Lincoln -- University of Nebraska Athletic Director Steve Pederson today announced his decision to remove Frank Solich as head coach of the Cornhusker football team, and named Defensive Coordinator Bo Pelini as interim head football coach.
"I commend Frank Solich for his long history of service to this university and the football program," Pederson said. "He is a man of integrity and he has served the program well in many ways. However, I have asked Frank to step down as head football coach. It is my belief that our program needs different leadership to carry us into the future.
"This decision was not an easy one to make," Pederson said. "This decision was not one determined by wins and losses. It's about the direction of the program, its future, the student-athletes we are recruiting and where we see the program going in the next five to 10 years. I refuse to let this program gravitate to a level of mediocrity."
University of Nebraska-Lincoln Chancellor Harvey Perlman supported Pederson's decision. "I have absolute confidence in Steve Pederson," Perlman said. "When I hired him, I knew that I could trust him to make decisions in the best interests of our athletic programs and the student-athletes. Steve has my full support."
Nebraska finished the 2003 regular-season at 9-3 and awaits an invitation to its 35th consecutive bowl appearance.
"I have selected Bo Pelini to serve as interim head coach for our appearance in the bowl game and he has agreed to do so," Pederson said. "I don't think any of us have failed to notice the transformation in the defense that Bo has brought about this season, and certainly his intensity of focus and drive for excellence is clear. I want the players in our program to have a great experience at the bowl game."
Solich's contract runs through June 30, 2006. Per the contract, Solich's liquidated package will equate to $786,693. This amount includes his base pay for 31 months and includes one extra month's base pay as compensation for this year's bowl bonus, and will be paid from football revenues.
Pederson said he will immediately begin a national search to replace Solich. "We hope to move the process along as quickly and efficiently as possible," said Pederson. "Every legitimate candidate will be considered, including our current assistant coaches who express an interest. The new coach, when named, will name his staff and will make any decisions on those who may be asked to remain with the Husker program."
Solich was named Nebraska's 26th head football coach on Dec. 10, 1997, the same day Tom Osborne announced his retirement. He has posted a 58-19 record in six seasons at the helm of the Huskers. He posted a 9-4 record in 1998 (lost to Arizona in the Holiday Bowl); a 12-1 record in 1999 (won the Big 12 Conference title and defeated Tennessee in the Fiesta Bowl); 10-2 in 2000 (defeated Northwestern in the Alamo Bowl); 11-2 in 2001 (lost to Miami in the Rose Bowl); and 7-7 in 2002 (lost to Mississippi in the Independence Bowl).
Steve Pederson quotes (opening statement)
The purpose of today’s press conference is really two-fold. First, I want to address the situation with regard to our football coaching staff and secondly I want to address the way we do business in the athletic department. In this particular case, they are very closely linked.
When it comes to discussions of coaching changes, I believe that my obligations are clear to every student-athlete, every member of our athletic staff, every coach and every one of our fans to make sure that that is handled in an appropriate fashion. I know that I was given a huge trust when I became the athletic director at the University of Nebraska nearly a year ago, and I would promise to make decisions that would ensure this program was successful for years and years to come.
I also know that integrity is one of the core values of Nebraska, so I do not discuss potential coaching changes with boosters, donors, fans publicly or privately ahead of any announcement being made. I have too much respect for all the parties involved to have that discussion. The only person with whom I would discuss the hiring or firing of coaches is my chancellor.
I understand that these actions must be in the best interest of our program and that I am accountable to our fans. Today I have asked Frank Solich to step down as the head football coach at Nebraska effective immediately. I have asked Bo Pelini to serve as interim head coach. The search process for a new head coach begins immediately.
This decision was not an easy one, and I’m certain with a 9-3 season, there will be questions. But this was not a decision, as I’ve said all along, that will be determined by wins and losses. It was a decision based on the overall direction of our program and where I see our program headed in the next five to 10 years. That ultimately is how I arrived at the decision that our program needed new leadership. I refuse to let this program gravitate to mediocrity. We will not surrender the Big 12 Conference to Oklahoma and Texas.
I made this decision now at the conclusion of the regular season in part because of the media firestorm that surrounded the speculation and really left me no option but to address it prior to the bowl game. To leave our athletes and coaches guessing and wondering on speculation serves no purpose and I think could damage our program. It’s time for this program and our state to come together.
I commend Frank Solich for his years of service to the University of Nebraska. He has served this program well in various roles and certainly has a solid win-loss record. He deserves the admiration and support from all of us who support Nebraska football, and I thank him for his contributions.
From the day I arrived, I have given Frank my full support. The day after I took the job, we sat in my office for nearly two hours where I pledged my support and interest in making this program successful. As I traveled across the state, I talked to every Nebraska fan about rallying behind this coach and this team to make sure that we had a successful season. And in typical Nebraska fashion, our fans did just that. The announcement of plans for our new facilities are an indication of the support and commitment to a successful football program at the University of Nebraska.
As I have said, I’ve asked Bo Pelini to serve as interim head coach. I think Nebraska fans have been impressed with the transformation in the defense since Bo has arrived and the help he has received from the assistants on his side. He certainly has the intensity and focus and drive for excellence that will make sure our players have a tremendous experience at the bowl game. In meeting with our assistant coaches this morning, I asked them to assure our players a good experience in their final game.
Before I conclude, let me make one thing clear: this athletic department is not run by committee, it is not influenced by anybody from the outside, and we will make the decisions that we believe are in the long-term best interest of student-athletes and fans. I made this decision because I believe that it is in the long-term best interest of Nebraska football, and that’s the only reason that I made that decision.
Bo Pelini quotes (opening statement)
I was hired back here in January to come in and run the defense, and I feel that I’ve given every ounce of effort to that job. Frank Solich brought me in here and gave me a tremendous opportunity. Steve Pederson has asked me, under these circumstances, to become the interim head coach, and I’ve accepted that job.
One-hundred percent of my effort and focus is going to go toward our players, and giving them the best experience possible in the bowl game because they have earned that. They’ve shed a lot of blood, sweat and tears to get to 9-3 at this point of the season and they deserve a tremendous fall finale to the season. They have earned that and I and the rest of the staff, we are going to put every ounce of effort we can between now and then to make sure that happens for these guys because it’s a tremendous group, men of character as I’ve said over and over.
That’s where I am right now and that’s where our staff is right now. That’s going to happen for our players. I have loyalty to a great program, obviously. These players have put a lot of effort, time and commitment into what we’ve done up to this point and it doesn’t stop now. It’s my job and the rest of the staff to make sure we finish it out the right way.