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Nebraska fires Bo Pelini despite prolonged success

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Let's face it: Most programs would be thrilled to have Bo Pelini as a coach.

Just not Nebraska, the team that's employed him since the 2008 season. Not anymore.

Asking what caused this relationship to go sour is a quixotic quest in some ways, but most of all, it comes down to numbers.

Harsh decision?

On one hand, Pelini has had amazing sustained success with the Cornhuskers. They have won at least nine games every season since he arrived seven years ago, tied for the second-longest streak in the nation. Only Oregon has a better track record.

But Pelini has been criticized for having great regular seasons but little success in big games, something that Nebraska fans — with their storied history of five national championships — couldn't stand any longer.

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Here are those numbers: An 8-17 record against AP-ranked teams, no conference titles and only one Big Ten championship game appearance. Three or more losses each season, many of which came in November, when the stakes are highest.

If you want an autopsy on Pelini's career at Nebraska, those numbers are the greatest reason for his firing.

'A New Direction'

Athletic Director Shawn Eichorst informed Pelini of his decision on Sunday morning, according to a statement released by the university.

"Coach Pelini served our University admirably for seven years and led our football program's transition to the Big Ten Conference," Eichorst said.

"We wish Coach Pelini and his wonderful family all the best and thank him for his dedicated service to the university."

That doesn't mean the university gets off scot-free though. The coach's firing will be quite expensive, since Pelini is owed $7.65 million on his contract through February 2019, which was extended last season.

But his consistency will likely make him one of the nation's top prospects at his next position. A former defensive coordinator at LSU and Oklahoma, Pelini made his mark with strong rushing attacks led by stout defensive lines and secondaries.

Who's next?

The question will now be who Nebraska thinks is out there that can do a better job.

Lame duck Florida coach Will Muschamp finally ended his misery with a competitive game against Florida State, but though he made his chops as a highly effective defensive coordinator, don't expect the former safety to land a head coaching gig at Nebraska after so many recent losses.

The Cornhuskers could go after Kirby Smart, the Alabama defensive coordinator whose name pops up seemingly every year for top coaching jobs. But Smart has been virtually unattainable and would probably want to remain in the high-paying, highly-competitive Southeastern Conference.

Plus, Nebraska will likely seek a coach with a background on offense after choosing defense with the Pelini hire. 

Most of all, Nebraska's decision comes down to a fundamental belief that they have had the talent and potential to be better than a 9-win team year in and year out. That may or may not be the case, but that's the choice they have made — to go championship or bust, rather than settle for mediocrity.

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