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Official Husker Locker Blog

2011 Nov 09

NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: Walking Into The Eye Of A National Storm


By HuskerLocker

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By Brett Baker

What would you say?

What would you say to a few dozen young men who are heading into something they can't even begin to fathom?

What would you say to the men you've selected to assist you in your endeavor to mold men and win football games?

If you were Bo Pelini, what would you say?

When young men decide they want to don the Scarlet and Cream to play for the University of Nebraska, they know there will come a time when they will be in the spotlight. When the focus of the college football world will be upon them as it most certainly will be on this weekend, this Saturday is different.

This is a limelight that nobody could have ever imagined. It is one not of their making. The glare that will fall on State College, Pennsylvania on Saturday morning has nothing to do a team scrambling to find its footing in the Leaders Division taking on the team atop the Legends Division. No, this is a social firestorm involving unspeakable acts and unimaginable neglect.

The Nebraska Cornhuskers have known controversy in Beaver Stadium before (See: Penn State tight end Mike McCloskey and a certain reception in 1982), but that was nothing like what they are walking into this weekend. That was pure. It was about the game.

The chaos they are walking into is as impure and vile as it gets in our society. These players don't live in a bubble so secure that they are unaware of the awful allegations and charges made against a former Penn State coach. They watch ESPN, they're on Twitter, they read the news. They know.

So what does Bo Pelini tell his Nebraska Cornhuskers as they prepare for what is a very crucial game in their quest for a conference championship?

It's easy to say “Tune it out, focus on the task at hand, what you can control, and on the game.” Tackling subjects like this are never that easy. Perhaps there's a player on the Huskers’ roster who has been personally affected by the kind of crimes that Jerry Sandusky is charged with. Telling him to ignore those emotions would be both insensitive and simply wrong.

From a myopic standpoint, it would be counterproductive to what Bo Pelini and the Huskers want to accomplish. If you tell someone he’s not allowed to feel what he's feeling and he will rebel. He will tune you out.

Yes, these young men are football players, but that's not all they are. They are free-thinkers with beliefs and ideas of their own. Some will be more affected by the nature of the alleged crimes than others. Those are the ones that Pelini needs to reach.

Not from a coaching standpoint, but from a place of compassion. Where he can help them channel their emotions into a positive force, one that they can channel on the field and can cope with. Pelini needs to provide an energy that allows them to turn a negative situation into a positive result.

Nationally, the game will be a side story. Some will turn it into a referendum on what's wrong with sports, society, America and our values.

Others will suggest the game shouldn't be played out of respect to the alleged victims or as a punishment for Penn State. None of those suggestions are right. However, none are wrong. They're just thoughts. If I was in Bo's shoes, that's where I would come from.

What would I say to those players with the block N on the side of their helmets?

“Make this game about whatever you need to make it about. If you want to see Joe Paterno punished, punish him on the field.

If you want to get justice for the kids that were allegedly harmed by Jerry Sandusky, then dispense justice on the field.

If you care nothing about the media storm and only about winning, then play like the Big Ten championship is on the line, because it is.

Prepare better than ever before. Execute better than you ever have. Play better than anyone expects. Not because of the storm, but in spite of it.”

That's what I would say.

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Tags: bo pelini, penn state, espn

Comments (8)

Profile image for PSW

As of 10:30 EST tonight Joe Pa is done. He will not be allowed to coach on Sat. and the thought that he possibly would coach left me utterly disgusted. Thank God he is done permanently. There should be great shame for this. I don't know how that is dispensed to this school and the administration but this is a very very dark stain that will never come out. Whatever happens I pray for mercy for the victims. They are the ones who are paying the heaviest price. In essence their sorrow should be everyone's sorrow and this game on Sat. means nothing in comparison.

– Nov 9, 2011 at 9:44 pm

Profile image for HUSKERJL24

Paterno should be forced out but the show must go on! Cancel the game? If we cancelled a game everytime there was a bad siutation or something negative happened then there would never be a game and we all become victims! GBR

– Nov 9, 2011 at 3:27 pm

Profile image for HuskerBoPower

This is just an opinion, but I think the article has a point. Also, I don't think that NU coaches, players, or fans should be punished. I don't think that the Penn St players or fans should be punished, and neither should the PSU coaches who had nothing to do with this situation.

So, I say play the game, but don't allow Paterno or any other PSU coaches or faculty who were involved be allowed on campus that day or for the rest of the season. There are going to be plenty of PSU fans who will want to glorify Paterno at the game. The PSU board of directors need to have a discussion amongst themselves and decide if they need to fire Paterno over this situation. If so, then he should not be allowed to coach his last game at PSU. Get him out now. But, if PSU board or directors decide that they want to allow the process to play out and allow Paterno to retire on his own terms if it is ultimately decided that he had no liability in this thing, then they should tell him "don't retire yet, take a leave of absense while the 'innocent until proven guilty' thing plays itself out, and then coach one more season and retire on your own terms if you are exonnerated."

It is the same tact that is taken when players break the law and are suspended from the team indefinitely until the legal process works itself out. If the player is found not guilty, then the player is reinstated with the team. Same goes for Paterno. He should be indefinitely suspended from the team pending the outcome of the legal process. If he is found to be not guilty of anything, then allow him back as a coach at that time, and if it really matters to Paterno to go out on his own terms, then he will come back and coach 1+ games and retire. But, regardless, when something this serious is in process, Paterno should not be allowed to be with his team immediately. You don't give PSU the chance to make Paterno a martyr. If Paterno really deserves to go down in shame, then do it immediately - don't allow him to soak up the fans praise immediately after his implication because it totally sends the wrong message. If Paterno does derserve to go out in style, then he and the fans and the administrators need to let the process play out and if he is found to have no culpability, then let him back into the program and let him go out in style.

For once, the people involved are still with the program when they got caught, so punish them - not the players. Don't allow another Ohio St where the perpetrators got their hands caught in the cookie jar and they still got to have their glory at the end of the season, and then took the punishment after the fact. This is not the same as USC, because by the time USC got caught, everyone had already moved on and the punishment was levied against those that did nothing wrong.

Also, if NU really wants to set an example, they should donate some portion of the proceeds from this game to the benefit of those who were victims or to a charity that supports child sex abuse. Then that will encourage PSU to do the same or step up and do more. I have seen some articles that suggest that PSU officials, Paterno included, are still more concerned with PSU than they are with helping the victims. If Paterno really wants to go out in style, he should pledge to spend the rest of his life helping the victims, not helping his beloved PSU as he has stated.

– Nov 9, 2011 at 2:49 pm

Profile image for KCMOHuskerfan

Play the game, but Penn State should donate the proceeds (ALL of them, TV included) to a victims' recovery fund.

– Nov 9, 2011 at 2:43 pm

Profile image for Mirkatew

Let them play. Don't let Jo Pa coach. The players shouldn't be punished for the actions of pervert old men. They obviously have a lot of different emotions floatIng around. Let them work put their frustrations on the field.

– Nov 9, 2011 at 2:39 pm

Profile image for CIDHUSKER

As I posted on another blog - where folks wanted to cancel the game - in 1963 there was another heinous crime committed that had national attention in Nov., and the NU v. OU game was on the chopping block for “should-it-be-played-or-not”? The schools opted to play the game, if nothing else but as a distraction. For years after, the schools caught flak about having played that game when the country was in mourning.

As with then, I say now – play the game. What comes from the courts and judges and juries will come, the young players want to play, fans have been waiting for the game, so play the game.

– Nov 9, 2011 at 1:34 pm

Profile image for Huskernoxious

Cancel the game !!!! It's a disgrace thar we would even show up.

– Nov 9, 2011 at 12:32 pm

Profile image for wicked_shadows

I feel the game shouldn't even be played. I would love to see the Huskers stand up and say "we are not going to play this game out of respect to the victims". That would move the entire nation and bring focus off of Paterno and back on to those who are really suffering. This will be Joe Paterno's last game on Penn states field, we should not allow him to be honored and worshiped in the face of whats happening. It is only a football game, human morality is far more important then that of a game.

– Nov 9, 2011 at 12:29 pm

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