- Ivan Maisel, ESPN Senior Writer
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Give University of Nebraska Chancellor Harvey Perlman credit, he recognizes an insurrection when he sees one on his doorstep.
Perlman fired Huskers athletic director Steve Pederson on Monday, three months after extending his contract to 2012 at $500,000 annually. Perlman made the reversal after it became obvious that Pederson had become a leader with no followers. The one-sided losses to Missouri (41-6) and Oklahoma State (45-14) in the last two weeks didn't occur in a vacuum.
For one thing, as Perlman made clear in his statement Monday, he believed that Pederson had tied his future so securely to Bill Callahan, the coach he hired four years ago, that Pederson couldn't objectively make any changes.
For another, there have been other problems in Lincoln during Pederson's tenure, ones rooted in personality and management. Two of his top aides, associate athletic director for marketing Paul Miles and associate athletic director for athletic development Paul Meyers, have resigned this year. Both men are former Husker athletes. When Meyers left earlier this month, university trustee Howard Hawks publicly expressed his disappointment.
As the Huskers plummeted over the past month, Pederson had no support to prop him up.
Perlman brought Pederson to Nebraska from the University of Pittsburgh five years ago and gave him carte blanche. A year later, Pederson fired Husker legend Tom Osborne's hand-picked successor, head coach Frank Solich, after a 9-3 season. Solich had a record of 58-19 (.753) but under him the Huskers had slowly fallen from the top 10 and developed a habit of losing by large margins to ranked teams.
The problem is that Pederson's cure made the patient sicker. He brought in Callahan, who had no roots on the Bob Devaney-Osborne family tree. Forget the Osborne Era. Under Callahan, Nebraska has barely reached the level it maintained with Solich at the helm. Callahan is 26-18 (.591) with one Big 12 North championship, which Nebraska won last season when it went 9-5.
Perlman, unlike many university leaders, understands what football means to his campus. Perlman is a Nebraska native. He, his wife, his two daughters and their husbands are graduates of Nebraska.
Perlman also understands what football means, period. He is a member of the Presidential Oversight Committee of the BCS and testified before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee in 2003, when the BCS have-nots successfully maneuvered their way into greater access to the BCS. That's the road that paved the way for Boise State's upset of Oklahoma in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl last January.
Oklahoma made it to that game by defeating Nebraska in the Big 12 championship game. That seems so much longer than 10 months ago.
Ivan Maisel is a senior writer for ESPN.com. Send your questions and comments to Ivan at firstname.lastname@example.org.