LINCOLN — University of Nebraska-Lincoln Chancellor Harvey Perlman and Athletic Director Shawn Eichorst said they were “in discussions” about addressing football coach Bo Pelini's expletive-filled comments about fans and the media made in a 2011 audio that was posted Monday on Deadspin.
Perlman said in a statement that he was disappointed, but he declined to comment to The World-Herald on whether he was considering disciplinary action or whether he had previously been aware of the two-year-old comments. Eichorst said in a statement that he had addressed the situation with Pelini and “expressed our deep concern.”
Pelini apologized for the incident in a statement and said that the comments, which included remarks about NU fans immediately after a 34-27 comeback win over Ohio State on Oct. 8, 2011, “are in no way indicative of my true feelings.”
In between his postgame press conference and Husker Sports Network interview with play-by-play voice Greg Sharpe, Pelini can be heard talking about The World-Herald and then Husker fans.
“It took everything in my power to not say, 'F--- you, fans. F--- all of you.' F--- 'em,” Pelini says during the 1-minute, 41-second audio, which cuts off as Sharpe tries to take Pelini into the on-air interview with: “All right, let's crank this here. OK, we're ready to go.”
No details are known about the origin of the audiotape or how it was supplied to Deadspin.com, a sports website that is also known for breaking the story last year of the fake girlfriend of former Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o. But the accompanying report, which had surpassed 660,000 online hits as of noon Tuesday, said it came from a person who “was particularly exercised by Nebraska's flameout against UCLA on Saturday.” The Huskers blew a 21-3 lead and lost 41-21 to the Bruins at Memorial Stadium.
Neither Sharpe nor David Witty, general manager of the Husker Sports Network, returned calls seeking comment.
After the comeback against Ohio State in 2011, Pelini had pointed comments for World-Herald writer Dirk Chatelain because of a column that had appeared in the newspaper the day before that he believed was overly critical of Husker quarterback Taylor Martinez. Pelini on the audiotape makes a disparaging remark about Chatelain, adds that “I'm not dealing with that guy no more,” and then moves on to columnist Tom Shatel.
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“F--- him, too. F--- him. That's what I'm going to tell him,” Pelini is heard saying.
Pelini went on, in reference to Shatel often walking out with Pelini after his Monday press conference segment to talk further.
“He wants to walk out after my press conference? I'm gonna say, 'Get the f--- away from me. I'm done with you, m----- f-----.' I'm done with him.”
When the conversation turns to how some fans left during the game, which NU trailed 27-6 early in the third quarter, Pelini comments again on what he calls a “fair-weather” crowd.
“They can all kiss my a-- on my way out the f------ door. 'Cause the day is f------ coming now. We'll see what they can do when I'm f------ gone. I'm so f------ pissed off.”
Omaha booster Jay Noddle said Monday night that he “didn't take the remarks personally, so to speak” and that he thought Pelini could repair any possible damage done with Husker fans.
“It's all about how you handle yourself going forward,” said Noddle, president and CEO of Noddle Cos. “Those remarks were made a while ago, and I don't know anybody who didn't regret something they said after the fact.”
But he said the Deadspin audio on the heels of Saturday's game just adds to some of the concerns about the foundation of Husker football.
“I think we're at the point where it's incumbent upon the athletic director and the administration to take a hard look at our leaders and determine: Do they have the character and maturity necessary to lead these programs,” Noddle said. “For a no-questions-asked supporter of the program for a long time, this is tough. It hurts.”
Another booster who asked not to be identified said “it isn't like we need this after last Saturday,” while longtime supporter and NU Board of Regents member Howard Hawks said he did not have knowledge of the Deadspin report and thus declined to comment.
Regent Hal Daub of Omaha hadn't heard the story, and a reporter had to read the comments over the phone and explain the context to him. He told The World-Herald the following: “I don't justify the conduct or the language, but there but for the grace of God we may all have traveled. So let's be cautious about throwing stones into a glass house two years after the incident. I'd really like to know the name of the person who released this recording and what his or her motive is. Maybe the media will find that out, too.”
Another regent, Robert Schafer of Beatrice, said that he does not condone or support such behavior or conduct. “I have complete confidence in athletic director Shawn Eichorst to make the right decisions going forward,” he said.
Asked if the incident hurts NU, he said: “We definitely want to portray a positive image. This is a concern.”
Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman said Tuesday he wouldn't weigh in on Pelini or discuss the coach's future.
“I'm going to leave that one to the university,” Heineman said. “They've got to make their own decision on how they're going to handle that. ... All those decisions are the university's.”
Heineman was in Washington for a speech and made a quick side trip to Capitol Hill before heading to the airport to catch a flight home. He said he hadn't had a chance to hear Pelini's comments.
Asked generally about the role of the Husker football coach as Nebraska's public face, Heineman downplayed how much people view the state through the lens of the football coach.
“I don't think the football coach is the public face of most states,” Heineman said. “The coach plays an important role in those states, particularly like in Alabama, Nebraska or whatever it may be, but I'd be hard pressed to say they're the public face of the state.
“My guess is probably more people, when they think of Nebraska, maybe think of agriculture or Warren Buffett, for example.”
Perlman, who publicly reprimanded Pelini for his sideline behavior during a 2010 game at Texas A&M, said after his annual state of the university address on Tuesday morning that he was disappointed and that we're “reflecting” on it.
When asked how long NU would be reflecting, he said, “Until we decide not to.”
Monday night Perlman had released the following statement: “I am aware of the publication of Coach Pelini's comments, I am disappointed and in discussions with Shawn Eichorst about addressing the issue.”
Eichorst spoke only in a statement, saying: “I am disheartened and disappointed by the 2011 comments published today attributed to Coach Pelini about our dedicated and passionate fans and supporters. I have spoken with Chancellor Perlman and I have addressed the situation with Bo and expressed our deep concern.”
Pelini held his weekly press conference at midday Monday but was not available for comment after the Deadspin report came out a few hours later and released a statement through NU communications.
“I want to sincerely apologize for my comments from two years ago which became public today. I take full responsibility for these comments. They were spoken in a private room following the Ohio State game.
“I was venting following a series of emotional events which led to this moment. That being said, these comments are in no way indicative of my true feelings. I love it here in Nebraska and feel fortunate to be associated with such a great university and fan base. I again apologize to anyone whom I have offended.”
World-Herald staff writers Henry J. Cordes, Joe Morton and Sam McKewon contributed to this report.
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Warning: Audio contain offensive language.
Video: Bo Pelini's press conference following the 2011 win over the Buckeyes:
Video: Bo Pelini's Monday press conference
Reaction: Social media comments on Pelini's rant