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Nebraska Happenings & "Firing Out"

Let's shift our focus from big story of the day to big story in college football this week. The mid-season firing of Nebbie's athletic director - Steve Pederson (who incidentally hired Coach Howland at Pitt) - is the big story in college football this week (and it looks like Tom Osborne is taking over for Peterson in the interim basis which seems identical to the "caretaker" plan advocated by the boys over at If you are looking for a well balanced take on the sacking of Pederson from a Husker pov, I strongly recommend reading corn blight's take over at Corn Nation. They are breathing a huge sigh of relief in the Prairies this week.

Now, I wanted to bring your attention to Stewart Mandel's post at on the Peterson firing, which I happen to think has some bearing on the current sad state of affairs in Westwood.

Before I get into Mandel's post let's get the obvious differences in these two situations out of the way:

  • Unlike Nebraska, the focus of our dissatisfaction is with our head football coach, not our athletic director. Now that focus may change in case our AD somehow decides to retain Dorrell Monday passed the game against Southern Cal, but for now our reservations are with Karl Dorrell.
  • Unlike Nebraska, where the head coach was a personal hire of the former athletic director, we have good reasons to believe Dorrell was the choice of former Chancellor Albert Carnesale. There have been reports indicating that Guerrero preferred Riley out of a list of finalists compiled by former Donahue Toadie Bob Field, while it was Carnesale and Vice Chancellor Pete Blackmun, who looooooooved Dorrell.
So until the season is over we are not ready to blame Dan Guerrero yet and want to give him at least till Monday following the Southern Cal, to remove this joke of a football coach out Westwood. More on that later in this post.

Now that those distinctions are out of the way, take note of these money grafs from Mandel's post re. the situation at Lincoln (emphasis added throughout):
The ex-Raiders Super Bowl coach proved a bad fit from the get-go, alienating the locals both by going 5-6 in his first season (Nebraska's first losing campaign since 1961) and abandoning the program's traditional emphasis on in-state recruiting. As he gradually brought in the necessary athletes to run his preferred West Coast offense, the Huskers gradually got a little better, improving to 8-4 in 2005 and 9-5 (including a Big 12 North title) last season.

But in this, the year when many expected Callahan to finally return Nebraska to national prominence (now that he had a roster full of his own recruits), the Huskers have instead regressed dramatically, particularly on defense. Losing 49-31 to top-ranked USC was one thing, but when Cosgrove's defense followed up that poor showing by allowing 601 yards to Ball State in a 41-40 escape, it was clear something was awry. Consecutive blowout defeats to Missouri (41-6) and Oklahoma State confirmed things to be even worse than imagined.

In the 48 hours since the Oklahoma State game, a full-on revolt had begun across the state, from the message boards to the newspapers to a group of disgusted former players reportedly planning a meeting for later this week to vent its frustration. Perlman had to do something to stop the bleeding. That he did it just three months after extending Pederson's contract through 2013 (Pederson in turn had the gall to extend Callahan's contract shortly before the USC game) shows you just how desperate the situation has become.

Pederson may have sealed his own fate way back on the day he fired Solich, uttering the now-infamous proclamation that "I refuse to let this program [9-3 at the time] gravitate to mediocrity." In fact, that's exactly what he did -- though "mediocre" may be putting it too kindly.
In terms of the record, I don't think I need to spell out in detail how Dorrell's shoddy record (33-23, .589) at UCLA is almost identical to Callahan's mediocre one (26-18, .590). They pretty much have the identical winning percentages, and Dorrell's current season has already shaped up as a huge bust, as Callahan's year in Nebraska. Yeah, I get Dorrell thinks we are "in great shape" in the conference, but no matter what happens from hereon out, it will not remove the stain of despicable and disgraceful losses against Utah and against Notre Dame, which represent "more of the same" underachieving, listless, uninspiring, let down performances we have been subjected to during Dorrell's previous four miserable seasons in Westwood.

What struck me in Mandel's post was though the highlighted paragraph in bold.

Pederson's comments remind me of a certain phrase from Dan Guerrero when he fired Toledo more than four years ago (from a Plaschke article dated December 8, 2005 (the actual link to LAT no longer available, was fortunate enough to previously excerpt it in BN thinking it would come in handy someday)):
There is a phrase Dan Guerrero has used to describe what he likes to see in his teams.

"Fire out," he says. "I like to see them fire out."

On a day the Bruins rushed for only 79 yards and committed four turnovers, about the only time anybody really fired out was when senior tackle Mike Saffer blatantly hammered a Cougar defender about five seconds after the whistle, leading to a personal foul and brief benching.


It might seem silly to fire an engaging coach and smooth recruiter whose team is young and whose only crime may be that he is too nice.

Then again, it's football.
Yup, Guerrero fired Toledo because the Bruins were not "firing out" during his last years at UCLA. Soooooo.  Can anyone argue that things have changed since Dorrell took over?

Can anyone in their right sane mind argue that Bruins "fired out" not just against Notre Dame and Utah, but also during deceptive wins against BYU, Washington and Oregon State?

Add to that we also had this from Guerrero before the start of current season:
"The important thing this year," Guerrero said, "is that we don't beat ourselves, that we play with consistency, that we're an excellent second half team and that we improve as the year progresses."
A standard which Dorrell has failed to live up to in five out of six games this season. [See, grades for Stanford, BYU, Utah, Washington, Oregon State, and Notre Dame compiled by the tireless BruinCore from]

And of course it goes without saying there was this standard set by Dorrell himself the day he was hired at Westwood:
'My expectation for next year is to win the Pac-10 championship,'' Dorrell said. ''Winning the Pac-10 and beating our cross-town rival are the biggest things on my mind.''
Apparently he is still clinging to that standard this week. We will find the answer to the question of whether he is going to meet that goal of winning the Pac-10 championship soon enough.

Considering all of the above and Dorrell's dismal record to date I believe it goes without saying that if Dan Guerrero is serious about maintaining his credibility as well as the credibility of UCLA's athletic department, then he needs to do with Karl Dorrell what he did following the Monday of Bob Toledo and Steve Lavin's last game at UCLA.

The only way (and this is a stretch) Guerrero can make a legitimate argument for holding on to Dorrell, the Monday following Southern Cal game, will be if that Monday press conference will be a discussion on UCLA's first Rose Bowl appearance since 1999 (and even then given Dorrell's behavior in recent weeks along with the disgusting performances against Utah and Notre dame, the case for his retention will be questionable).

Nebraska is just the latest example of how a school and its athletic department protects its credibility when it has gone on record stating what it exactly expects out of its program. As noted above DG is already on record about what his expectations are from his football program and what his expectations are this season (along with Dorrell's own standard he himself set the day he was introduced as the head coach at UCLA).

The ball is going to be on DG's court the Monday after the Southern Cal game. If he doesn't fire Dorrell's sorry behind out of Westwood by that day (especially if Dorrell fails to win the Pac-10 championship), it will be time for us to shift our focus on DG and call for his own "firing out" of Westwood.

After we are done counting down to Ben Ball season opener, we will start a new count down clock to Monday, December 3, 2007 , counting the days till Dorrell is "fired out" of Westwood.