LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Bo Pelini was fired as Nebraska’s football coach on Sunday after a seven-year stint marked by an inability to restore the program to national prominence and too many embarrassing defeats.
Pelini extended his streak of winning at least nine games every season with a 37-34 overtime win at Iowa on Friday but he never won a conference championship and his teams lost four games in every season he completed.
Pelini was 66-27 and led the Cornhuskers to three league championship games in the Big 12 and Big Ten.
“Earlier this morning I informed Coach Bo Pelini of our decision to move forward in a new direction,” athletic director Shawn Eichorst said in a statement. “Coach Pelini served our University admirably for seven years and led our football program’s transition to the Big Ten Conference.”
Eichorst will hold an afternoon news conference.
Asked for comment, Pelini wrote in a text to The Associated Press, “I’m good. Thanks for asking!”
Quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr. tweeted, “Biggest mistake you ever made.... Bo was the best coach I’ve ever had and I’ll always appreciate the things you taught me.”
Associate head coach Barney Cotton, a Nebraska alum, will be the interim head coach for the Cornhuskers’ bowl game.
Pelini was under contract through February 2019. The university will owe him a settlement of about $7.5 million, which can be reduced by a certain amount once he lands another job.
Pelini brought the Huskers out of the depths of the failed four-year Bill Callahan experiment that ended in 2007, his four-losses-a-year habit and frequent bad losses on the national stage wore on a fan base that has filled Memorial Stadium for every home game since 1962.
Those fans have been conditioned to expect excellence. Nebraska ranks fourth in all-time victories and has won five national championships, including three in the four years before Tom Osborne retired as coach after the 1997 season.
The dominant run of success in the mid-1990s has been an albatross for the coaches who followed — first Frank Solich and then Callahan and Pelini.
Bad losses started to haunt Pelini after Nebraska moved to the Big Ten, and they became the program’s identity. There was the 70-31 beatdown by unranked Wisconsin in the 2012 conference championship game, and last year there were one-sided losses to UCLA, Minnesota and Iowa.