Nebraska's Pelini apologizes for sideline tirades
By ERIC OLSON
AP Sports Writer
LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) Nebraska coach Bo Pelini tried to tamp down the frenzy surrounding his program Monday, apologizing for his sideline tirades and assuring fans that his star quarterback hasn't quit the team.
Pelini's volatile behavior became the story line of Saturday's 9-6 loss at Texas A&M, more so than the fact the 16th-ranked Cornhuskers now probably have to beat resurgent Colorado on Friday to win the Big 12 North after starting the season with national championship hopes.
Pelini's foul-mouth berating of the officials and quarterback Taylor Martinez made for must-see TV for ABC, but it also drew an admonishment from Nebraska chancellor Harvey Perlman and criticism from fans who say Pelini embarrassed the state and program.
"I always believe it's OK to disagree with a call," Pelini said. "It's not OK to make it personal. At times during that game, probably in my quest to fight for the kids on our football team, I let it get personal. For that, once again, I'm sorry. I regret that."
Pelini's sideline rants have been scrutinized since he took over in 2008, but his rage seemed to peak in the A&M game as the Aggies (8-3, 5-2 Big 12) shut down the Huskers (9-2, 5-2).
Officials drew his ire for calling 16 penalties for 145 yards, both school records. Among them were seven personal fouls - including an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Pelini.
Martinez left the game with five minutes in the first quarter after aggravating his right ankle sprain, and he didn't escape Pelini's wrath, either.
Martinez, who returned to play the second half, was on the sideline in the second quarter when Pelini approached him. The redshirt freshman showed no emotion as the coach yelled at him, pointed his left index finger at him and poked him just above the collar.
Pelini declined to say what prompted the exchange, which was captured by ABC cameras and was viewed more than 109,000 times on YouTube in the 24 hours after the video was posted. Martinez does not speak to the media except after games, and then not always.
"My policy is I don't talk about what happens in our family," Pelini said. "I can say this: the things that are out there speculating over what that was (about) are completely off base. Taylor is with the football team. He and I are on the same page and there are no issues there. We put all that behind us."
Pelini acknowledged that Martinez was not with the team for its Sunday "shakeout," which he described as a short jogging session that helps players loosen up after the previous day's game. Martinez's absence sparked Internet rumors that he had quit the team.
Pelini said Martinez's absence was excused and that he wouldn't have been able to jog anyway because of his injury.
Pelini said Martinez would play against Colorado if he's healthy.
Perlman, the chancellor, on Sunday called Pelini's behavior "unfortunate" and said it did not represent the university or the football program well. Pelini and Perlman discussed Saturday's chain of events, and the coach said he has the administration's full support.
"We're on the same page," Pelini said. "I have total respect for him, the administration, the job they have to do."
Pelini said he told the chancellor he would tone down his behavior.
"Yeah, absolutely," he said. "Believe me, I assured him it won't happen again."
Perlman declined to comment Monday.
Big 12 spokesman Bob Burda said Pelini would face no disciplinary action from the league. Burda said beyond in-game penalties that could be assessed, the conference leaves it up to the institution to address matters relating to sideline decorum.
Pelini has a reputation for his temper. He drew an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for haranguing an official in the 2008 game against Virginia Tech. That same season, he blew up during the Oklahoma game, cursing and yelling at officials, assistant coaches and players, grabbing one by the facemask.
"Perception is reality, so that's something I've got to fix," Pelini said the week after the '08 Oklahoma game. "I understand that. I'm a highly emotional guy. I've got to be careful."
Last year, after one second was put back on the clock for Texas to kick the game-winning field goal in the Big 12 championship game, Pelini flew into a rage, shouting that the Longhorns were given special treatment so they could play in the BCS title game.
Pelini said fans who disapprove of his behavior should consider the integrity with which he has rebuilt the program and that his players generally stay out of trouble.
"You hope they look at the heart of who you are and what you've done and what you've built up over a certain amount of time, and you hope people are in your corner," he said. "I bust my butt each and every day for this program, and for the kids and the university. If I embarrassed anybody by what I did, I'm sorry. That's as far as I can go. I didn't do it intentionally."
Tight end Ben Cotton said Pelini's passion is appreciated.
"He wants the best for his team, he wants to win just like we do, he wants to see us succeed," Cotton said. "We all know he's coming from the right intentions, and we've got his back just like he's got ours."
The disparity in penalties between Nebraska and Texas A&M - 16 to 2 - has led to allegations among Husker fans that the Big 12 is conspiring against Nebraska in its last year in the league, before it leaves for the Big Ten.
Asked if he thought that were true, Pelini hesitated, then said he didn't think that was the case.
Pelini was asked how, if he changed roles with officials, he would react to having a coach constantly in his ear. Would he give the offending coach a break?
"Probably not," he said. "When you get animated, you don't approach it the right way. Sometimes you do yourself a disservice. I might have done that the other night. I regret it. I'm sorry about it."
Updated November 22, 2010