted to thwart his “process”, they got a serious tongue-lashing. It’s just the way it was. It’s just the way he was.

And his players loved him for it.

In that sense, I see a lot of my dad in Bo Pelini. Bo yells – a lot. He yells at everyone. He yells because somebody has pissed him off and become an unnecessary obstacle in “the process.”

Most of us who grew up before the soccer-mom revolution sissified a nation of kids and replaced garden hoses with juice boxes understand football – real football. It’s not a gentleman’s game. It’s not a game for the soft-spoken. It’s a game where you need to get somewhere to win and to get there; you need to inflict violence on those who stand in the way of you doing so.

Your feelings and emotional well-being aren’t really factored into that equation.

For that reason, I think people who share my feelings and experiences in regard to football have a special place in our hearts for those old-school, grab you by the facemask and tell you about yourself coaches.

We have a place in our hearts for Bo Pelini.

Winning over the rest of you hasn’t really been Pelini’s forte since he took over at Nebraska. I hear a lot of comments about how disrespectful he is. I hear people say he has no class. I hear people say he shouldn’t treat his players and coaches the way he does.

Most of the people that I hear say those things didn’t play football. Many of them are mothers who couldn’t imagine a man like Pelini spitting hot fire into the face of their little boy. Many of them wish he were more like Tom Osborne.

Bo Pelini will never win over those people. People who’ve never played the game will never understand his intensity. Mothers who want to shelter their children from someone dressing them down will always be that way – overprotective of their child’s feelings and emotional well being. People who want Pelini to be more like Osborne better pull up a chair and get comfy. The only time Pelini will ever be anything like Osborne from a personality standpoint is when they are both in their final resting places.

There is another segment of the population where the jury is still out on Pelini. I’m not hip to the generational lingo or titles we’ve given to generations since Gen-X, but this generation of young people between ages 13 and 25 who are plugged into the 24-hour news/social media feed are a demographic that Bo Pelini could conquer.

This new generation, for better or worse, speaks their minds publicly without fear of retribution, especially when they think something stinks. Sound like any coach you know?

This new generation learns about people, places and things one Vine or Tweet at a time. Whether it’s a Harlem Shake video or a snarky back-and-forth with the best fake profile on Twitter, Bo Pelini is right there – all up in your social network.

It’s been over two days since Pelini damn near broke the internet by walking out of the tunnel for Nebraska’s spring game holding a cat and raising it Lion King style. ESPN loved it. Everyone who got the joke loved it. If you didn’t get the joke, you did research to figure out why what he did was so awesome, and then, you loved it.

That’s Bo Pelini. Little by little, he’s coming out of his shell – pulling back the curtains on his world. It’s a world that many thought for the longest time was loud, dark and violent like his sideline behavior. We’re now finding out that like most successful people whom are enjoyable to be around in this world, Bo Pelini has a dial and is fully capable of adjusting it according to what’s going on.

When it’s time to work, Bo works. When it’s time to play, Bo plays. When it’s time to yell, Bo roars. I can get on board with that. I think most people can as well.

As volatile as Bo Pelini seems at times, it’s ironic that he coaches perhaps the least complex program in college football – The Nebraska Cornhuskers.

There is nothing — and I mean NOTHING fancy about Nebraska football. Plain red jerseys. White helmets with a block red “N” on each side. Old stadium on the plains.

But they do it right. Nebraska is that program we thought Penn State was before their troubles two years ago. They are the model of college football – from the history and tradition to the dedicated fanbase and their style of play over the years.

You hardly ever hear a fan of a college football team who isn’t a rival of Nebraska say a bad word about the program. I’ve been in places like Buffalo, Charlottesville, Tampa, Tucson and New Orleans where fans of other teams take a moment at a sports bar and acknowledge that Nebraska is on TV and talk about how much respect they have for the program.

So here Bo Pelini sits — at the helm of one of the most nationally respected and admired programs in the country — on the cusp of turning the page on his national image. In the eyes of the people who matter, he’s both the old-school fire-breathing coach who won’t tolerate failure and the lovable dad-like figure who plays along and trolls a Twitter account that trolls him.

The sport of college football has been called by some, including myself, broken and full of dirty car salesman who practice things like dishonesty and over-signing. Bo Pelini is becoming a likable and honest alternative to what has become the norm in a sport that was once great and can be again.

And this reminds me – I need to give my dad a call.


Follow @KIAFootball on Twitter.



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About J.P. Scott

Owner and editor of Know It All Football, contributor to and Member of the Football Writers Association of America.

48 thoughts on “Can Nebraska’s Bo Pelini Become America’s Favorite College Football Coach?

  1. LLtLL
    April 14, 2014 at 9:37 pm

    JP, also remember that for TO’s first 20 years, people constantly complained about him being too bland, too plain, too vanilla. That his gentlemanly demeanor caused his teams to play flat, he needed to be more fiery, like the Bobfather. I think TO was right when he said a coach has to be who he is; kids will know when he is pretending. Bo is still being Bo; we’re just getting to see more sides of him. Since its genuine, it will work, with this generation or any other.

    1. Mark
      April 16, 2014 at 1:02 pm

      Well said, just learn how to properly use a semi colon.

      1. grammar nazi nazi
        April 17, 2014 at 3:06 pm

        Learn how to spell semicolon before you disparage another’s usage of it?

  2. April 14, 2014 at 9:56 pm

    Bravo! You absolutely nailed it. 🙂

    1. April 15, 2014 at 10:50 pm

      Can’t agree more!!!!!

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  4. April 15, 2014 at 7:03 am

    Great read!!

  5. Rosalie Suggs
    April 15, 2014 at 8:43 am

    Spot on!! There was a reason that a good portion of HuskerNation lobbied for Bo Pelini to be hired after the disastrous Bill Callahan years. He knows football and he knows how to coach young men. There is a portion of HuskerNation who will NEVER be satisfied until there is a national championship and domination of the Big 10. We may have to wait awhile for the latter but even then, the naysayers will likely still not be satisfied. Bob Devaney, Tom Osborne, Frank Solich, Bo Pelini. Good coaches ALL but very different men. The first three helped build Nebraska tradition – Bo Pelini is carrying it forward.

  6. This is trash
    April 15, 2014 at 8:54 am

    Sissified nation? Are you serious? Every generation has complained about the sissification of the next generation as a way to reify their own insecurities about their masculinity.

    Bo Pelini is a crazyperson. When he played a prank on his players to make it seem like he was assaulting of their teammates….they actually believed him. That’s how much they love him and think he’s a stable person.

    This is trash.

    1. KvG
      April 15, 2014 at 12:12 pm

      Um…and to what prank are you referring? You mean the one where the player was in on it and Pelini took his phone and smashed it on the ground? Is that the one? Your argument is flawed because you can’t even be accurate about the reference you make.

      Yes. I totally agree with the sissified nation comment. I didn’t get a trophy for showing up when I was a kid. Great read. Thanks for the article!

      1. This is trash
        April 15, 2014 at 7:06 pm

        I’ll speak in short sentences so you can understand.

        Yes, the phone smash prank. You actually DID know the reference I made.

        The point I made, had you read my comment, was that the players actually thought he was fighting Randle. That is my argument. Had you read or comprehended my first post, you would have already understood that.

        1. Meridith
          April 16, 2014 at 3:08 pm

          Bo was not “fighting” Randle he was yelling, making sure the rest of the team knew where Bo stood when someone broke the rules he set for his program. Randle knew what was happening all along, if you look at the players faces they were terrified when they heard Bo yelling so it must not be as common as people seem to think it was. Yelling happens in every college football program, it’s just not always publicized.

          1. Jeff
            April 17, 2014 at 3:09 pm

            To be fair to “This is trash,” there was a fair amount of loud banging sounds in the prank video. I doubt many drill instructors can make doors shake with their voices.

    2. NoSir
      April 15, 2014 at 2:19 pm

      Your opinion is trash. This is the generation of the participation award, my friend.

      Bo is not crazy and if you think so you’re delusional and the world would be better off without you. Or anyone like you.

    3. tkd
      April 15, 2014 at 6:00 pm

      You are an outsider if you do not know that everyone of those players did not LOVE that stunt! How do I know? Our son was there. And as the mother of several sons, I welcomed Coach Bo as the father figure that would be the surrogate in our absence as parents. Finally, as a person in education and medicine tending to the mishaps and complaints of this younger generation, this author is SPOT ON when he discusses the sissified state of the nation. Great read!!!

    4. April 16, 2014 at 10:08 am

      Great comment T.I.T. Here’s your participation trophy.

    5. Ducksnorts
      April 16, 2014 at 12:47 pm

      I bet you still play soccer don’t you.

    6. Big Lou
      April 17, 2014 at 1:37 pm

      Suddenly, an idiot.

      Look, we get it. Your nuanced thinking enabled you to realize the implications of the joke; that Bo could actually start a fight with a player. The problem is your brick-like mental plasticity left you short of thinking that maybe Thad Randle is a hot head too. Maybe two hot heads collided? Or maybe this was the 17th time Bo had a cell phone issue so it was believable that he lost it. But carry on being the smartest person in your reality.

  7. janfann
    April 15, 2014 at 10:08 am

    This is an excellent article! Sums up Bo to perfection. Thanks so much!

  8. derek betka
    April 15, 2014 at 10:59 am

    Um youre wrong about saying everyone that played football doesnt have an issue with Bo. Those type of coaches never got me to play harder by getting in my face and just caused more negative attitudes along the sideline. Hope Bo does turn out to be great, we keep extending his contract… Just love how we are paying to have a top 10 coach, maybe someday we will have one.

    1. 'SkersFan
      April 15, 2014 at 1:01 pm

      Well, maybe you should review how many players and former players have stood up for Bo and lobbied for Bo when he was in the hot seat. You apparently weren’t that type of player. Not everyone can play for a coach like that, and obviously you aren’t one. But these players have come to bat for Bo time after time.

  9. Derek Betkas Coach
    April 15, 2014 at 11:35 am

    Betka the only think you were good for was plugging a hole and that’s hard to do laying on your back goddammit.

  10. April 15, 2014 at 11:36 am

    BOOM! Plus Cowbell and Motorboats!
    Outstanding read.
    I miss my Dad.

  11. RedStripe
    April 15, 2014 at 11:56 am

    Bo’s personality does not equate to success on the field. With amazing resources and a rabid fanbase, Bo has managed to fracture the fanbase and recruit poorly. His assistants have been buddy hires and his insular nature (paranoia) has not allowed him to seek out great minds at the coordinator positions. In business (and football) the best CEO’s surround themselves with people smarter than they are. Bo has hired a bunch of yes men in contrast.

    i think it speaks volumes of the dysfunction at Nebraska when the coach tells the fans to “f off” and dares the university to fire him after swiping at an official that they retain him and pull the cat stunt as opposed to fixing the actual problem. The actual problem is nepotism, yes men and deadwood in the athletic department on the football side. Nebraska is going to be down for a long time as long it continues to live in the past.

  12. Rob
    April 15, 2014 at 12:44 pm

    My dad didn’t act like that. My coaches didn’t act like that, and I played as hard as a could for them.

    1. Ryan
      April 16, 2014 at 12:48 pm

      Yeah? what college/pro team did you play for Rob?

  13. firepelini
    April 15, 2014 at 3:34 pm

    It’s hilarious that you can write an article about Bo Pelini and fail to mention his actual ability as a coach. In case you haven’t been paying attention, the Cornhuskers have been either embarrassing or mediocre under Pelini. In fact, he may not even coach football or fundamentals. If you’ve watched his defense over the years, you’ll have seen a defense that fundamentally can not stop a nosebleed, and watch a defensive line that is blown off the ball by 3-4 yards at least. He is a GOD AWFUL coach, and articles like this frighten me that he may be back for another year.

    1. Red J
      April 15, 2014 at 7:49 pm

      I’ve come to see Bo as mostly an entitled egomaniac that has only learned to speak the language of an authentic person well enough to convince himself he’s one of them. I think he cares about winning, but not in the way a truly good coach/leader does. A truly authentic leader works to earn his accomplishments and championships because they’re the result of a worthy pursuit that you do because it has value in itself.

      I think egomaniacs like Bo expect trophies and accolades to come his way because I’m Bo Fucking PeLLLLini And Who The Fuck Are You. I’ve seen people like him in business, I’ve seen people like him in education. They don’t accept people questioning them, they refuse to consider change, suggestions for improvement are taken as an insult. Everything is a challenge to their ego, and when they sense people looking at them sideways, what do they do? Circle the wagons and adopt a me-vs-the-world mentality. Everyone is wrong but me. And they surround themselves with yes-men, and that becomes the most valuable quality in a person–and we see it’s sure as hell more valuable to Bo than coaching ability.

      Bo is an egomaniacal sociopathic misfit who once upon a time had a trendy defensive scheme. Now everyone but his cadre and brainwashed sycophants know he’s been out of his league for a while. This is why I believe The New Bo is just a marketing gimmick to make himself a viable commodity. He knows the knives are out in Lincoln and his defenders are dwindling, so he’s trying to take his ball and go home. I don’t believe he fully understands why these fucking Nebraska ingrates don’t all worship him anymore, but he’s at least smart enough to realize he’s got to sell himself as a Twitter-joking recruiting machine who still has It.

      Problem is, he does have the maddening ability to pull bullshit wins out of his ass. Which means we better hope his self-promotion works well enough for him to get a job offer he takes. I’ve just about lost faith in SE to have the guts to do what needs to be done. At least until Crusty Old Fuck is in the grave.

      1. Big Lou
        April 17, 2014 at 1:31 pm

        Did you really need to type 379 words or could it be that you’re just as egotistical as the person you’re complaining about?

  14. Big Dog
    April 15, 2014 at 4:23 pm

    @Stripe: You sound foolish. “Down” is winning 9 games every year??? Ugh. And he didn’t ever tell ANY real fans to “F off”…just the very small % of morons who bought tickets. I said the same thing to many of them at that game. None of them said anything back… 🙂

    Bo has way, way to much testosterone for some. And yes, it is because America has become sissified. Ultimately it comes down to the fact that his kids get to class, stay out of trouble, win (although not enough), and would charge hell itself to save him. He is everything that is RIGHT with college football, adult mentors, and role models in general. If my son played for him and needed his attention got, Bo has my blessing to get it!

  15. Big Dog
    April 15, 2014 at 4:25 pm

    And I forgot… the vast majority of the Bo haters ARE people who didn’t play. Or weren’t any good at it, in my experience.

  16. April 15, 2014 at 5:26 pm

    Did you play for Nebraska, Rob? Did you play college ball at all, Rob? Ah….let’s just be honest, were you a bench rider, Rob?

    Last I checked, each player gets to pick where they WANT to go. Naysayers can eat a bowl of dicks.

  17. kmlinds
    April 15, 2014 at 8:09 pm

    Before you question Coach Pelini’s ability, at least know what he has actually accomplished.

  18. who loves kitty
    April 15, 2014 at 9:56 pm

    by today’s W-L standards, bo pelini is a proven winner. though the championships have not come in his first six seasons, there is certainly a bright future ahead for the nebraska program and husker fans alike. let’s be honest, at times, bo is just a cat-loving meathead fuckstick but i trust he knows whats best for his players & his team. he is passionate about what he does and you can’t fault someone for that. go big red, cover the spread!

  19. AP
    April 15, 2014 at 11:19 pm

    This is an extremely accurate representation of the state of Nebraska football. I have always been proud to tell others that I was born (in), raised (in), and attended the Univeristy of Nebraska. Upon mentioning this fact; the conversation usually gravitates towards the topic of our beloved football program. The tradition is unparalleled in college football. We are nothing like Miami, Ohio State, Florida State, or USC and that’s perfectly fine with Nebraskans. Bill Callahan and Steve Pederson tried to make us into USC but it didn’t work and I was so grateful. I hated the awful losses but dismantling the walk-on program, alienating former players/coaches, blaming players for losing was not the Nebraska way. Hard work, preserverence, and guiding young men on and off the field is the Nebraska way. No we never get the #1, #2, or even #10 rated recruiting class ever because a respectful workhorse is valued over a lackadasical speed demon criminal.
    Nebraska football fans have been so spoiled for so long that anything less than a championship is considered failure (It is!!!). It seems that people forget about Tom Osborne’s struggle and frustration. He almost left early in his career because of the critical fanbase but he toughed it out, They signed him to a contract and he felt he should honor it. That’s what Nebraska is. Honor and toughness. Bo Pelini has showed us these same traits. He definitely isn’t a Tom Osborne clone but he most certainly understands what Nebraska football was, and what it shold be now. Detractors will point to the infamous rant against the “fair weather fans” or his sideline antics. Yeah he’s passionate. I know I’ve screamed at the television and I’m sure all Nebraska fans have too. Shit gets intense and Bo feels it too. We want that. We need that. Never saw Callahan get upset at anything except someone questioning his perfect “system”. Bo cares about his players. He will fight for them as they will fight for him. That’s how Devaney built it. That’s how Tom continued it. Callahan destroyed it and Bo is trying to rebuild it. I still grit my teeth over the blowout losses but as long as the foundation is there; the winning will follow.

  20. nemama
    April 16, 2014 at 12:21 am

    As a Nebraska Import, I would be proud if my boys played for a man like Bo. I’ve seen him off field, with his children being a protective and loving father. I believe he is the same way with his players. Protective, loving, challenging them to be the best young men they can be. We need more MEN to be MEN to the children in their lives. Love, guide, discipline. On and off the field. This is who Bo is. Young men still need a ‘father’ to show them the way to be a man. Bo does this every day. There is so much more to Bo than the highlight clips show.

  21. Heck
    April 16, 2014 at 8:43 am

    If you’ve ever spent a little time with Bo in person or have spent some time talking to Bo’s players and/or assistant coaches, you’ll know that this article nails it. Many of his players refer to him as a father-figure and a major positive influence in their lives. As one person close to the program (Jack Hoffman’s dad) said, “I’ve never met a player that wouldn’t lay down on the railroad tracks for Bo.” And Bo recruits high-character kids, too. While the current Heisman trophy winner is facing a civil suit for rape, Bo’s players start charitable foundations to fight pediatric brain cancer. The guy does things the right way. Just don’t mess with his players or his assistant coaches….he might yell at you.

  22. stfu
    April 16, 2014 at 10:10 am

    To be clear, it was your generation that raised these sissies. If we are somehow weaker or more vulnerable to intimidation, that’s because your generation DIDN”T like the way your WWII-winning parents treated you.

    You can call it being a sissy all you like. I think it’s just using reason. It’s reasonable to expect to be treated with respect. It’s reasonable to look at someone who doesn’t respect you (or anyone) with disdain. It’s reasonable to want that phony sociopath’s ass sent back to Youngstown, where he believes all coaching talent originates. Cody Glenn gets sent packing for smoking weed while Carl has carte blanche to toke and snort his way through Lincoln and on to sunnier whore houses. Probably because he has such gifted Youngstown DNA. No nepotism there.

    You can be a man and treat people with respect. The fact that that’s lost on you made reading the article pretty easy. Bo’s threats and intimidations are ALWAYS the easy route. The harder thing is keeping a cool head for the good of the group. He doesn’t do that and I would guess the penalty yardage he’s amassed thus far could get him pretty close to Ohio.

    Sorry your dad was an a-hole. Sorry you think that made him tough and manly. Sorry for any kids you raise that have to put up with more of that super macho bs.

    1. admin
      April 16, 2014 at 11:18 pm

      To be clear, I’m a gen-x’er and my parents grew up in the 1970’s. My kids are five and two. I didn’t raise these kids 🙂

  23. M Collins
    April 16, 2014 at 12:02 pm

    Spot on article, The coaching job the Husker staff did last year was amazing. Do you think Florida State is in the title game if Jameis Winston get hurts? Would Ohio State have played for the Big ten title if Braxton Miller goes down? I have been a fan of this team for almost 40 years. I still remember when we almost ran Tom Osborne out of town. We gave him 20 years to get to the promised land. I suspect that most of the arm chair quarterbacks that constantly complain and will never be happy never played the game and have gotten their so called football IQ from the internet. If you knew that much about the game or are that good you would be a coach. I for one love the passion the man brings to the program. Now if you hate the man so much don’t go to the game I am sure there are people that would love to buy your ticket and support the team

  24. bep
    April 16, 2014 at 8:47 pm

    If you want to know what Caoch Pelini is all about ask Andy or Jack Hoffman, or better yet read or listen to his post Penn State (2011) game comments on what is the most important thing in life to teach young men and where priorities should be. Look at the academic achievements and citizenship awards of his players. You can overlook the fact that he’s one of very few with the highest # of wins per year if you’d like….but you can not take away his character. Bo is beloved by those that matter.

  25. elbens
    April 17, 2014 at 1:36 pm

    I was raised with a very stern hand by an ex-marine, played football(HS & College), and have no problem with coaches yelling at players, refs, or other coaches. I say this because I am a Nebraska fan, that has shifted from a strong supporter to believing Bo should no longer coach Nebraska football. Whether he wants to be or not he represents the University of Nebraska and he has not done that well more often than not. He has had MANY tirades against fans, media, and students. Bo has also shown an inability to grow, change, or hire competent staff. The way he has brain washed the Nebraska players against the very fans that pay for their education is unbelievable. What made Nebraska so special for so long were that player not only played for their coach and each other, but the fans and the state too. Bo thinks if there is anything joyous praise for his coaching, then you’re not a real fan. He has instilled this belief in his staff and players, which unacceptable and unwarranted for the most loyal fanbase in college sports.

  26. drd
    April 17, 2014 at 4:24 pm

    Also, remember how coach Pelini responded when one of his star QB recruits, Zach Darlington suffered a concussion early in his senior season. There was a very real possibility that Zach would never play football again. Coach Pelini assured Zach and his parents that the scholarship was good – whether or not he ever played football for Nebraska or not. Some, especially those who have stated here that Pelini can’t recruit, would consider this a “wasted” scholarship. In a program where each scholarship is extremely valuable, Coach Pelini did not see it as wasted.

  27. BKMK
    April 19, 2014 at 7:30 am

    Once again the straw man argument that Mark Pelini is on the hot seat because he is old school.
    He is on the hot seat because Nebraska was Bitch slapped by UCLA, Bitch slapped by Michigan St., Bitch slapped by Minnesota, Bitch slapped by Iowa and survived the mighty Nortwestern by the skin of our teeth

  28. Jen
    April 24, 2014 at 6:34 am

    Your dad does sound like an asshole just like Bo.