OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — On the day he was introduced as Youngstown State’s new head coach, the ugly nature of Bo Pelini’s departure from Nebraska was revealed.
Pelini, who was fired on Nov. 30, lambasted Nebraska athletic director Shawn Eichorst in a profanity-filled talk during his final meeting with his players. The Omaha World-Herald on Wednesday reported that it had a writer listen to an audiotape of Pelini’s address to the players on Dec. 2 at a Lincoln high school.
The university said in a statement that if the audiotape is authentic, “it only reaffirms the decision that he should no longer be a leader of young men at Nebraska.”
“His habitual use of inappropriate language, and his personal and professional attacks on administrators, are antithetical to the values of our university,” the statement said. “His behavior is consistent with a pattern of unprofessional, disrespectful behavior directed by Mr. Pelini toward the passionate fans of Nebraska, employees of the university and, most concerning, our student-athletes. This behavior is not tolerated at the University of Nebraska and, among many other concerns, played a role in his dismissal.”
The newspaper didn’t say who audiotaped Pelini’s talk.
The Associated Press left messages for Pelini and Youngstown athletic director Ron Strollo.
Pelini was fired after going 9-3 this season and 66-27 over seven years. He also won a bowl game as interim head coach in 2003. Eichorst hired Mike Riley away from Oregon State to replace Pelini.
Pelini, 47, was under contract until February 2019, and the university must pay him a settlement of as much as $7.9 million. That amount will be reduced by an amount dependent on his salary at Youngstown State.
According to a transcript of the audio, Pelini told the players he wasn’t surprised to be fired.
“I didn’t really have any relationship with the AD. The guy…,” Pelini said before using two vulgarities for female genitalia to describe Eichorst.
“And since I’ve been here — he’s been here for about two years — I’ve probably had a conversation with the guy a couple times. You saw him. He’s never been in the locker room.
“At the end of the day, he was never going to support us… The scrutiny, the taking shots at you, and everything else — when you aren’t getting support from your boss, it can be stressful,” Pelini said. “It was stressful on me, it was stressful on my family.”
The university, in response to Pelini’s contention that he wasn’t supported, said, “Any assertions that the campus or athletics administration was not supportive of our student-athletes and our football program are flat-out false and are contradicted by the facts.
“We are grateful that the new leadership in our football program is aligned with our values and will establish that you can be successful at Nebraska and that you can do it with integrity and class,” the university said in its statement.
Pelini touched on administrative support early in his introductory news conference in Youngstown, Ohio, on Wednesday. Former Ohio State coach Jim Tressel is the university president.
“I believe I have a great situation here,” Pelini said. “Have a tremendous athletic director, a president who understands football, who’s going to support me, something I don’t know if I’ve ever had.”
At Nebraska, Pelini drew detractors for his volatile temper. He was reprimanded by chancellor Harvey Perlman for sideline meltdowns during a loss at Texas A&M in 2010. Last year, Pelini found himself in a storm after the website Deadspin released audio of Pelini’s profanity-laced tirade against what he called fair-weather fans and two newspaper writers.
Asked by reporters in Youngstown if accounts of his explosive sideline demeanor at Nebraska were blown out of proportion, Pelini said, “Did it ever get blown out of proportion? Yeah, a little bit.”
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