There’s way too much media speculation on the 5 "W" questions right now to add another, so I’ll start with the 5 Stages to Fan Reaction because that’s where it all sits right now. Actually, forget that, no one actually passed-on here, they just will move-on, so let’s jump to the final Acceptance stage of the Kübler-Ross model and spare everyone the Denial, Anger, Bargaining, and Depression phases.
That’s by no means telling Bo advocates to get over it already, but instead the message herein is about mutual acceptance of what firing a coach really means in the midst of what are surely the blames, flames, and names being zinged between peaked-emotion, heavily-distanced individual fans.
I wrote last week that any change would be a business decision
and it was. An emotional Iowa win and the attainment of 9 wins influenced nothing. God love Sam McKewon for his fandom, but had he not turned the presser into a one-on-one interview, peppering Shawn with fan-based emoticon questions, maybe someone would’ve probed deeper into business reasons. The closest we got was an integrated sell-out streak and booster question which Eichorst shed as easily as Ameer sheds arm tackles.
“I didn’t have a lot of concern there, I just continued to be optimistic, as I said earlier, our people are really positive and want to support what it is we do.” Translated, we’re going to continue getting checks, we made sure of that. You can also rest assured that at most you’ll hear one, maybe two, mid-level boosters opposing the move if you hear from any at all.
So before beginning to look cross-eyed at your neighbor, co-worker, significant other, doctor, waiter, or BBS foe, realize they’re not responsible. They may be happy about it, have emailed the AD’s office about it, and even be certain Eichorst was secretly reading their minds to be in such perfect lockstep, but reality is that unless their last name is Sokol, Hawkes, Cook, etc. then they influenced nothing.
Also realize most donors aren’t nearly as passionate as you or your counterpart. Most just needed to agree to keep supporting NU.When asked how much fan input mattered, Shawn answered, “It is important, it is certainly a factor that you need to consider. I try to separate myself from all that and be disciplined and give equal weight along the way. I am not overly persuaded by the negativity.” So basically he heard all kinds of noise from both sides and it was a wash.
There’s a trendy certification called Pragmatic Marketing and they’ll sell you a coffee mug with the phrase “Your opinion, although interesting, is irrelevant.” The purpose is not to be in your face, but remind you that the broad market, not a lone guru decides what works on a mass scale. This has never been truer than for fans that argue they know best what’s right for NU Football and neither side is void of gurus.
Once you recognize the individual fan opinion isn’t a big part of the mix, you realize the goal is to keep the fan base as a whole invested. Loyalty comes from good feelings about big wins and good feelings about the program in general.
The big wins didn’t happen and the apathy for the program was apparent by absences of butts in seats at kickoff during what should’ve been a feel-good celebration where seniors were honored before kick-off. Those are problems that need attention.
Clearly Bo’s demeanor played a role in the divide by the half-dozen times Eichorst mentioned “class” in his statement, despite the denial. That message was mailed home when Regent Hal Daub alluded to it several times in his statement and when asked point blank if he would elaborate on how Pelini’s demeanor played a role, Hal responded;
"I will not other than to say there's a lot more to the story that's appropriately muted.''
The lesson here for fans that fought to the mat on the merits of Pelini’s whizz and vinegar, is admitting their opinion was trumped by decision makers viewing tirades as harmful NU’s reputation. If one’s opinion was that Bo mellowed, it was not shared. Like the coffee mug said, individual opinions while interesting were irrelevant.
Likewise those that opined Bo must be fired didn’t win any arguments either because firing a coach fixes nothing. The next coach could be the Mike Shula pre-Nick Saban at Alabama or the Charlie Weis post-Tyrone Willingham at ND where the jury’s still out on even the next guy Brian Kelly. If you think Shawn’s next step is to stay in complete lockstep with your opinion on who should be the next HC, talk to the coffee mug.
Some rumors even have Shawn thinking he’s pulled a coup by lassoing Jim “The Big Lie” Tressel and I can’t fathom the opinions that will fly if NU hires a near 62 year old guy still on individual NCAA probation.
If your opinion was that NU was somehow different than Alabama, ND or Michigan and would feel OK about 3 years of 9 wins, all against teams with 5 or more losses other than Arkansas State, grab a cuppa. If your opinion is that Shawn Eichorst should learn from the Pederson debacle and retain a search firm, again, read the mug.
A lesson was taught some 11 years ago when a very similar thing happened at a very similar university and it degraded the fan base into a black or white, right or wrong bloodbath. The argument only offered two answers; either you were a Solich fella or a Callahan fella, period. One had to be right and one had to be wrong. The 3rd
option never discussed was that maybe neither choice was right and both were wrong.
Callahan, whether it was loyalty to Kevin Cosgrove and/or the unrealistic mission to bring a West Coast, NFL offense to a reluctant Midwest college, was clearly the wrong fit, but that didn’t remotely prove Frank Solich was going to return NU to glory with Barney Cotton as OC either.
Frank’s 3 game improvement in 2003 could be directly attributed to the bizarre plummet that PSU, ISU, and CU took between ’02 and ’03; all three going from bowl teams that mopped-up NU in ‘02, to an aggregate 10 – 25 group of whipping posts that everyone beat. Otherwise, NU’s 2003 improvement was relatively benign, actually losing worse to Texas and KSU in ‘03 than in ‘02 and getting clubbed by Mizzou after beating them the previous year.
The moral of the story is that lines in the sand between individual fans solved nothing. Just like today nothing will prove that Pelini would or wouldn’t have won a B1G title given another 5, 10, or 20 years to do so and it’s highly unlikely Eichorst picks a coach giving an immediate reason to gloat. He certainly will not pick Bill Callahan, so insisting history will repeat is pointless as well.
An older ex-player said it well when he reflected on how great it was when everyone debated, but light-heartedly over play calls, not program moves. Sure, people whined about Osborne, but it wasn’t even remotely this fractured.
After all’s said and done, everyone must reach Stage 5 Acceptance that NU fired Bo Pelini and realize what that does and doesn’t mean. For what it’s worth, assuming you’re still in for the long haul as a fan of NU Football, maybe have a cup of coffee with the guy sitting next to you and consider it a relief to know that neither of you are all that responsible for anything you’re about to see. The final stage would then be accepting that all anyone really wants is for NU to win.