Coach Bo Pelini used the f-word. He should be ashamed of himself.
We're not talking about the profane one. That's locker-room talk. It's that other f-word Pelini used in his two-year-old rant that became public Monday: fair-weather.
As in, “Our crowd ... what a bunch of ... fair-weather ...”
Hold on there, coach. You might want to read what's written on the entrances to Memorial Stadium that those folks use: “Through these gates pass the Greatest Fans in College Football.”
Fans who have bought every ticket for every game since 1962. That's a streak fans started five years before Bo Pelini was born.
That's 328 straight sellouts, a record unlikely to ever be beaten. A sellout in 1962 was about 36,500 fans. Today, we're talking nearly 92,000. The university keeps adding seats and Nebraska fans keep coming. When 6,000 seats were added before the 2006 season, there were 15,000 requests for the tickets.
Those are the fans who fill the stadium in searing August heat, September rains, biting October winds, frigid November snows.
Those are fans who applaud the opponents for a game well-played. Fans who remember every play in the classic battles with Oklahoma. Those games didn't always end well for the Big Red, but the red-clad fans kept coming.
Those are fans who have cheered breathtaking victories and suffered through heartbreaking losses. Fans who drive from every corner of the state to make Memorial Stadium the state's third-largest city on Saturdays. Fans who routinely travel to far-away road games — remember all the red that day at Notre Dame? Fans who schedule their weddings around game days.
Pelini's outburst — which ironically came after Nebraska's greatest comeback story ever — included his anger toward this newspaper and its sportswriters. That is not a factor. That is old news. Older than Pelini's tenure. Sportswriters and coaches, newspapers and the public officials they cover, have a history of testy relationships going back to the founding of the nation and its philosophy of a free press.
But the coach's propensity for angry outbursts is troubling nonetheless. To be sure, Pelini has toned down his behavior toward officials, reporters and players on the sideline. Just this week, he said he has looked at himself and found ways to improve. And the recorded comments aired by Deadspin.com do date to 2011.
Still, Pelini created his own image and must work even harder now to show that he has changed. He is the most recognized representative of the University of Nebraska. That carries broad responsibility to represent the institution that belongs to the citizens and taxpayers of Nebraska.
And to the fans.
The fans who pay thousands of dollars to support a program that pays him millions of dollars to serve as its leader. The fans who proudly wear and display the licensed merchandise that also supports the program that employs him.
Fans, Husker fans included, can be hard on coaches. Bob Devaney once said, “I know the fans are with me, win or tie.” The school put up a statue of him. Fans can be demanding and opinionated. They sometimes leave early. But that comes with the territory, whether it's in Lincoln, Ann Arbor, Austin, Baton Rouge, Columbus, Norman, South Bend or Tuscaloosa.
Devoted fans are the reason big-time coaches have big-time jobs with big-time salaries. Fans are the loyal customers. They could spend their hard-earned dollars on a vacation trip. On a fishing boat. On a new deck in the backyard. They choose to spend it on the football program.
Those fans are among the hundreds of thousands of taxpayers in this state who support the University of Nebraska, of which the football team is a part. Without all of them collectively, there is no Cornhusker football program.
Do they know their football? Yes. Do they have high standards? You bet. Have they seen the best teams in the game? Five times. Can they get impatient? Of course. Will they quit on the Huskers? No way.
Because when it comes to fans, there is no place like Nebraska.