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Discussion in 'The Mainboard' started by Bo Pelinis, Oct 20, 2018.
Sam Pittman has done more in half a year than Frost has. Also, love KJ.
Our program is a borderline cult, that is the reason.
Borderline, huh? You think I want to feel this way all the time?
This is amazing. Is there one of these that does Nebraska?
I could only imagine Dean trying to do this.
A few friends who went to Georgia came over to my house to watch the UGA v Auburn and then Nebraska game. Towards the end of the game they kept asking me why I wasn't getting excited yet. I tried to explain that we'd fuck it up and shoot ourselves in the dick. They all thought I was Nostradamus at the end....nope, just an apathetic Husker (basketball) fan.
Teddy P out until spring pls kill me
Torn ACL, MCl and meniscus
Id have hope with frost but hes got to make coachin changes and also up recruiting. So basically no hope
It also made me really jealous. Being a fan of a team that wins games and looks good doing it against good competition.
What's that phrase we sometimes use around here oh yeah fuck us.
The kids knee exploded basically
What's the story with Adrian? Everyone keeps mentioning he's going through something really tough. What is it?
There was a rumor after Michigan State he had a fractured jaw or something similar.
O wow can’t wait for this story to become official in December when we are not practicing for a bowl because we can’t make one.
Ennis in Dannebrog don’t care about wins n losses he cares about being tougher than them city lifestyle folk in the big 10
Who knows if it’s actually true, he took a big hit at the beginning of MSU but has played basically 3 games since. Doesn’t appear to be talking weird or anything.
The only somewhat weird thing was the fact he was wearing a mask for the presser after MSU and hasn’t worn one at any other time this season lol
It looked like he had rubber bands or wires on the left side of his mouth last game.
That would make sense, he got rocked.
That sucks for Teddy P. Young fella looked real promising and will with any luck and our history get back to about 75% of full potential at best :(
The QB situation after Martinez is gone scares me big time. I don’t have much faith in Smothers based on what I’ve seen of him so far.
So, I found myself going down a Twitter rabbit hole and had no idea that Omaha’s own Marlon Brando (no idea if he claimed that, but he was born there so he is ours) was not only maybe the greatest actor of all-time, but is pissing on John Wayne in hell. The current governor would have fucking hated that this dude is a Nebraskan.
IowaHuskerFan3 do you know how the Husk staff got hooked up with the CC staff? Assuming that actually happened.
I tried to see if maybe a random AC worked with a guy on the staff before but I didn’t notice one.
Could have something to do with Moglia, but I’ll ask and see. A lot of staffs go around in the summer to learn from others, so it’s not completely out of the norm, but it’s apparent some of our wrinkles are directly from Chadwell/Isaac.
Spencer Rattler is Nebraska’s QB next year. Beats OU.
Moglia was my first thought actually. I knew staffs get together in the summer, but wasn't sure if that was random or if it usually was from some kind of connection.
How long ago did you work for him? (you don't have to answer, just have always been curious when/what you did)
And why are you a poster and not a defensive QC guy at Coastal?**
I worked for him for a year and then he left for Charleston Southern. I’m still fairly close to a couple of their staff members though. Had the chance to go to CSU once I graduated but I thought getting a masters was more important. Boy am I a fucking idiot.
I played baseball in juco, but had a torn labrum I never knew about from my HS days. I sent probably 200+ emails to D1s, D1AA, and specific D2s. Took a visit to the Delta and was hooked by how well they treated me and just the level of football the GSC played at. Started in the equipment room with the OC at Coastal who was the RB coach at the time. By the time I graduated I was coaching the fresh/soph LBs during pre-practice and indy drills and some special teams shit. Chose a GA job for my masters over Fort Scott. Absolutely hated the school I was at and just quit and moved to California. I regret pretty much everything.
No one knows
We’ve beat UMN and Purdue once each since 2018 and haven’t beaten any of the other three
Spin zone. Teddy’s injury allows him to stay in school one year longer in which he’ll be able to get actual coaching from Bill Callahan who replaces Austin next year.
Would it kill to put together a staff with experience that also LOVES to recruit
Dick Cavett also a Nebraskan
honestly if not for the recruiting class I could probably talk myself into another year of Scoot. it's clearly his best team on the field even though the record doesn't reflect it as usual, and even though it's largely a function of a bunch of 24 year olds on defense
this class is just atrocious. not only do we seem to be the only program taking a dozen recruits this cycle, but there's no top end talent. and they didn't even try for any!
How many spots do we have for 2022? I don’t follow recruiting like I did back in the day.
It’d be one thing if they knew 2022 was going to be small and due to lack of visits with COVID they just turned the focus to 2023 and beyond but it appears they didn’t do that either.
I’ve caught a few 247 podcasts and Schaffer has indicated this class was planned to be small. Sounded like they are trying to atone for their instate misses with 2023 instate focus.
That said, recruiting this cycle is not cutting it. I think Mario has got to go in the off-season for a bag man recruiter and Scoot can coach QBs.
Or at minimum promote Bill Busch to an on field coach as special teams coordinator.
We need to update topic title
Husk city: losers gonna lose
Has this been posted yet?
Came to post this and forgot. I know we were talking about Martinez in last minute drives the other day.
Non-Martinez drives if I remember correctly:
NW 2020 (I think was Luke)
Fuck you #perustatecollegebobcats
There’s also an exhibition against Colorado at 11am on 10/31. Might give us a gauge of where they’re at.
Not on the schedule. Farts cancelled it.
It’s for charity, damn you Scoot.
Gage Stenger N? Kid looks solid if he’s really 6’2. Type of athlete Iowa beats plenty of teams with.
Anyone want to help a husk out?
I pulled up the page and it made it look like I could read it all. I started highlighting and the second it paged down, WHAMMM blocked.
On mobile & had to copy/paste a dozen sections... So cut me some slack if something is screwed up...
LINCOLN, Neb. — And on the 42nd day, Steve Pederson rested.
Throughout December 2003 and into January 2004, Nebraska football flapped in the wind, helpless to the forces of a sport’s changing landscape and unprepared to endure a coaching search for the first time at the school in more than 40 years.
The Athletic uncovered the much-discussed and long-unknown identity of a sitting NFL head coach pursued by athletic director Steve Pederson before he fired Frank Solich.
Interviews revealed untold stories, connections and lingering mysteries from the 41-day search that changed the Cornhuskers’ course as the most winning program nationally over the previous four decades.
Details emerged about the NFL coordinator so intrigued by Nebraska that he began to assemble a staff for the move and a motive that helped lead Pederson to oddball candidate Houston Nutt of Arkansas.
The search for the Huskers’ new coach began on the evening of Nov. 29 as Pederson fired Solich, a staffer of 25 years, in a five-minute meeting after a 9-3 regular season. Bill Callahan unsuspectingly emerged in the final days as the replacement.
“History will be the judge of this decision,” Pederson said at the Jan. 9, 2004, news conference to introduce Callahan.
And so it was.
This is the story of those 41 days.
The twin-engine turbojet sat on the tarmac at Northwest Arkansas National Airport on Jan. 2, 2004, ready to whisk a head coach away to Lincoln.
Pederson nervously waited at home on that Friday afternoon for a decision from Nutt. Nebraska’s plane had left the Millard Airport in suburban Omaha shortly after 2 p.m. As the hours dragged on, a tense Pederson checked in with Nebraska chancellor Harvey Perlman about whether the plane should stay or bail.
“I said, ‘Well, we’re already going to get so much crap from having the plane down there,’” Perlman surmised, “‘that it doesn’t hurt to take 10 more minutes or a half hour.’”
They’d already been turned down twice. Pederson’s secret plan had failed. Now he had to land this one. And Nutt could sense that. The AD’s urgency made him uneasy.
“I’mma tell you something, this seemed like it was ultra-fast,” Nutt told The Athletic. “I felt like this was moving real fast, now. I just felt like his foot was on the pedal. Everything, he wanted it warp speed. He wanted it now.”
Arkansas coach Houston Nutt nearly boarded Nebraska’s jet in early 2004. (John Bazemore / Associated Press)
What ensued was a brief but dramatic tug-of-war for a coach who, six years in with the Razorbacks, hadn’t enjoyed a season better than 9-3. Pederson would later say they were only trying to get Nutt to fly in for an interview. Perlman hadn’t met him. But Nutt’s agent, Jimmy Sexton, assured Nutt if he got on the plane, Sexton would have a deal written up before they landed. They both knew there was no coming back to Fayetteville if Nutt boarded the jet.
Pederson was determined to get a deal done and announced over the weekend. He’d spent that Thursday in Fayetteville pitching Nutt on the job. Going into Friday, Arkansas AD Frank Broyles told the “Arkansas Democrat-Gazette”: “I think he’s going. I think there’s a 90 percent chance that he is.”
In order to avoid the Nebraska media following their every move, Pederson and executive associate AD Marc Boehm booked a creative accommodation: When Nutt got into town, he’d stay in a spare bedroom at Boehm’s house.
But Broyles and Jim Lindsey, a former star running back at the school who sat on the Arkansas board of trustees, didn’t surrender. They spent that Friday afternoon negotiating in Nutt’s living room. The message from Lindsey was compelling: Arkansas is home, he had something special going and he was just getting started. Broyles was flattering, too, but his patience was wearing thin. He refused to speak to Sexton. He needed an answer.
“Make a decision,” Nutt recalls him saying. “If you’re gonna leave, leave!”
Sexton advised him to pick Nebraska, because it was offering the kind of money Arkansas couldn’t match. Pederson appeared willing to overpay.
“I do remember Steve saying, ‘We’ve got to try to make this happen, so we will try to do what’s necessary,’” Boehm said.
The “Democrat-Gazette” reported on a bidding war that went into Friday evening, claiming Nebraska offered as much as $2.5 million per year — a salary that would’ve made Nutt the sport’s highest-paid coach. Nebraska leadership publicly denied it.
By floating the allegedly exorbitant offer, though, Arkansas made Nebraska look even more desperate. Arkansas was willing to double Nutt’s salary to nearly $1.5 million. It was enough.
“Bottom line, I could not get on that plane,” Nutt said. “I couldn’t do it.”
“They played us well,” Perlman said.
How did Pederson take it?
“Not good,” Nutt said. “He thought he at least had me on that plane, and he was really close. He was really close.”
Broyles had the last laugh. “Everything’s fair in love, war and coaching,” he said at the time. And now Nebraska had a real problem. This was the moment when the search turned ugly. Perlman admits this step in the process became disastrous. After 33 days, Pederson was starting over again. The fan base was running out of patience and confidence.
After nearly four hours on the tarmac, the jet returned to Millard without a passenger. That night, as the highly publicized letdown started to sink in for her husband, Janelle Boehm had to ask.
Well, where’s our guest?
“He’s not coming.”
On Sunday, Nov. 30, Pederson held a news conference to explain his decision to fire Solich, officially launching the arduous search. Pederson has not talked publicly of this time since he was fired at Nebraska by Perlman in October 2007, and he did not respond to attempts to reach him for this story.
The “Lincoln Journal Star” reported Pederson’s intentions to make a coaching change on Nov. 23, generating a firestorm that burned through the week before Nebraska’s Black Friday game at Colorado. The night before the story was published, Pederson appealed to John Mabry, the sports editor at the time, to kill it.
The paper did not. Meanwhile, Pederson confided in Boehm, his trusted associate, that Solich was about to coach his final contest on the Nebraska sideline.
The Huskers’ 31-22 victory secured a spot in the Alamo Bowl and a 9-3 record. It pushed Solich’s record at Nebraska to 58-19 as the successor to his longtime boss, Tom Osborne.
But Pederson, notably absent from the Huskers’ postgame celebration in Boulder, had lost faith in Solich after Kansas State beat Nebraska 38-9 on Nov. 15, its worst home defeat since 1958. Over the 34 seasons that preceded this chaotic period, Nebraska won five national championships, 17 conference titles and 31 more games than any other program nationally.
Solich lost 12 of his last 28 games and eight of nine games against ranked teams in his final two seasons. Pederson fired him about 30 hours after the win against Colorado.
The following afternoon, a group of players, some angry, packed the Memorial Stadium elevator with Pederson and Boehm en route to the news conference.
Among the Huskers in attendance was defensive end Benard Thomas, who stood behind reporters as Pederson spoke. Thomas confronted the AD, asking why players would stay to play for a new coach.
(Video courtesy of KOLN.)
“This is bullshit,” Thomas said as he left.
“And a lot of it was painful to watch,” Mabry said. ”You were just trying to soak it all in, some of it with your mouth open in disbelief.”
“I am certain with a 9-3 season, there will be questions,” Pederson said. “But this was not a decision, as I said all along, that would be determined by wins and losses. It was a decision based on the overall direction of our program and where I see our program headed in the next five to 10 years.
“I refuse to let this program gravitate to mediocrity. We will not surrender the Big 12 Conference to Oklahoma and Texas.”
Pederson had his plan.
For 17 years, the identity of Pederson’s Plan A remained a mystery. At the end of his tenure as chancellor in 2016, Perlman told the “Omaha World-Herald” that Pederson had initially lined up an NFL head coach who would’ve been a “wow” hire. He just wouldn’t say who.
In an interview with The Athletic, Perlman decided there was no harm in revealing the truth.
“Well, I’ll tell you who it is: It was Mike Sherman, head coach of the Green Bay Packers,” he said. Of the many names discussed during the 41-day frenzy, Sherman never came up publicly.
“We kept that one under the lid pretty good,” Sherman told The Athletic. “I don’t think anybody knew about that. That’s hard to do in this day and age.”
Pederson must’ve sensed an opportunity in November 2003. Green Bay was 6-6 on the day Solich was fired, having just lost to the Lions on Thanksgiving. Perhaps their head coach could be coaxed into leaving in late December if the Packers missed the playoffs.
Former Green Bay Packers coach Mike Sherman would pass on Nebraska but would end up at Texas A&M after his Packers tenure ended. (Morry Gash / Associated Press)
Except they didn’t. They went 4-0 in December and won the NFC North. They beat Seattle in the playoffs on Al Harris’ pick six after Matt Hasselbeck guaranteed victory. They lost to the Eagles in the fourth-and-26 game. Their season ended on Jan. 11, two days after the Huskers made a hire.
“Nebraska is one of the elite programs in the country,” Sherman said. “We were into the season, and I didn’t feel like I would be doing either team justice by getting too far involved in that thing. They had some interest and obviously, because it’s Nebraska, it’s a unique situation. But I stuck with the Packers.”
Sherman already had everything. He was head coach, executive vice president and general manager. He reportedly made close to $3 million. He’d gone 12-4 in 2001 and 2002. The 2003 season was wild, but it didn’t generate hot-seat talk.
Still, Pederson thought Sherman was attainable, enough so that he plotted hiring him before Solich’s firing. Perlman said Pederson pursued Sherman “pretty aggressively” and had enough conversations to become convinced of a “strong likelihood” he’d come to Nebraska.
Sherman thinks highly of Pederson and said their talks went well. When he first got the call, he didn’t give a flat-out no. But he had to finish the season, and he had no desire to leave.
Green Bay fired Sherman after the 2005 season. He took the Texas A&M job in 2008 and built a talented roster but went 25-25 over four seasons. He’s out of coaching now and living on Cape Cod. “It was something that was offered to me and certainly Nebraska is a special place, but I was at a special place,” Sherman said. “I owed it to my organization and team to do what I did. I wouldn’t have changed it.”
Pederson had aimed too high.
“He was very positive,” Perlman said. “And that was a problem.”
In early December, Pederson’s spirits remained high, Boehm said, because of his faith that Nebraska would attract a strong candidate. Pederson believed in himself. He had hired successful coaches Walt Harris in football and Ben Howland in basketball as Pitt’s athletic director from 1996 to 2002. “He thought he could do that at Nebraska,” Boehm said. “I think he thought coaches were going to come calling. And that didn’t happen. He had to go out and search. Once the days started ticking, you could see the anxiety on his face.”
Pederson underestimated the south-shifting power in college football. His handling of Solich, a respected, winning coach, bothered potential candidates. Mainly, though, the 46-year-old AD suffered from bad timing.
As Sherman faded from view for Pederson and angst in Lincoln intensified, Nebraska players talked of boycotting the Alamo Bowl, according to Barrett Ruud, then a star linebacker for the Huskers and now a fourth-year defensive assistant under Scott Frost.
“Guys were nervous,” Ruud said.
Interim coach Bo Pelini, the fiery, 36-year-old defensive coordinator in his first season at Nebraska, snuffed out the boycott discussion, walking in on a Dec. 16 players’ meeting.
Early in the month, Pederson sat down in his office with Pelini, whose unit forced a school-record 44 turnovers in 2003, and assistant head coach Turner Gill. Boehm was there for both conversations, neither recognized publicly as job interviews.
“I thought they both were great,” he said.
But Pederson never considered Pelini or Gill.
“Courtesy,” Boehm said.
Support among Nebraska fans for Pelini grew loud as the Huskers left for the bowl site on Dec. 23. Their coaches, fed up with speculation, requested a meeting with Pederson in San Antonio at the Hyatt Regency, the Huskers’ headquarters. It was tense, Boehm said.
“He didn’t have anything to update us on,” secondary coach Marvin Sanders told The Athletic. “We were out there on our own. And that was really the last thing we heard from him.”
And on that last Monday of the year, the Huskers blasted Michigan State 17-3 to complete a 10-win season. Nebraska fans chanted “WE WANT BO” at the end of the game.
In the aftermath, Sanders offered these words to Mabry: “I hope this isn’t about one man’s ego.”
Watching from above at the Alamodome, Pederson made a halftime phone call to confirm a planned meeting. His next target: the offensive coordinator of the Kansas City Chiefs.
Of all the coaches Nebraska pursued, Al Saunders could’ve been the best fit.
Between Kansas City and St. Louis, his family had been in the Midwest for the past 15 years. His daughter, Kori, played soccer for the Huskers. On Fridays after the Chiefs practiced, he and wife often drove to watch her games. He knew Lincoln well and loved the university. He idolized Osborne and Bob Devaney. He was even a friend of Solich. And he liked Pederson.
“I was extremely interested in the job,” Saunders told The Athletic. “If I was going to take a college job, it would have been the University of Nebraska.”
Pederson sought an NFL coach to modernize Nebraska football and upgrade recruiting. He believed the path back to title contention was a high-scoring, pro-style offense that attracted better players. At the time, Saunders was running the No. 1 scoring offense in the league. His resume included the Rams’ Greatest Show on Turf and Air Coryell in San Diego.
Kansas City offensive coordinator Al Saunders, left, came close to taking the Nebraska job and even thought about his staff. (John Sleezer / The Kansas City Star / AP Photo)
Pederson and Saunders met the day after the Alamo Bowl at his home in Overland Park, Kan. Then they set up the next meeting. Saunders would fly to Lincoln on Friday and meet with Perlman. His agent, Bob LaMonte (who also repped Sherman), would meet him there and if all went well, they’d get a deal done.
Saunders had even made calls and lined up his staff. Kevin Steele was coming back to Nebraska as his defensive coordinator to maintain the Blackshirt tradition. Steele, Osborne’s linebackers coach from 1989-1994, was at Florida State at the time but quickly said yes to Saunders.
“We were ready to go,” Steele told The Athletic. “I thought it was a done deal.”
Saunders talked to Kentucky offensive coordinator Ron Hudson, who’d just spent six years at Kansas State leading Bill Snyder’s offense. He had a staff of strong recruiters ready to go. He told Kori before swearing her to secrecy: “You cannot breathe a word of this to anybody.”
But first, he had to talk with the Chiefs. He met with coach Dick Vermeil and president Carl Peterson that Wednesday, New Year’s Eve. The Raiders wanted him to interview for their opening, too.
Vermeil, who was 67 and whose contract was expiring, revealed he was staying two more years. The Chiefs were willing to extend Saunders, too, with a raise to about $1 million. And they intimated that if he stayed, he would succeed Vermeil in 2006.
Now the decision was complicated. Saunders felt a deep sense of loyalty to Vermeil. As he sat in meetings that day, he felt anxious. He feared it was unfair to his coaches and players if he was focused on the next job during their 13-3 team’s playoff run. And what if he really could be the successor?
“What kept going through my mind: head coach of the Kansas City Chiefs or head coach of the Nebraska Cornhuskers?” he recalled. “Which one am I better suited for?”
The more he thought about it, the worse he felt about leaving. “It wasn’t the right time,” he said. Saunders felt it wouldn’t be honorable or ethical to meet Perlman unless he was ready to take the job. The next day, Saunders called Pederson to say he’d changed his mind and was out. He was sorry to have to call Steele, too.
Vermeil announced on Jan. 1 that Saunders was staying.
“I got a lot of hugs from the players,” Saunders said. “Some questioned my sanity. … This is the first time I’ve ever talked about it publicly.”
“There’s nothing worse than the University of Nebraska having to publicly say that whoever their choice was wasn’t their first choice,” Saunders said. “That was not right, in my mind.”
Two years later, he learned an unfortunate lesson: Always get it in writing. Vermeil made good on his vow to step down after 2005. And then Peterson hired Herm Edwards. He defended the move by saying he’d always wanted to hire Edwards and that, while he respected Vermeil’s wishes, it wasn’t the coach’s call. Saunders and Vermeil are still best friends who vacation together in Key West with their wives. He doesn’t blame Vermeil for how it turned out.
“If I knew that I had no chance to be the head coach of the Kansas City Chiefs, then I probably would have taken the opportunity to go to Nebraska,” Saunders said.
He moved on from Kansas City and coached 15 more seasons in the NFL but wasn’t a head coach again. After 50 years in the profession, he’s retired and living in Northern Virginia. He says he has no regrets. “You don’t live in the past,” he said, “because there’s no future in it.”
Now two pro coaches had turned down the job. On the same day Saunders bowed out, Pederson boarded a plane to Fayetteville.
If Pederson’s vision was to lure an NFL coach to Lincoln, why did he pursue Nutt?
“He found my number, I don’t know how,” Nutt said.
Tim Cassidy can take at least partial credit for the connection. Cassidy was a Pederson contemporary and an asset to the Nebraska AD during the search. Well connected in coaching circles, Cassidy was associate AD for football at Texas A&M, but faced uncertainty in 2003 as a holdover from R.C. Slocum’s staff under first-year coach Dennis Franchione.
“My play in the game,” Cassidy said, “was if Houston got the job, I was hoping and praying I would go with him to Nebraska.”
Cassidy believed in Nutt as a coach. Nutt came from a state dominated by one institution. His personality and beliefs fit Nebraska, said Cassidy, who told Pederson all of this.
Nutt was tempted by Pederson’s pitch. He wondered if Arkansas fans were getting tired of him. Jimmy Johnson and other mentors told him it might be wise to leave if he’d done all he could, but he dreamed of bringing the school its second national title. In negotiations, Broyles and Lindsey talked up the possibility of him someday succeeding Broyles as AD. Nutt, now a CBS Sports studio analyst, said he might’ve been loyal to a fault.
On Jan. 3, the morning after Nutt’s decision, the front page of the “Journal Star” declared Arkansas’ coach had declined a $2.5 million offer. Pederson panicked and called a news conference. “I about fell out of my chair this morning,” he told reporters. He said the job hadn’t been offered to anyone and coverage of the search was becoming wildly inaccurate.
“The process is proceeding as planned,” Pederson insisted.
Pederson was asked about the growing negativity among fans.
“A new coach gets in here, and people see the excitement of the new coach, it will be great,” Pederson said. “People in Nebraska don’t hold a grudge.”
While Sherman and Saunders had exited silently, the public nature of missing on Nutt changed the process. Pederson could no longer get away with such secrecy. He needed to wrap this up.
“I think there was a limit to how long we could sustain the public relations cost that we were incurring by delaying further,” Perlman said.
“You can’t help but hear the outside noise,” Boehm said. “Tick, tock, tick, tock. Every day.”
Pederson, still empty-handed, had hoped to steal attention from the BCS title game between Oklahoma and LSU with his big hire. Instead, a national audience saw Pelini, his interim coach, standing on the Sooners’ sideline with coaching buddies Bob and Mike Stoops in New Orleans.
Nebraska turned its focus to Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer, who had the NFL’s top defense in 2003 under Bill Parcells. Zimmer arrived in Lincoln via private jet on Jan. 4 amid a snowstorm and toured an illuminated Memorial Stadium on that Sunday night shortly before midnight.
The search had now shifted to Lincoln, with candidates flying into town and trying to duck cameras. Local media went into a frenzy, tracking planes, tailing vehicles, staking out the lobby of the downtown Embassy Suites and keeping watch of Pederson’s 2 1/2-story home on Sheridan Boulevard as the AD met with candidates.
Zimmer interviewed with Pederson on Jan. 5 and was publicly endorsed by Barry Switzer. Boehm drove him around Lincoln to look at real estate.
“I was thinking, ‘God, I hope this guy takes it,’” Boehm said, “because he was one sharp dude, plus he was really nice. Nebraskans could really relate to him.”
Zimmer returned to Dallas, talked it over with his family and removed his name from consideration on Jan. 6. He doubled his salary with the Cowboys to $1 million a year but would have to wait a decade before he’d become a head coach, taking over the Minnesota Vikings in 2014.
Zimmer’s agent was Gary O’Hagan, who also repped the likes of John Wooden, Tom Coughlin, Mike Leach … and the recently fired coach of the Oakland Raiders.
It was Day 40 of the search when Bill Callahan and his wife Valerie landed in Lincoln shortly before 5 p.m. Perlman and his wife dined with the Callahans in the wine cellar of a local country club and came away impressed.
“Bill was the most human and most sociable coach that we knew,” Perlman said. “They were a very engaging couple.”
Earlier that day, Pelini and Gill each visited Perlman’s office. When asked at the time if he finally got his job interview, Pelini said, “I guess you could call it that.” He knew it was a ruse and had already lined up a job as Oklahoma’s co-defensive coordinator.
The former chancellor said he was always surprised by the fan fervor in this month for Pelini, who later as head coach clashed with Perlman and was fired on the chancellor’s watch after seven seasons in 2014.
“He was obviously a good coach,” Perlman said, “but he’d never had the responsibilities of a head coach. And when you think about the people we talked to and the person we hired, there’s just no comparison.
“And as it turned out, it was evident that he had never been a head coach.”
Callahan entered the picture after a chaotic end to his Raiders tenure. Owner Al Davis fired him Dec. 30. Late in a 4-12 season, Callahan publicly called his squad “the dumbest team in America,” and veterans Tim Brown and Charles Woodson led a player mutiny.
Still, he intrigued Nebraska officials because of his West Coast offense and NFL pedigree after guiding the Raiders to a Super Bowl in the 2002 season. His agent, O’Hagan, said he planted the Callahan seed with Pederson.
“He was innovative in many respects,” the agent said. “Bill is really good. I think Zimmer was in that class, too. But if you were the AD and interviewed both of them, it wouldn’t be close.”
Callahan, 65, declined an interview request for this story through the Cleveland Browns, for whom he coaches the offensive line. He guided Nebraska to a 27-22 mark in four seasons, played for one Big 12 title and signed Ndamukong Suh, one of the greatest Huskers ever, among other star recruits. But Callahan’s time in Lincoln was marked by failure.
“He, or we, didn’t really assess the opportunity properly,” O’Hagan said. “We thought, ‘OK, it’s Nebraska. They’ve had national championships. They’ve had Big 12 championships, Big Eight championships.’ But it wasn’t the same.”
Callahan was a convenient solution for the school. If Sherman was Pederson’s ideal candidate, Nebraska landed a coach who was similar in stature and actually available. He’d become unemployed at an ideal time.
“No question that Bill fell into our lap,” Perlman said.
The length of the search factored in the fast courtship of Callahan, who spent two nights in Lincoln before his introductory news conference on Jan. 9.
“The question is always whether the decision seemed good at the time,” Perlman said. “And it did, for a lot of reasons.”
At the start of the search, Pederson made a bold declaration: “This is the best job in the country, and anyone who doesn’t want to win the national championship shouldn’t bother applying.”
He ended up interviewing five external and two internal candidates over those 41 days. A slew of other names were linked to the job, either through media speculation 17 years ago or interviews for this story. Among them: Brad Childress, Bill Cowher, Butch Davis, Gary Kubiak, Steve Mariucci, Steve Spurrier and Dave Wannstedt from the NFL; David Cutcliffe, Joe Glenn, Jim Grobe, Harris, Steve Kragthorpe, Urban Meyer, Rich Rodriguez and Jeff Tedford from college.
When it was over, Pederson said the truth was the Nebraska job intimidated some coaches. Truthfully, he might’ve just chased the wrong ones.
Fewer than four years later, Perlman attempted to turn back time. Nebraska replaced Pederson and Callahan with Osborne and Pelini. Pelini brought back four assistants from the 2003 staff. The Huskers eventually did surrender the Big 12, joining the Big Ten in 2011.
Pederson landed back in his old job at Pitt six weeks after Perlman fired him. He never rediscovered that magic in hiring coaches from his first Pitt tenure, but Pederson did move the Panthers from the Big East to the ACC in 2013. He resigned in December 2014 and lives in Ohio, gone from college sports at age 63.
The coaching search ultimately did spoil the tenure of Pederson, once widely viewed as the ideal man to run Nebraska athletics.
“I think this episode and the reaction to it took a real toll on him,” Perlman said. “I don’t know whether it soured him on Nebraska or what, but I think he was offended by the negative reaction after it occurred. And there was just quite a remarkable change in how he managed the athletic department after that period.”
Pederson and Boehm, who met at the 1996 Fiesta Bowl and worked side by side for longer than a decade, have not spoken in 14 years.
“I’m really sad about it,” Boehm said. “I won’t go into details, but Steve changed a little bit. It was really just sad.”
Pederson set out to find the next Pete Carroll, an NFL creation three seasons into a spectacular decade at USC. But Nebraska in 2003 was not Nebraska in 1993, on the cusp of greatness.
Perhaps the candidates whose decisions extended this search to its 41st day all would’ve learned the same lesson Callahan eventually did: that a successful transition away from the Osborne-Solich era, subverting decades of proven and beloved methods, was too tough for one coach.
(Illustration: John Bradford / The Athletic; Photos: Getty; Brian Bahr, Matthew Stockman, Matthew Sharpe)