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NIGHT OF THE LONG HUSKS: BLOODLETTING AT NU

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Nebraska AD Steve Pederson, he of the firing a 10-3 Frank Solich, tastes pink slip today. Put the expiry sticker on Bill Callahan, too--the specific reasons cited for Pederson's firing all but guarantee real estate agents are in his future.

"We are, of course, disappointed about the progress in our football program," Nebraska chancellor Harvey Perlman said in a news release. "Steve has done many positive things for Husker athletics during his tenure, but I think only new leadership can objectively assess the state of our program and make the decisions necessary to move us forward."

Barring a miraculous, off-the-mat revival worthy of Valery the indestructible Russian from the Sopranos, Callahan's gone.

We can't say that nothing ever seemed right about the Callahan hire, mostly because it came at the same time that the back row cutups from the NFL seemed to be infesting the college ranks around '02-'03. Chan Gailey, Wannstedt, Callahan...all of them seemed to be fleeing the pros for cushier, easier jobs in college, while ADs leapt on the fad hoping little Pete Carroll clones would spring up in their places.

Callahan seemed an ill-fit from the start; alluring for that reason because his shifty, pass-first pro-style offense would presumably modernize the option game Nebraska had relied on for the better part of half-century, and repellent for that reason because of his cranky, alienating demeanor and perceived arrogance. A whiff of this discordant fit came when he referred to Oklahoma Sooner fans as "a bunch of fucking hillbillies;" making a throat slash gesture to an official during a game didn't help, either.

For us, though, the Callahan experiment stands as an evident counterpoint to the snide comments made whenever a college coach flames out at the pro level. In particular, the September 17th, 2005 game between Callahan's Huskers and Dave Wannstedt's Pitt Panthers, a 7-6 Nebraska "victory" in a game rife with some of the worst play-calling, execution, and management ever foisted upon a horrified football public. Two coaches who had, over the course of their careers, had more money poured into their coffers than you'll ever likely sniff, co-operatively grunted out the foulest smoking turd of a football game to ever disgrace the eyes of Brent Musburger.

Neither coach did what Pete Carroll openly admits he had to do in what he believed to be his last shot at coaching success: change. Both are now in deep danger of losing their jobs. Species that don't change, disappear--this rule applies to NFL coaches heading to the college ranks as much as it applies to college coaches heading to the NFL. When Merrill Hoge sneers at the next college coach to fail in the "man's league" that is the NFL, let that 7-6 nightmare and the reigns of Gailey/Callahan/Wannstedt stand as testimony that failure is a two-way street.