Bo Pelini behaved as if he had coached his last game at Nebraska, based on his sideline and post-game decorum, or lack thereof. That was the assumption.
The evidence was far from subtle. But it was an assumption, keep that in mind.
First, the basis for such an assumption.
Pelini was brusque with ABC sideline reporter Quint Kessenich, who asked about the interceptions thrown by Ron Kellogg III on the Huskers’ first two possessions.
“What do you think?” Pelini said. “What kind of question is that?”
Pelini’s response is already included in Kessenich’s profile on Wikipedia. Kessenich “made national headlines” for asking the question of an “indignant” Pelini, the entry says.
The entry also says that Kessenich played lacrosse in college and professionally. Presumably, he is tough enough to withstand the words of an indignant coach.
It’s not as if Pelini were indignant with, say, Erin Andrews or Samantha Ponder.
More to the point, perhaps, Pelini was indignant with officials after a pass interference call he thought should have been waved off. So he took off his ballcap and swung it at an official.
The ballcap nearly hit the official – unsportsmanlike conduct, 15 yards.
In his post-game news conference, Pelini referred to the pass interference as a “chickens**t” call. “Excuse my language on that, but I had never seen anything like that before,” he said. “I’ve done a lot worse than that. I saw Kirk Ferentz on the other side acting a lot worse than that.
“I didn’t see a flag come out on him. The bottom line is they knew they blew the call.”
Ferentz is Iowa’s head coach. He wasn’t wearing a ballcap to swing.
Pelini was also indignant with reporters, who wanted to know if he thought he had made a “case” for keeping his job. “I don’t coach to make a case,” he said.
“Let’s call a spade a spade. If they want to fire me, go ahead.”
They are Chancellor Harvey Perlman and Athletic Director Shawn Eichorst, who issued a statement the next morning that said, in part: “We very much look forward to our upcoming bowl game and Coach Pelini continuing to lead our program in the future.”
Eichorst reiterated in the statement what he had said previously, that his “approach has always been to not comment publicly about our coaches until their full seasons are complete.”
He commented in this case because of “the volume of unfounded speculation and conjecture.”
Assumptions, in other words.
Later the next day, Pelini released a statement thanking Eichorst and the administration for their support and apologizing for his show of frustration with game officials and media.
Which brings us to the assumption Pelini believed the game would be his last.
He never said that, at least not on the record. We don’t know what he might have said to those in whom he confides. In any case, maybe his words and actions on the day after Thanksgiving were simply a reflection of his passion. It’s not as if he had never talked and acted that way before.
He’s nothing if not intensely competitive, sometimes to a point at which he might not remember exactly what he said or did. How else to explain the ballcap-waving incident?
Consider the Ferentz “acting a lot worse” comment. The evidence suggests otherwise.
To assume Pelini’s behavior was a result of his believing the Iowa game would be his last seems to call into question his principles. He has shown he’s as principled as he is passionate about what he does. He’s being paid well to coach. Why would that not be his focus?
Likewise, Eichorst should be commended for his consistency. His evaluation of Pelini is on-going, taking into account the entire season, not one game.
Presumably, his checklist includes sideline and post-game behavior as well as wins and losses. And, no doubt, it also includes Pelini’s relationship with his players.
“He’s literally changed my life,” said junior wide receiver Kenny Bell. “I would play for Bo Pelini against Satan himself and a team of demons at the gates of the underworld. I love Coach Pelini, and I can say that with confidence for everybody in that locker room.”
Such player comments, unsolicited, are common enough.
Many assumptions can be made about this. But they’re only assumptions.
On Monday, the Big Ten issued a public reprimand of Pelini for “violating the Big Ten Sportsmanship Policy” and fined Nebraska $10,000. That was a fact.