Archive for November, 2007

Tim Cassidy: "I am going back."
Friday, November 30, 2007

Nebraska’s associate athletic director for football is leaving UNL for a similar position at Texas A&M. He spent 19 years with the Aggies, working with new head coach Mike Sherman for part of that time. He will become the associate athletic director for football at A&M, and will also serve as Sherman’s recruiting coordinator.

He is widely regarded as one of the top administrators in the country.

In an email correspondence late Friday morning, Cassidy told me:

“I am going back. It has been a great experience here, even during these times that might seem a little rough. I fulfilled a lifetime dream of working here at UNL.”

Cassidy was born in Omaha and is a graduate of Nebraska-Omaha.

We wish him the best. He was always a pleasure to work with, always friendly even in difficult times.

I felt he would’ve made a great athletic director for UNL.

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Steve Pederson to Collect Two Paychecks
Friday, November 30, 2007

From the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

Steve Pederson has proven you can come home again.

Pederson will be introduced today as Pitt’s athletic director at a news conference scheduleded for 12:30 p.m., according to two sources within the Pitt athletic department. Pederson was Pitt’s athletic director from 1996 to 2002 before leaving to the same job at the University of Nebraska. He grew up in that state.

Pederson, however, was fired by Nebraska in October mostly because his highest profile hire — football coach Bill Callahan — failed. Callahan also was fired last week following a 5-7 season.

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Three thoughts:
1) He’s also collecting his $2.2 million buyout. Talk about your disposable income.
2) Next thing you know, Bill Byrne will come back to Nebraska.
3) Pederson finally has the head coach he always wanted: Dave Wannstedt

Turner Talks
Friday, November 30, 2007

For the first time since the Husker coach search began, one candidate is finally talking. Not that he actually wanted to.

Turner Gill and the Buffalo Bulls were honored at halftime of the men’s basketball game against Tulane Thursday night in Amherst, New York. Gill was fairly tight-lipped.

When asked about what he’s telling recruits, Gill said, ” I’m the head football coach at the University of Buffalo. That’s what I tell them, ’cause that’s the truth. And we just go from there.”

Reporter: “Are they curious?”

“Everybody’s curious. It is what it is from that standpoint. But I’m the head football coach at the University of Buffalo, and I’m coaching here and I got my recruits that I’m after and we’re doin’ just like everything is normal.”

Reporter: “Can you tell us when you interviewed?”

“Can’t comment on that.”

Reporter: “Have any other schools contacted you?”

“Can’t comment on that.”

From ESPN.com’s "Rumor Central"
Friday, November 30, 2007

Bo Pelini has emerged as the leading candidate at Nebraska and could be introduced as the new coach of the Cornhuskers early next week.

Interim athletic director Tom Osborne, who is conducting the search, told Nebraska media outlets Wednesday that he hoped to have a coach named next week. That timetable would fit Pelini’s schedule, since the LSU defensive coordinator will be coaching in the SEC championship game Saturday afternoon in Atlanta.

One source said Osborne had settled on “a defensive guy” but had to wait until after Saturday to make it official.

The other leading candidate, Buffalo coach and former Nebraska player and coach Turner Gill, finished his season Nov. 24.

Pelini reportedly interviewed with Osborne in Baton Rouge on Sunday, while Gill might have interviewed Monday.

A source close to Wake Forest indicated that coach Jim Grobe interviewed with Nebraska in Atlanta on Nov. 26.

Given the Circumstances
Thursday, November 29, 2007

The University at Buffalo had originally planned on holding an end-of-the-season news conference with coach Turner Gill on Thursday.

Given the current state of affairs, that news conference has been postponed. I spoke with University at Buffalo associate athletic director Paul Vecchio on the phone, who told me that given Gill’s candidacy for the Nebraska job, the “state of the program” news conference would’ve turned into a Nebraska news conference, and would’ve been unfair to Gill and the current Buffalo players.

Vecchio tells me they hope to do something next week with Gill, or with someone else as Buffalo moves forward. I didn’t take the “someone else” as necessarily a new head coach, but rather another athletic administrator if Gill was no longer with the program.

Gill was named the MAC Coach of the Year on Tuesday after leading the Buffalo Bulls to a 5-7 record (5-3 MAC), its first winning conference record since joining the MAC in 1999.

Hello Again, Coach Osborne
Thursday, November 29, 2007

Tom Osborne is affectionately referred to as “Coach”. Now, the title is actually legit.

Osborne is now officially interim head coach. Nebraska made the move so Osborne would be able to recruit away from campus.

He passed the NCAA recruiting exam on Wednesday. BTW, if you want to give it a shot, click on this link.

He’s allowed to make one in-home visit with each recruit. He’ll be recruiting on Thursday and Friday.

So, Tom Osborne is the interim athletic director and interim head coach.

Instead of calling him “coach”, he should now be referred to as “interim.”

The irony: Osborne will eventually have to fire himself.

Search News

On the “Husker Sports Nightly” radio show Wednesday night, Osborne said the process will continue into next week.

“Hopefully by next week. That would be my general timetable. But again, if it takes longer, it takes longer. We’d hope we’d be moving along pretty well by at least the middle of next week.”

More importantly, it now looks like I’m going to win the office pool. Earlier this week I took next Tuesday (12/4). The winner gets a free KETV sticker. I hope I get it.

On a serious note, if the announcement isn’t made until next week, that would lead me to believe that Bo Pelini is the next coach. If it were Gill, he could hold that news conference today. With LSU playing in the SEC championship game, Nebraska will have wait for the Pelini parade.

Down to Two?

ESPN.com is reporting that the Nebraska search is down to two finalists: Bo Pelini and Turner Gill. That’s according to Pat Forde.

Day Four of the Search
Wednesday, November 28, 2007

On by far the least eventful day of the search, it’s time to talk about the three known candidates.

Turner Gill, Bo Pelini and Jim Grobe have either spoken or interviewed with Tom Osborne and Harvey Perlman for the Nebraska job.

Bo Pelini

Four years ago, I was not in favor of Pelini being the head coach. He wasn’t ready for it then. He wasn’t the chief executive Nebraska needed, oftentimes being too much of a buddy to the players (see: following 2003 Alamo Bowl). For me to say he’s more prepared now would be a general statement made by a naive media member. I will say this: with Pelini, you won’t have a media savvy guy who can charm recruits and win over their parents. His personality sometimes resembles a piece of charred parchment. He is, however, a no nonsense coach who will fire up his guys. And right now, more than anything else, this program needs heart, desire, passion and swagger. And while he isn’t a terrific recruiter, you’re only as good as your assistants. Who knows who he would bring on. Ron Brown? Marvin Sanders?

Turner Gill

The name Turner Gill evokes memories of the glorious past. His character, faith and deep love for Nebraska would no doubt spill over into the program. The question is: is Gill ready to become the head coach of Nebraska? Some may say he needs more seasoning at Buffalo, or even at a larger school. I counter with this: the guy has been a football coach since the day he hung up the cleats, and his knowledge of the state, the program and the tradition of Nebraska would more than make up for any so-called shortcomings of experience. He may have to learn on the fly, but I would argue that Gill is more prepared than Pelini for the simple fact that Gill has actually been a head coach. And the added advantage is this: Gill won’t be looking for his next job. Fans, players and recruits will never have to worry about Gill eyeing the classifieds.

Jim Grobe

His might be the least-familiar name to Nebraska fans, but it by far brings the most experience to the table. He turned Ohio around, and brought Wake Forest back from the dead in a resurrection project that rivals Lazarus. And considering his faith, that analogy seems more than appropriate. In listening to Grobe speak and reading about the man, he seems to be most like Tom Osborne. He is a man anchored in faith and family. If you ask him about his faith, he’ll openly tell you about God’s presence in his life. In an interview, Grobe called his career “God-driven.” He has a masters in counseling, and says he’s always thought of himself as a “football coach and a counselor”. I can’t imagine Osborne and Grobe not hitting it off in a sit-down meeting.

Where do you sit with this coaching search (besides on your couch, with your eyes glued to your laptop) ?

People are left with a bitter taste in their mouths from the Bill Callahan era. Fans don’t feel he embraced the tradition or “got Nebraska.” In Turner Gill, you have someone who “gets it”. In Bo Pelini, you have someone who has been here before. In Jim Grobe you have the experience, track record and Nebraska values. The bottom line: whether he’s from here or not, whether he’s traveled through Nebraska or not, he has to win.

What do you think?

Personally, here’s my ranking:

1) Jim Grobe
2) Turner Gill
3) Bo Pelini

I still believe Pelini will get the job, but that changes the more I think about it. Maybe I should sleep it off.

Your thoughts?

Osborne Not Saying Much, Players Left Wondering
Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The team meeting on Tuesday was rumored to have something to do with the new head coach. Turns out, it was exactly what Nebraska sports information told us it was on Monday… just a season wrap-up meeting.

Tom Osborne did talk to the players, encouraging them to focus on the classroom and the weight room. As for who the players’ next coach will be, he didn’t say much.

“I’ll tell you when it’s over,” said the interim athletic director.

When asked if he had offered the job to anyone yet, Osborne replied: “Haven’t offered it to anyone yet. We’ll see what happens.”

He continued, “When the time comes here, we’ll make sure everything is laid out for you. There won’t be any secrets.”

I asked him when that will be. “I don’t know for sure, but hopefully sooner than later.”

Is That My Car?

Fans had better hope Osborne is better at finding a coach than finding his vehicle. It took him a little extra time in the parking lot before he found his truck. He passed it once, not sure if it was his. You never want to lose you vehicle with ten cameras watching you.

It was actually a quite humorous scene. You’ve gotta love Tom.

Hitting the Recruiting Trail

Osborne did talk about how he hopes to make some in-home (or possibly in-school) visits to recruits. He specifically mentioned the guys closer to home (read: in-state).

This comes on the heels of the story we ran Monday night with Collins Okafor. Many people posted comments saying that Osborne was unable to do such things being the athletic director. Obviously, Osborne is making it happen. Like I said below in the story about Okafor: where there’s a will, there’s a way.

Osborne understands how important it is to keep these players connected and in the loop.

In order to recruit, he must first pass the NCAA required recruiting test. “Hope I can remember enough to get it passed,” he said.

Oh Yeah… the Current Players

They went into Tuesday’s team meeting looking for answers. They came out unable to provide any.

“I have no clue,” said Ndamukong Suh. “That’s all in Coach Osborne’s hands.”

Said safety Larry Asante: “There’s a lot of uncertainty like I said, ’cause we had built a relationship with our coach, coach Callahan. We loved the guy, and he’s just not here right now. We don’t know what the future holds.”

I asked Larry how important it is for a new coach to come in soon so the players can establish a relationship with him right away. “We just have to embrace him. We have to welcome him. We can’t hold nothing against him because he is a new guy, even though they got rid of our coach,” he said. “We can’t hold nothing against him. We just have to welcome him, and work with him… we gotta get him in here as soon as possible so we can get that relationship going, get it established right away.”

The most interesting comment came from safety Rickey Thenarse. When I asked him about how difficult this situation has been, he said, “It’s fairly difficult. But whoever who comes in next, sure enough they’ll play me.”

Then I read a comment he made to the Omaha World Herald after our interview.

“Whoever will be the head coach, I hope they play the best players. That’s all.”

I’m still not sure if it was a dig at the old coaching staff, or a plea to the incoming staff to not pass these current players over for his new incoming recruits. Any thoughts?

Regardless, these guys just want the smoke to clear yesterday.

Update on Flight from Atlanta
Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The plane carrying Tom Osborne and Harvey Perlman back to Lincoln landed Monday evening.

Tom Osborne told KETV, “It’s been a long day. When the time is right, you’ll be notified.”

Recruits in Limbo, Okafor Wavering
Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Aside from the coaches’ families, the players feel the greatest impact with such changes. For those who committed to play at Nebraska and the fired coaching staff, it can be a stressful time.

On Monday, I spoke with Sean Fisher of Millard North and Collins Okafor of Omaha Westside. Both are instate recruits, and both are anxious to see who Nebraska hires as its next football coach.
“It’s a lot to deal with,” said Fisher. “You go the whole process with this coaching staff, now you have to start from scratch.”
Fisher, however, is intent on playing for Nebraska. “That’s obviously where I want to play my ball. I haven’t changed anything to this point. I’m at a wait and see. I’d prefer to play my career at Nebraska.”

The same can not be said for Westside runningback Okafor. Once the coaching staff was engulfed in turmoil, schools began courting him again. On Friday (the day of the Colorado game) Okafor used his first official visit to take a trip to Stanford.

“It’s California,” said Okafor. “It was right by the beach, it was nice. I met (head) Coach (Jim)Harbaugh and (Chris) Dalman, o-line coach, Coach (Willie) Taggart, the running backs coach. They had a tough loss to Notre Dame, but they’re a young team. The whole defense is coming back, the quarterback is only a sophomore… It was a chance to see a good academic school. It was my first official visit. At that point I felt like it was the right thing to do not knowing what was going on at Nebraska.”
When I asked him about his commitment to Nebraska, Okafor said, “It’s kinda like marriage. When you’re committed in a relationship, you won’t do anything to break it… But when that person leaves the relationship, evidently you’re gonna have to find out what else is there to make you happy, because you don’t know if that person is going to come back or what kind of person is going to come into your life.”
“When you’re committed to a school and a staff you stay committed. But since all this was happening, I go back to my marriage analogy. You have to go look at other places, you have to keep your options open. I don’t know, and I don’t think anybody else knows, who is going to be the head coach.”
On Sunday, University of Kansas tight ends coach/recruiting coordinator Brandon Blaney visited Okafor and offered him a scholarship.
“Coach Blaney talked to me about my offensive style. It lifted my eyebrows a little bit, it was new. I have to take other visits first… You can’t just marry someone after seeing them the first time.”
Westside teammate Tim Biere is committed to Kansas.
Okafor committed to Nebraska in October of 2006. With a new coach coming on board, his biggest concern is forging a relationship in a short period of time.
“It’s gonna be hard because you can’t just establish a relationship in a couple of weeks. It’s something that has to be sincere. It’s gonna be hard for whoever the coach is gonna be, for the recruits, because Callahan had a different offensive scheme and offensive style. That’s why I feel a lot of those recruits committed… I have no idea who the head coach is gonna be… For me it’s gonna be hard to establish a relationship. Not for me in a stubborn way, but I just have no idea what his mindset is, I don’t know if it’s gonna be positive in my heart.”
It should be emphasized that Okafor is still verbally committed to Nebraska.
“My commitment is not open because I haven’t decommitted. I’m still committed to Nebraska. Randy Jordan helps that commitment because he is still with Nebraska, and that’s all I’m gonna say.”
However, Okafor does feel slighted in that interim athletic director Tom Osborne has not contacted him. Reportedly, Osborne has spoken with other recruits… but not the Westside senior.
“It’s just upsetting that I haven’t talked to him at all. It’s not good for me, because as a recruit I feel like I deserve the right to know what’s going on, or at least talk to the AD.”

“I’ve always wanted to talk to Tom Osborne. Who in Nebraska doesn’t want to talk to Tom Osborne? But I didn’t. He didn’t call me… He apparently called other recruits. It’s like I’m somewhere down the list that he hasn’t talked to yet. It just hurts.”
Okafor told me he hopes to make a decision by the end of December. “Bring a little Christmas cheer to some… not to others,” he laughed.

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My take: Okafor is nice young man who has a big decision to make. He’s not angry at Osborne, but simply feels like he’s left blowing in the wind during this difficult time. Regardless of what Osborne is/isn’t able to do per NCAA rules, I’m sure Okafor feels where there’s a will there’s a way, and I agree.

Okafor’s intentions are good, and I completely disagree with those posters calling him a spoiled athlete. In my opinion he’s pretty mature for his age. It’s just a very stressful time. With the coaching staff now gone, I believe he desperately wants something to hold onto, a reason to still go to Nebraska.

Right now I’m not sure he has one.