Why should Nebraska fire a winning coach?
Who knows what Steve Pederson was thinking in the final days of Nebraska's2003 regular season in football.
Nebraska's new first-year athletic director wasn't saying; other than to deny reports that he has shared his feelings about Frank Solich, the Huskers' coach, with Nebraska boosters.
The story burst to state ... and national ... prominence after the Lincoln Journal quoted anonymous sources as saying Pederson had told them he would seek Solich's ouster as coach at the end of the season.
Despite taking lots of flak, the Journal has stuck by the story, sending Internet chat rooms and sports talk shows into a frenzy of speculation.
So now that the Huskers have defeated the Colorado Buffaloes, 31-22, to raise Nebraska's 2003 record to 9 wins and 3 losses, what do you think will happen?
Has Solich won a reprieve, persuading Pederson to keep him for at least one more year as the Huskers' head coach? It looks that way, although we won't know for sure until Pederson goes public with his appraisal of Frank's performance in the next few days.
On first glance, you have to wonder what those who are after Solich's job are thinking. He's bounced back from a 7-7 season in 2002 to post a 9-3 record this year, one of the 20 best winning percentages in Division I football.
But -- for fans worried about the trend Husker football is taking -- the concern is the Huskers' 16-11 record since being blown out by Colorado at the end of the 2001 season. And -- although the Huskers have lost only three games this season -- all the defeats have been by embarrassing margins, with Missouri, Texas and Kansas State manhandling the Huskers in Big 12 play.
In large part, Husker fans' dissatisfaction with Solich stems from his persistence in playing Jammal Lord at quarterback, despite the senior signal caller's obvious problems with passing and decision-making. Solich did the same thing when Lord was the understudy to Eric Crouch, playing Crouch exclusively and not giving Lord any game experience until he was thrust into the job as a junior.
Next year, Jo Dailey faces the same challenge, taking over the Husker reins with very limited experience.
Still -- despite all of fans' fault-finding with Solich -- you can't deny the improvement the Huskers have made this season ... going 9-3 in the regular season and having a chance to improve their 2003 record to 10-3 with a bowl victory.
Down deep, Pederson has probably considered the possibility of replacing Solich as coach. But this is not the time. Replacing Solich is too cut-throat. It's not the Nebraska way. The Husker tradition is too proud to spoil it by replacing coaches with winning records.