Nebraska Officials Publicly Back Bo Pelini, but Is Coach on Hot Seat with Fans?

Barrett SalleeSEC Football Lead WriterSeptember 19, 2013

Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini
Nebraska head coach Bo PeliniLeon Halip/Getty Images

It's been a long week for Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini.

Pelini has been in hot water recently after his team threw away a 21-3 lead at home against UCLA last week in a 41-21 loss to the Bruins.

But it didn't stop there.

Dom Cosentino of Deadspin released audio Monday of an expletive-laden rant recorded two years ago in which Pelini goes off on media members and fans following a comeback win over Ohio State. The recording took place without Pelini's knowledge, shortly before his postgame radio appearance.

Nebraska chancellor Harvey Perlman and director of athletics Shawn Eichorst issued a statement on the issue Wednesday, via the school's official website:

The comments made by Head Football Coach Bo Pelini in 2011, published Monday, are unfortunate and deeply concerning to us, as they would be to anyone who loves this university. Our coaches, staff and student-athletes must be held to a high standard and Coach Pelini's remarks were unfair to the legions of Nebraska fans and not what we expect from a representative of this university. Former Director of Athletics Tom Osborne became aware of these comments and the existence of a recording more than a year ago, and addressed the matter with Coach Pelini. We have observed, and many others have commented, that Coach Pelini’s demeanor has significantly improved since the time of this incident. Coach Pelini has given us his assurance that he understands the seriousness and inappropriateness of his comments. We believe he is sincere in his apology and in his regret. We are prepared to put the matter to rest. Our football student-athletes, coaches and staff deserve all of our support and we know the Nebraska faithful will be there for them.

According to Deadspin, the anonymous tip was sent via its inbox just a few hours before it was published on the website.

Overzealous fan?

Perhaps. After all, considering the majority of Pelini's tirade was directed at fans, can you blame them for being upset?

This presents a big problem for Pelini. His team blew a big home lead to UCLA, struggled with Wyoming in the opener in a 37-34 win and was blown out of the Big Ten Championship Game last December 70-31 by a very average Wisconsin team.

The honeymoon is over, and the tirade directed at the fanbase has sent the head coach to the college football equivalent of marital counseling. Pelini isn't the first coach to say negative things about his program's fans, but very rarely do such instances become public. Because of the tirade, the measurements used to evaluate Pelini's job status have dwindled.

Now, it's all about his win/loss record, which puts Pelini in a precarious spot. His program has underachieved, the age of the "black shirt" defense is long gone, and now, despite issuing a public apology, it's easier to forgive than forget.

 Fans don't make administrative decisions, so as long as Perlman and Eichorst support Pelini, it won't matter. But what's around the corner?

Former Arkansas head coach Houston Nutt found out the hard way what a few overzealous fans are capable of in 2007, after disgruntled fans combed through his cell phone records in the offseason. The lack of support, coupled with a sluggish start to that season, led Nutt to resign three days after upsetting top-ranked and eventual BCS National Champion LSU in the final game of the regular season.

Could Pelini's Nebraska career follow the same path? Perhaps. An angry fanbase coupled with football mediocrity is a volatile combination.

Support from the administration is nice until the on-field product warrants change. When that happens, Pelini won't have the benefit of the doubt.

He has himself to blame.