LINCOLN, Neb. -- Bo Pelini is the new coach at Nebraska,
leaving the defensive coordinator post at LSU for a job many
Cornhusker fans thought he should have been given four years ago.
Interim athletic director and former head coach Tom Osborne
announced Pelini's hiring Sunday, after introducing Pelini to the
"We need a head coach with strong defensive credentials and
great leadership," Osborne said. "We were also looking for
someone who can inspire confidence and get players to play with
"And, of course, we also wanted our new head coach to
understand our traditions, including the importance of our walk-on
program and the importance of football in this state."
It's the first head coaching job for the 39-year-old Pelini, who
spent three years at LSU orchestrating one of the nation's top
defenses. He replaces Bill Callahan, fired Nov. 24 after the
Huskers' second losing season in four years.
Unlike Callahan, a former NFL coach many Nebraska fans never
felt comfortable with, Pelini doesn't come to the football-crazed
state as a stranger.
He was interim coach after Frank Solich was fired following the
2003 regular season and went on to coach the Huskers to an Alamo
Bowl victory over Michigan State. As he walked off the field in San
Antonio, Husker fans chanted "We want Bo."
"It's something I've worked a long time for," Pelini said
Sunday of becoming a head coach.
Expectations are high at Nebraska, where football is king and
the Cornhuskers are the only big-name program in the state. Pelini
said he won't concern himself with the expectations, but appeared
ready to embrace them.
"One of the unique aspects of this job ... is everything it
means to the state," he said.
"It's like one big family."
Pelini said a contract hasn't been finalized, and he wouldn't
discuss what he might be paid.
Osborne had said that the next coach didn't need to have
Nebraska ties. Pelini was only at Nebraska in 2003, but his
no-nonsense style of coaching defense and fiery demeanor quickly
made him a beloved figure.
Husker quarterback Joe Ganz said Pelini's fiery style was
apparent in a players-only meeting before he was officially
announced as head coach. Osborne consulted with players and coaches
who have worked with him and said he found the same thing.
"All of them are very impressed with his ability to inspire
people," Osborne said.
Osborne had interviewed Pelini and Buffalo coach Turner Gill, a
former star Nebraska quarterback and longtime assistant at the
school. Osborne also reportedly spoke informally with Wake Forest
coach Jim Grobe.
Pelini had been a candidate for the Nebraska job after Solich's
firing and was interviewed by former athletic director Steve
Pederson, who elected to go with Callahan.
Pelini's first task will be to resuscitate the Huskers'
The past four years have seen Nebraska sustain some of the most
embarrassing losses in program history.
The Huskers finished 5-7 after losing 65-51 at Colorado, a game
in which they squandered an 11-point lead. The dismal season
followed one in which it reached the Big 12 championship game, and
also featured a 76-39 defeat at Kansas, the most points allowed by
a Nebraska team.
At LSU, Pelini has coached defenses that ranked No. 3 in the
nation three years in a row.
The Tigers have surrendered about 284 yards per game this
season, and the 33 turnovers they forced is tied for fourth in the
The 2006 Tigers led the Southeastern Conference in six defensive
categories and ranked among the top five nationally in four. That
group also had streaks of 16 and 10 quarters without allowing a
The 242.8 yards LSU allowed per game in 2006 were the fewest
surrendered by a Tiger team since the 1976 squad allowed 233.1.
In 2004, Pelini served as Oklahoma's co-defensive coordinator
and defensive backs coach, helping the Sooners to the national
championship game against USC.
Pelini had spent eight years as an NFL assistant before Solich
hired him from the Green Bay Packers in 2003. Pelini said he may
ask some current and former Nebraska assistants to coach under him,
but declined to name potential hires.
When last at Nebraska, Pelini led a defense that tied the school
record with 47 turnovers. The Huskers were No. 2 in the nation in
takeaways and tops in turnover margin at plus-1.77.
Under Pelini, Nebraska also led the nation in pass efficiency
defense (88.66 rating), ranked No. 2 in scoring defense (14.5 ppg),
No. 11 in passing yards (177.8 ypg) and No. 11 in total defense
Pelini played safety at Ohio State from 1987-90. He was a
three-time selection to the Academic All-Big Ten team as well as
serving as team captain as a senior in 1990.