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Nebraska's Bo Pelini: A Detailed Breakdown of Coaching Tenure

Pelini is feeling the heat after a loss to UCLA.

Nebraska’s Bo Pelini has reached a defining point of his tenure in Lincoln.


After a bad performance against UCLA, audio tapes surfaced of Pelini calling out the Cornhuskers’ fans and media members after a 2011 victory against Ohio State. The tapes, which are filled with expletives, aren’t sitting well with the athletic department.

Although the audio tapes are a bad look for Pelini, they should have no impact on his job status. The real evaluation on Pelini needs to come on the field.

The Cornhuskers are 51-21 under Pelini, but is that enough to keep his job?

Nebraska is considered one of the top-20 coaching jobs and has a strong tradition of success. The facilities are also among the best nationally.

The only downside to coaching at Nebraska is the lack of a local recruiting base.

Expectations are always difficult to gauge for each program. But at Nebraska, you are expected to win big.

Analyzing Bo Pelini's Tenure at Nebraska

Win/Loss Record

YearRecordConf. RecordFinish
20089-45-3T-1st Big 12 North
200910-46-21st Big 12 North
201010-46-2T-1st Big 12 North
20119-45-33rd Big Ten Legends
201210-47-11st Big Ten Legends


Pelini has been pretty consistent in his tenure. Nebraska has won at least nine games in each of the last five seasons but has also lost two or three conference contests in four of those years. The Cornhuskers’ 10-4 mark (7-1 in Big Ten play) resulted in an appearance in the Big Ten title game. However, Nebraska was handled by Wisconsin and lost to Georgia 45-31 in the Capital One Bowl. It's fair to wonder if program expectations are too high, but the Cornhuskers are still searching for a breakthrough under Pelini. 

Although Pelini deserves credit for consistency, the program seems stagnant. Winning nine or ten games a year is good for some programs, but not at Nebraska. The Cornhuskers expect championships and BCS bowls. Pelini has not delivered. 

Recruiting Breakdown

* Ranks using

YearNational RankConference Rank5* Signed4* Signed
200829th6th in Big 1203
200939th4th in Big 1202
201026th5th in Big 1204
201117th2nd in Big Ten09
201231st3rd in Big Ten08
201322nd3rd in Big Ten07
201446th (as of Sept. 17)7th in Big Ten00


In the two classes prior to Pelini’s arrival, Nebraska’s signing class ranked No. 38 in 2006 and No. 43 in 2007. While there has been some slight improvement under Pelini, the recruiting hasn’t gotten significantly better. The Cornhuskers have not signed a five-star prospect under his watch, and the four-star recruits have decreased since signing nine in 2011. 

Performance on Defense



Pelini was regarded as one of the top defensive minds in the nation prior to his arrival at Nebraska. But his results on defense haven’t matched his pedigree. The above numbers are especially puzzling when you consider Nebraska’s move from the Big 12 to the Big Ten. The Big 12 is a better overall conference when it comes to offense, so shouldn’t the numbers look better in the Big Ten?

There are some bright spots for Nebraska in these numbers, as the Cornhuskers finished fourth nationally in pass defense in 2012 and first in scoring defense in 2009. However, more was expected out of Pelini’s defenses, and Nebraska is clearly struggling on that side of the ball in 2013.

Performance Against Top 25 Teams



In order to get a better judge on Pelini’s performance against top 25 teams, we would need to look at all 125 coaches and compare. However, his tenure is trending down, as Nebraska is just 3-5 in its last eight games against top-25 teams. Nebraska also has some puzzling losses under Pelini’s watch, losing to unranked teams in 2009 (Texas Tech, 31-10), 2010 (Texas 20-13), 2011 (Northwestern 28-25) and 2012 (UCLA 36-30 and Wisconsin 70-31).

Final Verdict

Winning 51 games isn’t an awful tenure, but it’s easy to see why Pelini hasn’t taken this program to the next level. Nebraska’s recruiting isn’t getting better, and the defense has been inconsistent. The Cornhuskers 10-4 record with an appearance in the Big Ten title game was a step in the right direction, but the defense has been torched in four out of its last five games.

Forget the audio tapes. Pelini’s tenure should be judged on the data above. Is 51-21 good enough for Nebraska? It's fair to wonder if the expectations are too high in Lincoln, but the Cornhuskers are a top-20 program. Does Pelini deserve some credit for consistency? Sure. But is nine wins good enough at Nebraska? The answer here is pretty easy: No. 

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