40 for 40: Nebraska Football’s Defining Moments – The 2000s Locker Pass Content

By at August 14, 2012 | 8:45 AM | Print

40 for 40: Nebraska Football’s Defining Moments – The 2000s

Nov. 29, 2003 – Steve Pederson Fires Frank Solich

Here is the day your parents got divorced. All the animosity, spite and frustration that lingered for years after that all sprung from this one moment.

Just a day after Solich had won his ninth game of the year at Colorado – a game many believed he needed to win to keep his job – Pederson called the six-year head coach into his office on a Saturday.

Reports have always suggested that Pederson asked Solich to resign. It was a perfunctory request; Solich didn’t believe he should. So Pederson fired him and his staff, and tabbed defensive coordinator Bo Pelini as the interim successor.

“I refuse to let the program gravitate into mediocrity,” Pederson said the next day. “We won’t surrender the Big 12 to Oklahoma and Texas.”

Husker players stood in the back of the room, brimming with fury against Pederson. One of them looked ready to fight.

Elsewhere in the state, a slow, burning anger began to rise against Pederson, whom many believed had decided to fire Solich the minute he took the job in early 2003.

Solich, to them, merely had the misfortune of hiring a once-in-a-generation defensive coordinator like Pelini to transform the defense. It was unfortunate, you see, because it didn’t fit Pederson’s idea of Solich being incapable of leading Nebraska football into a new era.

Should he have been fired? The debate rages on today. It’s hard to argue that NU didn’t slip in the Solich era. It had.

First the defense in 2002, then the offense in 2003. Rumblings that Solich wasn’t committed enough to the right kind of recruiting was legitimate.

He took chances on lowly-regarded skill players who didn’t pan out. He never found a decent replacement for Eric Crouch; the best he could find was the tough, loyal Jammal Lord, who could have been a great free safety but couldn’t hit the broad side of Memorial Stadium with a pass.

But if he should have been fired, surely that would have been true still if Solich had been given one more year to prove his worth.

Fans felt like he’d earned at least that much of a chance. Pederson didn’t want to give it to him? Why not? It wasn’t like Pederson had a better option than Solich, turning to a fired NFL coach, Bill Callahan, after getting shot down by several candidates, including the Miami Dolphins’ Dave Wannstedt and Arkansas’ Houston Nutt.

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